Cornell University to Offer Degree in News Anchor Hairdo Studies

Ezra Cornell, a generous man concerned deeply about his country and its culture, when he created his eponymous university in 1868 said, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

Professors at Cornell (my grad school alma mater and partial source of rent) have stretched old Ezra’s words to the limit. How? The “English department will begin offering a new concentration in cultural studies to English majors. The concentration will allow students to study different mediums and forms of culture, including literature, film, the Internet and music in terms of ‘historical, social, and political contexts’.”

That’s the problem with words, isn’t it? People are apt to interpret them too freely. This is why lawyers give over their lives to writing nauseatingly precise contracts. Failing to specify what “pay in full” means in less than three pages ensures some clown will find a loophole.

Old Ezra—and academia in general—now has to suffer the consequences of failing to be exact in what he meant by “any study.” For Cornell will indeed offer Bachelor’s of Arts in “English” with concentrations in the study of news anchors’ hairdos.

Parse this:

“The field of cultural studies examines how culture makes a difference in how we live, and how differences in how we live make culture,” Prof. Debra Fried, English, said in an e-mail. “If you take an active interest in how any form of culture shapes your response to everyday life, you’re already beginning to think and question as cultural studies invites you to do.”

Hey, cultural studies has issued invitations! It would be boorish to turn it (them?) down. Thus, “English” majors who opt for the concentration may “study nearly anything that impacts society and the cultures of different regions and time periods.”

Examples include “comparing Ithaca’s coffee shops to how a ‘news anchor’s hairdo and clothing can contribute subtly to how the news is ‘spun’ on a TV news report,’ Fried said.” The emphasis is added to be ensure readers don’t miss the hairdos.

Parenthetically, Ithaca (by my memory) has about three or four coffee shops: applying scholarly rigor to them won’t take long.

Anyway, why put in all those long hours studying engineering, when you could write a thesis on how the transgendered interact with their iPhones in coffee shops?

Why indeed? Word is out: students are “excited ” and are already lining up to enter the program. How will Cornell be able to handle the influx?

To start, two new professors were hired: Jane Juffer, a specialist in “Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” and ex-Director of Penn State’s “Director, Latina/o Studies Initiative,” and Grant Farred, a specialist in “Africana Studies” and presenter of the talk “Yao Now: The New Racism in the Age of Globalization.”

Juffer will teach “Theories of Popular Culture”, which she says is often “perceived to be unworthy of academic study.” This is false, she claims, because popular culture is important “for the production of both pleasure and politics.” (She neglected displeasure.)

She’ll explore “television, film, the porn industry, baseball, popular music, and Starbucks coffee shops.” And she’ll ask, “what feelings of desire, pleasure, fear, and disgust does popular culture generate?” Anybody have an answer for that one?

The popular “Food, Gender, Culture” course will also count towards the new concentration. The catalog says, “In addition to nourishing the body, food operates as a cultural system that produces and reflects group and individual identities.”

Food also—you knew this was coming!—helps “shape our sense of gender, race, sexual orientation”. Makes you think about “carrot cake” in a while new way, doesn’t it?

Where else can you earn credit for asking, “How do factors such as gender, class, race, and religion shape the foods we eat and the circumstances in which we eat them? How do writers use the language of food to explore issues such as gender, sexuality, class, and race?”

It’s unclear whether the important course “Body as Text: Pleasure and Danger” will be an elective. Did you know that we ” experience our bodies as so much a part of who we are that we take them for granted”? It’s true. “This class looks at how the idea of ‘the body’ gets constructed over time…[and] What makes bodies pleasurable and dangerous?”

To discover these important matters, the films “Freaks” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” will be screened.

The best news is that students will largely be spared the horrors of actual reading. Do you have any idea how much time it takes to read a book? That time could be much better spent remarking on the hairstyles and sexual proclivities of reality show contestants and their relation to racist salad bars (my proposed thesis).

23 Comments

  1. So, people spend at least four years of their lives studying this twaddle and leave college $120K or so in the red, find they can’t get a job even with their “college” “degree” and then twitter on facebook or whatever they do about how the baby boomers took all the money and outsourced all the jobs to China and wrecked the economy and made them suffer and ruined their lives and left them only despair about an increasingly bleak future.

    Poor things.

  2. If people studying this twaddle were truly unable to find jobs, then that alone would provide feedback to limit the twaddle. Unfortunately students will pile into these cake-walk programs before pondering their future. Then opportunism (i.e activism) might create an industry for these nincompoops, much as it does for the fakers in the “diversity” racket. The “degrees” may even be mislabeled, leading the unaware to think they are real degrees in English.

    Poor us.

  3. It’s just like getting a journalism degree so you can sit in front of a television camera and read a teleprompter. A waste of four years of college.

  4. For even more fun with the linked posting find and replace all occasions of “cultural” with “solid waste management”, and the word “culture” with “trash”. Makes much more sense, and somehow seems more apt.

    Person of Choler is spot on, though. Soon after graduating most of those excited lined up students will be looking for someone who actually works for a living to blame.

