I’m old enough to remember the beginning of the push for courses that catered to special interest groups. Women’s Studies. Black Studies. Those were the big two at the beginning, and now no doubt there are many more.
At the time it seemed like the redressing of a previous omission, an expansion of knowledge rather than a contraction, a chance to look at history in a different and meaningful way. The courses were just small and specialized additions to otherwise conventional history departments that still (at least for a little while) emphasized Western Civilization and its achievements.
But the camel had gotten its nose into the tent, and that camel is very very pushy and very very well-entrenched now. In fact, it’s taken over American history, even in Texas:
The study found that U.S. history courses at both universities strongly emphasize race, class, and gender (RCG) in reading requirements. Fully 78% of faculty members at UT emphasize race, class, and gender, while 50% of faculty members at Texas A&M do the same. Likewise, 78% of UT professors have special research interests in RCG, while 64% at A&M do too.
The study contends that the strong emphasis on RCG crowds out other relevant themes in American history, such as the nation’s intellectual, military, spiritual, and economic history. The emphasis on RCG studies also influences a further narrowing of history subject matter and the tailoring of “special topics” courses, which omit the use of significant primary source documents. These narrowed-focus classes, the study finds, “seem to exist mainly to allow faculty members to teach their special interests.”
The effect: Students at two of Texas’ flagship universities are not being assigned to study such important and influential milestones as the Mayflower Compact or President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. “Only one faculty member,” the study finds, “assigned the ‘Letter from a Birmingham jail’” or Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Major historical figures, from John Dewey to Alexander Graham Bell to Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers, are increasingly being left out of American history courses at both universities. The result of this is that we are losing touch with our history, replacing it with an overemphasis on grievances.
And of course, this is hardly limited to Texas:
“These trends extend beyond the two flagship Texas universities,” the study report says. “History departments at other universities around the United States share similar characteristics, such as faculty members’ narrow specializations; high emphasis on race, class, and gender; exclusion of key concepts; and failure to provide broad coverage of U.S. history.”
Has any other nation in history been so focused on self-flagellation? We may be destroying and Balkanizing ourselves as a country and jeopardizing our future, but we certainly are a wonderfully penitent group. And so diverse!