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."Other critics include Harvard prof Harvey Mansfield:
"There's something perverse about students dressing in drag," he said, "but there's something perverse about learning gender theory, too."
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.Boy, Mansfield must be a wonderful man to take a course from.
"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."