The first shot was by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal, where she lamented the “rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class” destroying the focus on classical literature and good critical analysis. It’s not a new argument, and you can find the same themes addressed on this blog regarding the destruction of the academy. Here’s MacDonald’s main argument:
In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles wrecked its English major…[u]ntil 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton —the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.
This is the same sort of Critical Race Theory bullshit that torpedoed the University of New Mexico history department below the waterline. Instead of concentrating on geographic or period-based history, the department started pursuing programs based on “victims’ studies”, Imperialism, Borderlands, and other topical frameworks loaded with ideological nonsense. And it’s one of the reasons, along with the massive expense of worthless humanities and liberal arts degrees, that students are abandoning college. (The numbers are pretty consistent throughout academia — enrollments are down a median of about 30%.)
In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”
Such defenestrations have happened elsewhere, and long before 2011. But the UCLA coup was particularly significant because the school’s English department was one of the last champions of the historically informed study of great literature, uncorrupted by an ideological overlay. Precisely for that reason, it was the most popular English major in the country, enrolling a whopping 1,400 undergraduates.
Here MacDonald hits the main points for why modern academics are such truly awful instructors, professors, and people (see bold in the next quote):
The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.
Stephen Bainbridge, a law professor at UCLA, seems to be in agreement.