Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Nutty Professors

Having worked in a university library for a little over a decade, I have a front-row view of the radicalist crusade that is waged by a great many academics in the humanities and social sciences. Simply glancing at the books that pass over the loans desk is usually enough to demonstrate how utterly one-sided the "debate" within the academy really is. Sometimes the partisanship is actually comical. Canadian Studies: An Introductory Reader (it's hard to dream up an academic discipline that doesn't actually exist somewhere; we actually have Porn Studies now), a volume edited by one Donald Wright, has an introduction that opens thus:

"In his 1975 report, To Know Ourselves, Tom Symons argued that Canadian studies must not be understood as a patriotic project, one designed to preserve and promote a particular Canadian identity....He was right then and and he is right now. Patriotism has no place in the university and the unexamined life isn't worth living."

Impossible to imagine that the examined life might lead one to patriotism! But didn't Socrates himself perish because he refused to flee from his beloved Athens?

Today I have been transferring some books into the restricted collection. These are books that have to be kept permanently in the library, since somebody-- usually an academic-- has put them on a reading list.

One of the books is Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life by Evan Stark. The blurb declares: "If the focus remains on acts of physical violence at the expense of a full assault on the patriarchy, he argues, the domestic violence movement is doomed."

Another is Community Development in Ireland, edited by Ashling Jackson and Colm O'Doherty, and published by Gill and MacMillan (a name with rather pleasant, nostalgic associations for many of us). The blurb promises that, through reading this book, we will "recognise and value community development as a powerful force for social change in Ireland". Because what sane person could doubt the crying need for radical social change in this backward nation of ours?

As is my wont, I looked up various keywords in the index, and the entry for "religion, and diversity"-- there was no entry simply for "religion"-- led me to this very amusing (but disconcerting) passage:

"Religion can be for many an important source of emotional support. Culturally competent practice is achieved, for example, when a community development worker takes the trouble to find out the significance of religious and cultural traditions to the client or client's family. Is there a need to accommodate, in some way, non-Christian religious holidays and prayer times? Does an agency show respect for non-Christian traditions, for example wearing the hijab, and specific dietary requirements?"

To be fair, I doubt that this passage represents anything more sinister than a belief that Christian holidays and traditions are so securely embedded in Irish society that they need no protection. Sadly, this is not true. But I would also guess that most "community development workers", and especially those training them, would probably not be very sympathetic to many Christian traditions and values anyway.

(Incidentally, I noticed that the index cited the feminist and leftist poet bell hooks, who eschews capital letters in her name. It didn't surprise me in the least.)

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