One would think that if you were a relatively well-read American political magazine, if one that has become in large part intellectually and almost entirely ideologically corrupt, and you decided to get all hip and whatnot and start a group "weblog," that you would make sure to keep your eyes on what is going on on your new hip website. You would, perhaps, have an editor or even a copy-editor every once in a while pass her or his eyes over the stuff being posted, just to make sure it was neither insane, inscrutable, factual wrong, or even stupidly and logically incorrect.
One would think all these things, right? But clearly, this is not the case over at the New Republic's Open University. I'm not going to go into detail here about how deep these problems run, but rather let's just look at a post from today. It's by Robert Brustein, and it deals with the ostensible decline of the study of Shakespeare in US English departments.
Just to set this up correctly, let's start at the end of the article, which tries to make a funny out of the rise of cultural studies and some half-assed cartoon:
"And at the University of Virginia," the report continues, "English majors can avoid reading Othello in favor of studying 'Critical Race Theory' which explores why race 'continues to have vital significance in politics, education, culture, arts, and everyday social realities,' including 'sexuality, class, disability, multiculturalism, nationality, and globalism.'"
A recent newspaper cartoon shows two young girls walking out of a school. One turns to the other and says, "I have two mommies." The other replies, "How much is two?"
So the joke is that we're so busy filling kids heads with relativist agitprop that there's no time left for teaching basic skills. Ha! That's hilarious. (Be better if they were nappy-headed mommies, but we'll leave that to the other contributors to work out...) But what is even more hilarious is that this moment of jocular jouissance comes at the end of an article that includes the following passage in the middle:
But the ACTA report is not about the torments of secondary school education. It concerns the fate of Shakespeare courses in colleges and universities. Entitled "The Vanishing Shakespeare," the report asserts that at three-quarters of the institutions surveyed, which is to say 15 out of 70 of our leading colleges and universities, English majors are no longer asked to take a single course in Shakespeare's plays. And if you think this omission only applies to huge state institutions, look at the Ivy League universities where Harvard alone still considers Shakespeare a requirement. "Thus," the report mournfully concludes, "55 of 70 schools we surveyed allow English majors--including future English teachers--to graduate without studying the language's greatest writer in depth."
In 1996, that number was 47 out of 70, which suggests that, at the present rate of attrition, in twenty years you won't find a Shakespeare course anywhere in the country. "I am dying, Egypt, dying," says Antony to Cleopatra. "I am dying, America, dying," Shakespeare could be saying to us.
Hmmm... "In 1996, that number was 47 out of 70, which suggests that, at the present rate of attrition, in twenty years you won't find a Shakespeare course anywhere in the country." Um, no, it decidedly does not suggest that. It might suggest that few colleges will require Shakespeare courses, but this study certainly can't predict what Brustein wants it to predict. This is basic, SAT-type problem solving, and Brustein is apparently not up to the task. (And then, of course, there's also the 15/70 = 3/4 further up the quote, but we'll give a pass on that one...)
Perhaps, in case Brustein stops by, we should set it up in a nice, clear format for him to print out and practice with:
If in 1996, 23 out of 70 universities required Shakespeare, and in 2006, 15 of 70 required Shakespeare, then:
a) the darkies have the run of the place now.
b) girls who like girls write books now, which is a little bit disturbing and a little bit exciting to think about.
c) course requirements are on the wane in our nation's universities, for both good and bad reasons.
d) is our TNR bloggers learning?
Apparently, to TNR, blog means unmonitored collection of worthless shit of questionable veracity... If it weren't for what has gone on with that magazine in the last decade or so, you might be led to think that the Open University is actually an ultra-subtle guerilla attack on the b'sphere on the part of the mainstream print media, beating us by disasterously joining us, as it were. But I'm pretty sure they're not really up to the task.