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Culture wars

September 22, 2008

From the NY Times:

Acknowledging that 20 years and millions of dollars spent loudly and bitterly attacking the liberal leanings of American campuses have failed to make much of a dent in the way undergraduates are educated, some conservatives have decided to try a new strategy. … Their goal is to restore what conservative and other critics see as leading casualties of the campus culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s: the teaching of Western culture and a triumphal interpretation of American history.

The thing that amazes me about the “culture wars” is that they are, if not a conservative construct, a conservative obsession. Why aren’t conservatives satisfied with having the bulk of the money and the political power?  Why do they have to rule the culture?  Anyway, I would have thought that if a group was going to invent a “war”, they’d invent one they’d be capable of winning.

What really bothers me about this is the idea that the teaching of American history should follow a “triumphal interpretation”.  How would that paradigm be at all useful to students and scholars?  Fortunately, this is an idea that will probably fail, particularly since there appears to be a certain level of tone-deafness to the current times.  This cannot be the best time for a group to launch “programs and centers … concentrating on American democratic and capitalist institutions” if they are planning to work a “triumphal” interpretation into their programs.

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