  5. 49er,

    While you and everybody else is surely right that these kids won’t be increasing their job prospects, I’ve never thought that the purpose of college was to provide job training. College should be to instill a classical education for those capable of assimilating one. What is the best way to live? Why the universe are the kinds of questions that should be asked.

    We should break apart colleges into trade schools for those who do want jobs skills, specialty schools for those wanting to become scientists and scholars, and fluff with a Brand Name for those just wanting a “degree.”

  6. Classical education? What century do you live in? The purpose of universities is to give people like Jane Chuffer and Yao Farout steady paychecks. Otherwise they’d be out robbing liquor stores and prowling playgrounds for victims. The “students” have nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with whom is hired, coddled, tenured, and pensioned.

    The incoming students are braindead from 12 years or more of political indoctrination. Stupefied young adults are marched like sheep into college classrooms and force fed yet more brain-numbing twaddle. Then sooner or later they are kicked out into real life, which is a horrific shock and where they fail miserably, or else they cling to the trough and become faculty.

    Universities are not about the students or education, classical or post-modern. Higher ed is about welfare for the socially incompetent, the deeply disturbed, the Darwin rejects, the dregs of humanity. There is very little difference between prisons and colleges. They both house misfits and psycho-pathologicals. What we need are better walls around them both, to keep the inmates away from decent folk.

  7. Well gosh, Briggs. Aren’t Juffer and company being institutionalized just as some of us would hope?

    Maybe they’ll have to raise the screen mesh on the bridge even higher.

    Having a connection with the place that I don’t want to embarrass even more, I’ll leave it at that.

  8. “The popular “Food, Gender, Culture” course will also count towards the new concentration. The catalog says, “In addition to nourishing the body, food operates as a cultural system that produces and reflects group and individual identities.””

    Surely the people of Haiti would agree. And if they don’t, a screening of Hedwig and the Angry Inch will finally convince them.

    Sometimes a bowl of rice is just a bowl of rice.

  9. Liquid chocolate body decoration and its contribution to the sexual objectification of Women I’ll do the research. Anybody want to write it up?

  10. This food, gender, culture course has peculiar ramifications — especially considering the fads/alternative therapies already well entrenched in “progressive” realms such as California:

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=Drinking+urine&form=MSNH14&qs=n (urine therapy–drinking the stuff–for health!!).

    If you’ve read the topics at the above link you’ll have no, zero, difficulty in forseeing a real possibility of a topic entwining the Catholic Eucharist into a pro-cannibalism advocacy in some fashion or other (though I suspect they won’t pick “Soylent Green” as the label) as part of some alternative-Vegan dietary proscription.

  11. Matt:
    I am not sure I understand your position. There seems to be an inconsistency in the two paragraphs where you say:
    “College should be to instill a classical education for those capable of assimilating one. What is the best way to live? Why the universe are the kinds of questions that should be asked.

    We should break apart colleges into trade schools for those who do want jobs skills, specialty schools for those wanting to become scientists and scholars, and fluff with a Brand Name for those just wanting a “degree.” ”

    My own view of college level education is highly instrumental with a touch of libertarianism. For individuals – or their indulgent parents – who can afford to pay the full cost of their education – and I mean the full cost – they can indulge themselves in whatever fields they see fit including Cultural Studies. On the other hand for those who choose to accept tax payer support, then their choices should be limited to those fields where a more direct return on the tax payer investment can be assessed.

    One way of ensuring that a more realistic choice of majors will be made by our budding genius college students is that they and whoever is helping them pay their college tuition sign off at the beginning of each of their four or more years of college on a chart that lists salaries of graduates with different majors five years after graduation and the relevance of their major to their current ocupation. The list should include occupations that do not require college degrees – plumbers, electricians, carpenters. Such a form I see as the equivalent to the list of adverse effects that pharmaceutical companies are required to state when they advertise their products. For example, majoring in Cultural Studies is likely to leave you poor through your 30s unless your parents are rich or you join the Ponzi scheme and teach others Cultural Studies.

  12. Bernie,

    Education as a means of training is good, which is why I saw universities should break up into trade schools and classic education schools. The vast majority are only going to gain their “degree”—which they can parlay into dollars.

    For example, a kid wanting to program computers can learn most of what he needs in one year solid study. The rest he can pick up on the job. Although it would be good if he—and if everybody, college enrolled or not—would read Plato, Montaigne, Burke, and so forth. If he’s forced to, as he is now, he will, but since it does not involve bits and bites, it’s unlikely he’ll retain it.

    Or that he’ll have the capacity—or desire—to. And the same goes with business “studies”, and most other undergraduate “degrees.”

    Companies often say they require a “degree” because that demonstrates the applicant has the capacity to learn. There is truth in that, but attending a trade school and passing a relevant certification exam is better evidence that the applicant has what a company wants. That a kid can graduate with a degree in “feminist studies” is evidence only of a lack of imagination or of a propensity to whine.

