Reflections on academia

10 02 2009

Academic disciplines such as Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Latino Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, etc. are such critical disciplines because historically, the production and teaching of knowledge has mostly been euro-centric and male-centric. It is important to hear the stories that we normally don’t hear, to see from a different perspective.

It is problematic that these disciplines are often pushed off to the side and considered “side dishes” that are separate and detached from the primary curriculum. These fields also attract only a certain crowd and may marginalize others. For instance, not many men enroll in Women’s Studies classes or declare Women’s Studies majors (it could be helpful if it were renamed as Gender and Sexuality Studies instead) perhaps because they feel that it applies to or invites women only. There is also a stigma attached to these fields and majoring in an ethnic study or Women’s Studies is less publicly perceived as valid or credible.

Since these programs/departments are already very small and have small budgets, they tend to get hit hardest by budget cuts. So given the state of the economy now, it is not surprising that cultural conservatives are using the economic downturn and budget cuts as an excuse to further reduce and even eliminate academic programs and departments deemed “unnecessary” or “irrelevant.”

In Georgia, House Republicans are fighting to eliminate queer theory classes in higher education because such a subject “‘is not considered higher education‘” and “‘this doesn’t belong in our universities.'” The full story is here: http://www.fortmilltimes.com/124/story/449682.html.

Higher education, or education in general, should not be just a stepping stone to get a job after one graduates. While that of course is an important and necessary thing to do, education should be more than that. Higher education is about expanding the scope of knowledge which might mean covering more controversial and contentious topics, but that’s the point. You’re supposed to get uncomfortable when you’re confrontingĀ  your own prejudices.


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12 02 2009
Melissa

This is an excellent post! As you said, your message is especially relevant during this economic recession-even outside of academia. Here in Connecticut, Governor Rell has proposed to cut the state budget by eliminating, among other state programs, a state organization that researches how legislation affects women and promotes legislation that will benefit women.

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