The unjust requirement of a “justice” curriculum

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COURTESY PHOTO/WM.EDU

This past month, Student Assembly and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to add courses under the attribute “COLL 199” to the College of William and Mary’s College Curriculum. These courses would “require that all students take a course…dealing with justice and equity” and “examine…at least two key social categories including…race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, religion, and disability”. The Society for the College, an independent voice for students and alumni, welcomes curriculum requirements that advance the liberal arts, but COLL 199 undermines a liberal education and marginalizes students’ opposing viewpoints.

The liberal arts are broadly understood to include literature, philosophy, mathematics, social and physical sciences. The “justice” sought in the COLL 199 resolution does not refer to justice in the usual sense; rather it refers to ideas of “social justice.” Social justice is a remarkably amorphous term that includes whatever the user wishes. The College seeks to provide a world-class liberal arts curriculum, yet it lacks a serious literature or physical science requirement. To keep its standing as a top liberal arts institution, the College needs more rigorous, truly liberal arts requirements, not mere mushy subjectivism.

The COLL 199 requirement is not political or philosophical orthodoxy. The resolution dog-whistles post-modernism, a grab-bag school of thought without a defining characteristic. Post-modernism is not morally grounded, it does not have broad agreement among scholars, and it does not represent the beliefs of a plurality of Americans. Requiring courses that focus on half-baked controversial theories with massive intellectual disagreement is an unjust requirement for students.

The College has a long tradition of a world-class liberal arts education. Rather than eschewing a rigorous curriculum in favor of course requirements as intellectually porous as Swiss cheese, students and faculty should embrace a tried and true liberal arts tradition.

Email Skip Estes at [email protected]

6 COMMENTS

  1. While I agree that the College needs better physical science and literature requirements, the purpose of this requirement is to educate students on social issues and the scholars and theories that can be applied to them– for all students to have a better understanding of cultural issues outside their own lives. To be educated and aware of all these arguments is essential in today’s world. To be criticizing this requirement is to be projecting your own political views on the idea of having to take a class that focuses on what many consider “liberal ideology”.

    • This is an excellent piece. These classes are not being taught to open students’ minds, they exist to instill an ideology. Normally when you take a class on a topic you expect to learn about that topic from an open view point. A class on Locke teaches you about Lockean ideas, a class on existentialism teaches you about existentialists, a class on Kant teaches you about Kant. But somehow ‘social justice’ seems to be the only ideology allowed teach students to become devotees rather than critically introduce their subject material from both positive and negative angles. These classes will not enable discussion on critical issues surrounding identity, but force students to pay respects to a political ideology, an ideology which is certainly not beyond criticism and failure, despite how ‘sacred’ it has become. And don’t be fooled- courses which address ‘social justice’ in an ideological way are already numerous, particularly in the COLL program. The goal of this program isn’t to make these sorts of courses more available, it’s to force those who don’t accept certain ideas to to bow before them for a grade. By all means, be a real social justice advocate (I think that there is still real work to be done there) but convince others by the salience of your ideas, not coercion.

  2. So let’s think about this. GSWS, Sociology, Africana Studies and other departments that focus on “social justice” literally have had to sprout out of necessity since they have been left out of traditional core classes. We don’t learn women’s history, African American history, the reasons why mass incarceration is a huge issue in our “regular” history classes… because there is no place for that in white history. People will go their whole lives without learning these CRUCIAL pieces of history so yeah I’d say it’s pretty important that this becomes a requirement because people will not learn these things unless they take those classes on their volition and these are topics people shouldn’t be ignorant about.

  3. This sounds like it was written by an angry four year old. Typical College Republican pseudo intellectual nonsense.

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