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since June 19, 2001


The dumbing-down of the curriculum — There is money in that, your money!


By Phyllis Schlafly

[Full article at http://www.eagleforum.org/psr/1998/nov98/psrnov98.html ]

BIZARRE AND WEIRDO COURSES — One reason college tuition is so high is that it must cover the cost of paying high-priced professors to teach dozens or hundreds of worthless courses that are not education at all, but are just propaganda, entertainment, or behavior modification.  Here are some titles of courses currently taught at major universities:

  • Columbia: "Sorcery and Magic."

  • Dartmouth: "Queer Theory, Queer Texts."

  • Harvard: "Fetishism" and "Feminist Biblical Interpretation."

  • Yale: "AIDS and Society" and "Queer Histories."

  • Cornell: "Gay Fiction."

  • Princeton: "Sexuality: Bodies, Desires, and Modern Times."

  • University of Pennsylvania: "Feminist Critique of Christianity."

  • Brown: "Unnatural Acts: Introduction to Lesbian and Gay Literature."

  • Bucknell: "Witchcraft and Politics."

  • Middlebury: "Female Erotic Literature of Latin America."

  • Stanford: "Homosexuals, Heretics, Witches, and Werewolves: Deviants in Medieval Society."

  • Vassar: "Global Feminisms."

  • Williams: "Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Magic."

  • Rutgers: "Homoerotic Literature."

  • University of Colorado: "Queer Theory."

  • University of  Massachusetts: "Rock and Roll.

  • University of Michigan: "Crossing Erotic Boundaries."

  • University of Wisconsin: "Goddesses and Feminine Powers."


Robert Heinlein, renowned engineer (if for nothing other than inventing the water bed) and science fiction writer, provided a similar list in 1980.(Expanded Universe, pp. 521-535)

I leave it up to you to determine whether things got better or worse since then.  Mind you, looking at Phyllis Schlafly's list shown above, the answer is unavoidable.  A substantial number of subjects can now be found whose themes not even Robert Heinlein dreamed would be part of the curriculum now, even though the beginnings were there when he compiled his list.
   Obviously, such courses as some of those he identified (e.g.: Philosophy of the Self, Mysticism, The Phenomenon of Man, The Novel of Adultery, The Search for a New Life Style, and Western Occultism: Magic, Myth, and Heresy) spawned some if not all of those that made Phyllis Schlafly's list.

....If you are after a Ph.D. in astronomy, UCSC is a wonderful place to get one ... but you will start by getting a degree in physics including the toughest of mathematics, and will study also chemistry, geology, technical photography, computer science—and will resent any time not leading toward the ultra-interdisciplinary subject lumped under the deceptively simple word "astronomy."....
    Breadth—the humanities, natural science, and social science—1/3 in each, total 3/3 or one academic year, but spread as suits you over the years.  Classically "the humanities" are defined as literature, philosophy, and art—but history has been added since it stopped being required in college and became "social studies" in secondary schools.  "Natural science" does not necessarily mean what it says—it can be a "non-alcoholic gin"; see below.  "Social science" means that grab bag of studies in which answers are matters of opinion.

Courses satisfying "breadth" requirements

    Literature and Politics—political & moral choices in literature
    Philosophy of the Self
    Philosophy of History in the Prose and Poetry of W. B. Yeats Art and the Perceptual Process
    The Fortunes of Faust
    Science and the American Culture (satisfies both the Humanities requirement and the American History and Institutions requirement without teaching any science or any basic American History.  A companion course, Science and Pressure Politics, satisfies both the Social Sciences requirement and the American History and Institutions requirement while teaching still less; it concentrates on post-World-War-II period and concerns scientists as lobbyists and their own inter-actions [rows] with Congress and the President. Highly recommended as a way to avoid learning American history or very much social "science.")
    American Country Music—Whee!  You don't play it, you listen.
    Man and the Cosmos—philosophy, sorta.  Not science.
    Science Fiction (I refrain from comment.)
    The Visual Arts—"What, if any, are the critical and artistic foundations for judgment in the visual arts?"—exact quotation from catalog.
    Mysticism—that's what it says.
    (The above list is incomplete.)

Natural Science requirement

    General Astronomy—no mathematics required
    Marine Biology—no mathematics required
    Sound, Music, and Tonal Properties of Musical Instruments—neither math nor music required for this one!
    Seminar.  Darwin's Explanation
    Mathematical Ideas—for nonmathematicians; requires only that high school math you must have to enter.
    The Phenomenon of Man—"—examine the question of whether there remains any meaning to human values." (Oh, the pity of it all!)
    Physical Geography: Climate

