Heather Mac Donald over at the Wall Street Journal‘s editorial pages has figured out what ails civilization. (Hint—it’s not a “federal takeover of health care”, though that does make an appearance.):
In 2011, the University of California at Los Angeles wrecked its English major. … What happened at UCLA is part of a momentous shift that bears on our relationship to the past—and to civilization itself.
Two things to note here. First, yes, this article—published on the third of this month—is breathlessly attacking the UCLA English department circa 2011, which means Mac Donald and the Wall Street Journal have been sitting on this piece for like three years. Second (and I’m only being a little unfair here), yes, Mac Donald is actually drawing a line from the UCLA English course catalog to “civilization itself.”
Here’s the issue: UCLA undergrads are no longer required to take courses in Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton as they were pre-The End of Western Civilization. Now, “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.” The horror.
“In other words,” Mac Donald writes, “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.”
Putting aside that Mac Donald is just saying things now (because Shakespeare, as anyone who has never read Shakespeare will tell you, didn’t write about gender, sexuality, or race), and putting aside the some of the most blatant strawmanning I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading (after a paragraph attacking a nameless undergrad, Mac Donald writes, “These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of one disgruntled student; they represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today.” Then Mac Donald proceeds to give examples of that “dominant ideology” from others. jk lol.) Putting all that aside, her argument is really just this: civilization is ending because we’re not thinking about dead white people enough.
Here’s why I care: This, folks, is what passes for serious thought in conservative circles. This—this cringeworthy performance of pompous blowhardery—is what conservative elites are bringing themselves to care about, and, tellingly, Mac Donald and the Wall Street Journal Opinion pages are frightened because they see white privilege, this time in the form of the cult of the dead white dude, as being under attack.