Second-lady Lynne Cheney has been working the college circuit of late. She”s figured out what”s wrong with American higher education.
As it stands, it”s just too un-American.
Cheney, who helped found but has since moved on from her American Council of Trustees and Alumni, praised the council”s November report, “Defending Civilization: How our universities are failing America and what can be done about it.”
The report cites 115 instances of what Cheney and her old think tank pals have deemed to be the wave of unpatriotic sentiment pouring forth from the faucets of the academy and flooding the minds of the impressionable students at colleges and universities nationwide.
Faculty and staff, students and administrators, guest speakers and journalists are all cited in the report which reads like a page torn from one of Sen. Joseph McCarthy”s personal notebooks.
Some of the most clearly “anti-American” examples that the Council has rooted out:
19.) “(We should) build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls.” Speaker at Harvard Law School.
27.) “We have to learn to use courage for peace instead of war.” Professor of religious studies, Pomona College
51.) “What you have to look at is the underlying reasons. Poverty breeds resentment and resentment breeds anger.” Ivy League student.
Cheney and her esteemed council think they”ve got it pegged. It”s dangerous statements like these that are undermining the moral foundations of American institutions of higher education.
And far be it from them to offer criticism without construct. Cheney”s solution is to require, according to The Daily Princetonian, “for American colleges and universities to institute core general education requirements, including required courses in American history.”
This suggestion may seem reasonable enough. What may not come through so clearly is the intended emphasis on the American part. Emphatic emphasis. As chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities from 1986 to 1993, Cheney became notorious for her unapologetic reluctance to fund grant proposals focused on non-traditional (or non-Western) topic areas or on issues of diversity and multiculturalism.
It”s baffling that under circumstances which so clearly dictate a need to educate ourselves about people other than ourselves, national figures are suggesting a recession into a narrow-minded focus on American history and American ideals. “We need to know, in a war, exactly what is at stake,” Cheney is quoted on the cover page of the Defending Civilization report.
This is true. But a look at American history without criticism and as merely an exercise in patriotism, without criticism and self-examination gives us nothing but egos and others nothing but an excuse to hate.
Perhaps this report is so shocking because the ideas are so ironically foreign. At the University we may have been spoiled with calls for students to take foreign languages and criticism of the University and faculty for not responding with the teach-ins and a presence at rallies from all directions we sought to feed our institutional nostalgia for the glory days of 1960s Michigan activism.
But what”s more frightening than the report is that it comes from the upper eschelon of this country”s leadership and is an easy appeal to everyone who tears up, loves America and hates Muslims when they hear Alan Jackson”s chart topper “Where were you (When the world stopped turning?),” the chorus of which goes: “I”m just a singer of simple songs/I”m not a real political man/I watch CNN but I”m not sure I could/Tell you the difference in Iraq and Iran/But I know Jesus and I”ve talked to God/nd I remember this from when I was young/Faith hope and love are some good things He gave us/And the greatest is Love”
Lynne Cheney and her benign-sounding “American Council of Trustees and Alumni” have provided “intellectual justification” for the flags on radio antenna and the “United We Stand” that now graces Wendy”s fast food bags. They”ve given validation to the cultural abomination that is currently mainstream America. It”s our universities that we need to look to as the most likely places for educating this blindly-patriotic and jingoistic culture out of us and leave the witch hunts to the history books that we”ll be dusting off under the Cheney education plan.
Johanna Hanink can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.