OPINION: Outlandish college courses: the public-school Dirty Dozen

Kate L. Edwards Contributor
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The public undergraduate institution in the United States: the alma mater the majority of American college grads and a sacred trust (even if classes are typically large and red tape is often stifling).

It’s one thing for students at places like Harvard University and Duke University to enroll in frivolous courses, even at a time when college costs and youth unemployment are alarmingly high.

It’s quite another thing altogether when blatant liberal bias appears — constantly — in classrooms at taxpayer-subsidized universities.

And it’s another thing still when the other side simply isn’t presented. The anti-capitalist, race-based, orthodox feminist and global warming-themed courses found at virtually every prestigious public university would be far less disturbing if they were offset by a discussion of conservative ideals. Professors consistently ignore the likes of F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman. Instead, students are routinely left to study John Maynard Keynes and assigned readings by Karl Marx. Where are the classes that give an honest portrayal of Ronald Reagan as one of the most valued presidents of the post-World War II era? Where are the classes that propose an honest discussion of conservatism?

The tradition of The Dirty Dozen began in 1995. Since then, Young America’s Foundation has publicized courses at public universities such as “How to be Gay” (University of Michigan) and — apparently a perennial favorite all over — “Black Marxism” (University of California, Santa Barbara).

These courses and countless others like them do little to prepare young people for the job market in a complex Western economy. They offer little real-world value at all outside of the academic bubble of the college campus.

Today, The Daily Caller concludes its presentation of Young America’s Foundation’s The Dirty Dozen — this time for elite public schools. The schools offering these courses are all ranked in the top 50 by U.S. News & World Report.

Course descriptions are reprinted verbatim from the schools’ websites.

University of Wisconsin–Madison, Gender and Women’s Studies: Lesbian Culture

Exploration of lesbian culture and history. Focuses on the history, meanings, and representations of relationships among women; critically analyzes the concepts of lesbian perspective, theory, aesthetic, and sensibility.

University of Texas at Austin, Anthropology: Black Marxism

This course examines 20th century approaches to Marxism through the Black liberation tradition. It focuses on the works of key theorists and writers from Africa and the diaspora, with an emphasis on expanding existing theories to incorporate analyses of gender and sexuality. The course explores political economies and libidinal economies from 19th century enslavement to 21st century mass incarceration.

College of William & Mary, Economics: Government Regulation of Business

An analysis of the principles and purposes of government regulation of business. Topics include energy policy, consumer and worker protection, transportation, telecommunications and public utilities.

College of William & Mary, Government: The American Welfare State

The politics of U.S. social policy in historical perspective. Topics vary by year but usually include retirement pensions, health care, and programs for the poor.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Government: Paying for Green Government: Financing and Implementing Sustainability Initiatives

This course is designed to provide an in-depth introduction to planning and funding greener government operations. The Environmental Finance Center will lead a participatory workshop that focuses on the finance and policy challenges that arise when local governments consider implementing energy efficiency, green building, fuel efficiency, waste reduction, alternative energy projects, and other sustainability initiatives. Participants will learn how to select green projects for their community; what basic finance tools are available for green projects; how to leverage third-party equity to take advantage of tax credits; and how to apply for guaranteed energy savings contracts. The course will also cover relevant information on how to apply federal stimulus money to greener government.

Penn State University, Women’s Studies: Racism and Sexism

This course focuses on racism and sexism through a critical analysis of race and gender equality/inequality. A primary objective of this course is to provide students with information and conceptual tools necessary for understanding the structure and composition of race and gender inequality in the United States today. The focus on both racism and sexism provides a perspective that is quite different from those of courses that deal with race or sex alone. Racism and sexism have much in common that suggests their combined study. The course examines the way in which these processes are socially constructed and defined and how these constructions and definitions are experienced in daily life at an individual level and societal level. The course also examines how social control dependent on power, privilege, and advantage continues to perpetuate sexism and racism.

University of Michigan, Women’s Studies: Latina Women in the U.S.

Who are Latina women? What makes them unique? What commonalities and differences do they have with women of other backgrounds and with Latino and other men? This course is an exploration of Latina women’s experiences in the United States. We will focus especially on Chicana, Nuyorican/Puerto Rican, Cuban American, and Dominican American texts, with some discussions of Central American and South American issues. The class has a comparative race and ethnic studies framework and significantly addresses issues of racism. We also read and view contributions by lesbian and bisexual women, and discuss issues of sex, gender, sexuality, misogyny, and homophobia. Class materials will include historiographic and expository essays, novels, films, and autobiographical/ethnographic writing

University of California, Los Angeles, LGBT Studies: Queer Arts in Los Angeles

This course will introduce students to the wide gamut of queer arts in Los Angeles, including photography, painting, posters, films and performance art. There will be a special focus on queer Latina/o artists, AIDS art, and censorship. Attendance at a queer art exhibition or performance will be required. Students will learn the technology necessary to create a collaborative class website on Queer Arts in L.A. Employing website-building technology will teach students to research, select, synthesize, and visually represent the information necessary to introduce a general public to the work and contributions of queer artists in Los Angeles.

University of Washington, Sociology: Who Gets Ahead? Public Schooling in America

Addresses fundamental questions about the relationship between education and society. Examines why some students learn more and advance further than others; what factors shape how schools are run/organized and which materials are taught; how race/class/gender affect students within schools; how schools maintain our economic system and can become more effective.

University of Washington, Environmental Studies: Environmental Justice

Examines introductory studies of environmental racism and ecological injustice in the United States and select areas of the world. Reviews environmental justice theories and methods applied to risk science, ecosystem management, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable development. Includes comparative studies of social movements for “eco-justice.”

Penn State University, Political Science: The Politics of the Ecological Crisis

“The Politics of Scarcity” examines some “big” questions about the prospects for humans in general and democracy in the United States in particular. Much of the reading assumes that our civilization faces the twin problems of increasingly serious shortages of resources and a growing ecological crisis that threatens the basis of life. Further, it argues that these “twin crises” feed upon each other, and that together they pose serious short and long run challenges to survival. Some readings attribute these problems to the dominant values that characterize modern Western society. The course does consider some dissents from this perspective, arguments that things will be just fine. However, it concentrates on problems and predictions of trouble. Thus, the class does not claim to present an evenly balanced assessment. Rather, it recognizes that most of what we learn, read, and see supports the status quo and assumes our civilization and energy-dependent way of life will continue. Consequently it makes sense to emphasize the less frequently argued position that we may be headed for disaster.

University of California, Berkeley, African American Studies: Black and Female: Eyeing the Spirit

This course is designed to introduce students to the field of African American Studies with an emphasis on African American feminist thought. The course is organized around three topic areas: Defining Black womanhood, the Black female body, and Black women’s relationships and their relationships with others. Examining works from nineteenth and twentieth century African American feminist scholars, we will closely review and critique how Black females are represented in canonical discourse. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, this course will investigate how Black women translate societal messages and interrogate what it means to be a Black woman in America. Specifically, students will be asked to examine the confluence of factors that influence a Black woman’s perspective, image and understanding of self and her relationship to others. The seminar goal is to create a multi-generational, multi-racial/ethnic community conversation about African American feminist thought. Guest scholars and community leaders will be invited to join the seminar and engage in conversation. On occasion students will be asked to break into small pods of three to interrogate and discuss material. The objectives of the course are for students to understand and be conversant with African American feminist thought, and cognizant of how and why there are particular perceptions and representations associated with the Black female body, and how these perceptions and representations influence relationships with and between Black women.

Kate Edwards is the program officer for chapter services for Young Americans for Freedom, a Project of Young America’s Foundation.