The Social "Sciences" requirement

    Any course in Anthropology—many have no prereq.
    Introduction to Art Education—You don't have to make art; you study how to teach it.
    Music and the Enlightenment—no technical knowledge of music required.  This is a discussion of the effect of music on philosophical, religious, and social ideas, late 18th-early 19th centuries.  That is what it says-and it counts as "social science."
    The Novel of Adultery—and this, too, counts as "social science."  I don't mind anyone studying this subject or teaching it—but I object to its being done on my (your, our) tax money. (P.S. The same bloke teaches science fiction.  He doesn't write science fiction; I don't know what his qualifications are in this other field.)
    Human Sexuality
    Cultural Roots for Verbal and Visual Expression—a fancy name of still another "creative writing" class with frills—the students are taught how to draw out "other culture" pupils.  So it says.
    All the 30-odd "Community Studies" courses qualify as "social science," but I found myself awed by these two: Politics and Violence, which studies, among other things, "political assassination as sacrifice" and Leisure and Recreation in the Urban Community ("Bread and Circuses").
    Again, listing must remain incomplete; I picked those below as intriguing:
    Seminar: Evil and the Devil in the Hindu Tradition.

    Science and Pressure Politics—already mentioned on page 529 as the course that qualifies both as social "science" and as American History and Institutions while teaching an utter minimum about each.  The blind man now has hold of the elephant's tail.
    The Political Socialization of la Raza—another double header, social "science" and American History and Institutions.  It covers greater time span (from 1900 rather than from 1945) but it's like comparing cheese and chalk to guess which one is narrower in scope in either category.

    The name of this game is to plan a course involving minimum effort and minimum learning while "earning" a degree under the rules of the nation's largest and most prestigious state university.
    To take care of "breadth" and also the American history your high school did not require I recommend Science and Pressure Politics, The Phenomenon of Man,
and American Country Music.  These three get you home free without learning any math, history, or language that you did not already know ... and without sullying your mind with science. ...
....You still have time for many electives and will need them for your required hours-units-courses; here are some fun-filled ones that will teach you almost nothing:
    The Fortunes of Faust
    The Search for a New Life Style

    The American Dilemma—Are "all men equal"?
    Enology—history, biology, and chemistry of wine-making and wine appreciation.  This one will teach you something but it's too good to miss.
    Western Occultism: Magic, Myth, and Heresy.

There is an entire college organized for fun and games ("aesthetic enrichment").  It offers courses for credit but you'll be able to afford noncredit activity as well in your lazyman's course—and anything can be turned into credit by some sincere selling to your adviser and/or Academic Committee.  I have already listed nine of its courses but must add:
    Popular Culture
—plus clubs or "guilds" for gardening, photography, film media, printing, pottery, silkscreening, orchestra, jazz, etc.
    Related are Theater Arts.  These courses give credit, including:
    Films of Fantasy and Imagination—fantasy, horror, SF, etc. (!)
    Seminar on Films
    History and Aesthetics of Silent Cinema

    History and Aesthetics of Cinema since Sound
    Introduction to World Cinema

    Sitting and looking at movies can surely be justified for an English major.  Movies and television use writers-as little as possible, it's true.  But somewhat; the linkage is there.
    Enjoy yourself while it lasts.  These dinosaurs are on their way to extinction.

    The 2-year "warm body" campus is even more lavish than UCSC.  It is a good trade school for some things—e.g., dental assistant.  But it offers a smörgåsbord of fun—Symbolism of the Tarot, Intermediate Contract Bridge, Folk Guitar, Quilting, Horseshoeing, Chinese Cooking, Hearst Castle Tours, Modern Jazz, Taoism, Hatha Yoga Asanas, Aikido, Polarity Therapy, Mime, Raku, Bicycling, Belly Dancing, Shiatsu Massage, Armenian Cuisine, Revelation and Prophecy, Cake Art, Life Insurance Sales Techniques, Sexuality and Spirituality, Home Bread Baking, Ecuadorian Backstrap Weaving, The Tao of Physics, and lots, lots  more!  One of the newest courses is "The Anthropology of Science Fiction" and I'm still trying to figure that out.
    I have no objection to any of this … but why should this kindergarten be paid for by taxes?  "Bread and Circuses." ....

                        — Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe,  pp. 528 -  535
The quotes are from the full text of the cited pages


* Expanded Universe, Robert A. Heinlein, ISBN: 0-441-21889-X, 1980, ACE Books, Charter Communications, Inc., 200 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10016

Contrary to Heinlein's assertion that some of the courses he listed would soon be gone, they grew in number and scope of opinions (not science) about as rapidly as Kudzu does under ideal conditions, and so did the cost of getting an education – although the value of an education is now diminished far more than when he worried about it.  
   All of these courses cost money, but the social value returned for what they cost is now even far more questionable than it was more than 20 years ago. 

If we truly constructed a better society by deliberately tearing down all of the social traditions we had become accustomed to, the ostensible improvements are too well hidden to be visible, but the costs are becoming too great to bear.


See also

The Table of Contents for feminism and related issues

Feminism For Male College Students — A Short Guide to the Truth, by Angry Harry (Off-Site)

Last updated:
1999 06 04
2001 01 29 (format changes)
2002 12 22 (format changes)
2006 03 04 (added link to Feminism for Male College Students)