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December 30, 2010

WaPo Op-Ed: Don't Let ROTC On Ivy League Campuses And Oh Yeah...American Soldiers Are The Same As The Taliban

Some guy named Colman McCarthy, who "directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington and teaches courses on nonviolence at four area universities and two high schools", crams so much stupid into this 800 word piece it has to be a record.

A taste.

Will the Ivies have the courage for such stands? I'm doubtful. Only one of the eight Ivy League schools - Cornell - offers a degree in peace studies. Their pride in running programs in women's studies, black studies, and gay and lesbian studies is well-founded, but schools have small claims to greatness so long as the study of peace is not equal to the other departments when it comes to size and funding.

At Notre Dame, on that 1989 visit and several following, I learned that the ROTC academics were laughably weak. They were softie courses. The many students I interviewed were candid about their reasons for signing up: free tuition and monthly stipends, plus the guarantee of a job in the military after college. With some exceptions, they were mainly from families that couldn't afford ever-rising college tabs.

In this guy's universe, peace, "women's studies, black studies, and gay and lesbian studies" are important elements of a university's offering but ROTC classes are academically soft.

Okay, let's do a little compare and contrast.

Here's the Army ROTC curriculum at Sienna College, a small Catholic School in upstate NY. ROTC is not something you major in (there are only 8 classes and none are full 3 credit courses). ROTC is an add on to a student's regular course work that is specifically designed to get them ready to enter the Army after graduation. It's not a separate academic discipline, nor does this class list reflect the additional summer and post-graduate training students receive.

Now let's pick a few classes offered in "Women's and Gender Studies" at Columbia that McCarthy seems so fond of.

WMST BC3123y Women and Art 3 pts. Discussion of the methods necessary to analyze visual images of women in their historical, racial, and class contexts, and to understand the status of women as producers, patrons, and audiences of art and architecture.

WMST BC3130y Discourses of Desire: Introduction To Gay and Lesbian Studies 3 pts. Who or what constitutes the subject of gay and lesbian studies? Explores historical, methodological, and epistemological crisis points of essentialism/constructionism; sexuality across cultures; gender versus sexuality; bisexuality and the binary regimes of hetero/homo and male/female; community; identity; the politics of liberation; the place of feminism in les/bi/gay studies.

WMST BC3132x Gendered Controversies: Women's Bodies and Global Conflicts 4 pts. A seminar investigating the significance of social, political, and cultural conflict centered on issues concerning women's lives.

WMST BC3134y Unheard Voices: African Women's Literature 4 pts. Themes include the politics of the canon in Africa, the problems of language, postcolonial counter-discourse, the African-American continuum, and Third World and Western feminism. Readings include novels, short stories, poetry, and drama by Elora Nwapa, Buchi Emecheta, Nawal El Saadawi, Miriam Tlali, Bessie Head, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie, Ama Ata Aidoo, and Tess Onwueme.

Let's see...which class do you think has higher standards, one taught by Army officers or the expert in charge of this class?

CSER W3918x Transnational Transgender Social Formations: Political Economies and Health Disparaties 4 pts. This course contextualizes contemporary transgender identities and communities within global social formations. Contemporary transgender social formations in South America, Central America, South Asia, and East Asia will be examined along with indigenous transgender communities in North America and Western Europe. Discussions of transgender social formations will be framed by historical, political, and economic contexts, and how transnational flows of global capital have impacted transgender identities. There will also be comparative analyses between transgender social formations and other sexual mintority communities and between transgender communities from various geographies. Particular attention will also be paid to health disparities among transgender communities, especially in relation to HIV/STI and mental health vulnerabilities. Health disparities will be seen as a manifestation of transgender stigma, social marginalization, and racial stratifications (that often lead to survival sex work) that affect many transgender communities globally. The class will end with an examination of the construction of whiteness and how transgender identities have been normalized as "white" in the West.

The world would do just fine if no one ever studied 'transgender issues". It would be noticeably less well off without the American military and the young men and women who serve in it.

Oh McCarthy doesn't want you to think he doesn't appreciate and admire those who serve in the military, he thinks they are swell...just like those who serve in the Taliban.

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America's or the Taliban's: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home. In recent years, I've had several Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans in my college classes. If only the peace movement were as populated by people of such resolve and daring.

Maybe this super genius should go to Afghanistan or Pakistan and talk to some members of the Taliban about their views of Women's or Gay and Lesbian Studies (or even just women studying and whether or not gays and Lesbians should be allowed to live). I'm sure he'd come away impressed with their loyalty to their cause, if he came away at all.

Added: I have a somewhat related proposal, expand Junior ROTC programs into more high schools across the country.

I've never served in the military but I did spend three years in my school's Navy Junior ROTC program. That experience gave me an introduction to the military, its history and most importantly, a lifelong appreciation for those who did go on to serve.

It was much more of an old fashioned civics course that had long since gone out of favor by the time I was in HS in the mid 80s.

There will always be idiots like McCarthy but expanding JROTC programs will not only lead to more people opting to serve in the military but it will give far more people at least a cursory introduction and appreciation for the institutions and people that keep this country safe.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:00 AM

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