22 May 2006

Harvard Becomes Pedagogically, Theoretically, Modern

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

Interesting stuff in the New York Sun today -- some Harvard teachers are doing things like teaching gender theory. And having their students dress in drag as a discussion-sparking activity. And assigning them to Wikipedia a literary theory as a final project.

As you might imagine, some are up in arms over this type of course content (which includes Wittig and Butler, of course) and pedagogy. Among the course's critics are John Zmirak, editor of a guide for college-bound conservatives for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. He said that
he has no fundamental objection to creative projects or the principle of learning by doing, but assignments need to be "substantive and real."

"There's something perverse about students dressing in drag," he said, "but there's something perverse about learning gender theory, too."
Other critics include Harvard prof Harvey Mansfield:
Mr. Mansfield, the author of the recent book "Manliness" and arguably the most outspoken conservative professor at Harvard, said of the course, "It is unserious." He said "a decline in faculty morale" is responsible for classes like English 193. Professors "no longer maintain high standards of academic excellence that Harvard used to have," he said, "and rather take pride in finding ways of avoiding them."
Mansfield also had some very enlightened opinions about other Harvard courses, as well.
In Psychology 1504: Positive Psychology, the most popular class at Harvard, with more than 800 enrolled, students were asked to write a short paper in the form of "a letter expressing your gratitude to a person whom you appreciate - to someone you haven't thanked enough." Other assignments this semester included a meditation on "the most wonderful experience or experiences in your life" and a reflection on "how fortunate you have been to get to where you are now." One of the weekly sections in Psych 1504 regularly involves yoga.

"It sounds like a course in self-esteem which is designed, overtly, to make you feel good about yourself," Mr. Mansfield said. "Students should be made uncomfortable, I believe, so that they have an incentive to study. It makes them see that life is full of problems."

Mr. Mansfield also took issue with another popular psychology class, Human Sexuality, which requires a 10-page paper in which students recount the history of their personal sexual development.

"It's a class in immodesty," Mr. Mansfield said. "As if it's a good thing to expose yourself. It'll turn you into a boring person for the rest of your life, always talking about yourself and explaining incidents in your life as if they deserved the attention of the gods."
Boy, Mansfield must be a wonderful man to take a course from.


Izzy said...

Aren't you sad you didn't go to school at a place like Harvard, where teaching gender theory is contraversial?

I know I'm greatly disappointed in my institutions of higher learning which apparently believe that a proper English education includes discussing the prevalent theories of, you know, English lit. Silly programs!

Iris said...

There's a book called Manliness?? Is someone trying to overcompensate here?

luaphacim said...

Heck, even his name is Mansfield! ;-)

luaphacim said...

Also... for someone who thinks education is supposed to make people uncomfortable, he sure is resistant to pedagogies outside his own comfort zone...

Izzy said...

And how dare anyone talk about their own history? I bet this idiot also thinks that personal and reflective essays are the devil. Because of course no one could learn anything without a very narrow kind of research.