    Having a growing proportion of kids enroll in college is one reason we have useless courses on the books (see today’s post on Harvard for other reasons). We’ve talked about this before, but if you imagine requiring that all high school graduates attend college (“It’s their right!”) then, in order for them to graduate college, the courses must be dumbed down. Or the courses as are can remain unchanged, but new ones that are not challenging must be added.

    Worse, because all go, having a “degree” is evidence of nothing except having the ability to draw breath. Once more, trade schools and certification would solve that.

  13. Perhaps this is an attempt to attract more majors, just as many math departments in the US have been actively recruiting students via various methods… but often with little success.

    I can see career prospects with a major in culture studies might not be bright. However, I am surprised that people see little value in the study of gender and cultures. Perhaps, the course can broaden your views. It can help you gain a new perspective on your own country and understand people from different cultures and with different points of view and different ways of doing things…and so on. We live in the 21st century!

  14. JH:
    In the old days, gender and culture studies is what we did during the Summer vacation! One summer I learnt German in Austria and the next summer I learned French in Quebec. I met my wife in Austria!

  15. JH,

    Perhaps the course can narrow them, too. And narrow to the point of political dogma. This thesis has more evidence for it, no?

    Anyway, nobody argues against teaching history or culture or human behavior.

  16. Mr. Briggs,

    Good morning! The weather outside sure is beautiful today

    No, I haven’t noticed that anyone directly argues against teaching history or human behavior, either.

    Learning about different cultures and the perspectives on gender varying over time and across cultures can narrows students’ views?! I cannot rule out this possibility. Evidence? Yes, let’s not be dogmatic. I’ll need to know exactly what is taught, how the class is run and students’ end-of-semester reviews of the course.

    Bernie,
    ^_^! A spouse can help broaden the size of our family and dinner menus.

  17. JH,

    “Gender” never changes. Biological sex is fixed: all people are forever stuck with the chromosomes they are born with, no matter the surgical will or amount of makeup.

    Sexual proclivity does change and is worthy of study. But you must admit that some proclivities, while they should be studied, should not be encouraged. Before answering, think of how a person with young daughters would feel.

    We have laws about minimal ages, and those whose proclivities would violate those laws are rightly punished. Other laws state that consent must be secured before sexual congress is attempted. Those whose proclivities say to hell with consent are also rightly punished.

    The point of these commonplaces is that we are all willing to draw lines. Where to draw them is worthy of discussion and study, but to say that no lines should be drawn, or that the lines are up to each individual, is clearly false.

    Incidentally, weather awful here.

  18. Mr. Briggs,

    Yes, gender never changes. Does the study of gender and cultures analyze one’s biological gender/sex? I don’t think so.

    OK, you are talking about the value of sexual proclivity study instead of gender and culture study. From where I stand, the latter contains a wider scope and more contents. I agree with what you say about sexual proclivity, except that I am not sure if one can encourage a person’s inclination in sexual behavior.

    Where and who should draw the line? Some faculty in the College of Fine Arts say that their students don’t need the worthless college algebra. Some math faculty disagree. They have different perspectives. Who is right? I don’t know, though I have my own opinion.

  19. “I am not sure if one can encourage a person’s inclination in sexual behavior.
    It should be sexual orientation. Gee, I do need to some study on this topic.

  20. JH,

    You have convinced me that “proclivity” is inadequate and “behavior” is superior. “Orientation” fails because, at best, it only approximates “proclivity”; at worst, it says nothing.

  21. Proclivity, orientation, behavior … I am not sure it makes much difference to the point at issue, IMHO. If the students pay their own way – it is simply “caveat emptor”. If the tax payer or alumni pay then a more tough minded judgement needs to be made both with respect to the what and the how of the curriculum.

    I suspect that if the student had to cover the full cost of putting on such courses whether there would be sufficient “buyers” to pay for the professors’ time. Colleges and faculties do their young and naive students a disservice by not fully informing them of the consequences of their choices.

    My wife occasionally acts as a substitute teacher at the local public HS. They have just dropped French, but they have retained a series of courses in forensics, which largely consist of watching crime scene movies and documentaries!! This is no way to design a curriculum or to allocate scarce resources. The same dynamic exists in colleges, schools and business. As a consultant we used to cynically describe this kind of stuff as “entertrainment”. There was never likely to be a discernible ROI. In my experience, engineering and natural science students had far less tolerance for this kind of nonsense.

  22. Bernie,

    Yes, classes are usually cancelled if there are not enough students. And sometimes, some of us end up doing independent studies with students of higher caliber, from which we receive no monetary reward but personal satisfaction.

    Mr. Briggs,

    I seriously, not sarcastically, meant that sexual orientation might be a part of the nature. Sexual behavior…again, seriously, I don’t have much interest in this subject and therefore have done little reading on this topic.

    Yeah…somehow, I have convinced you of something. A lovely unintended consequence. Since you have generously given me an inch, I shall boldly try to take a foot. Hmmm… what’s next? Somehow, I shall convince you not to vote for Mrs. Palin in 2012, this might be too ambitious. ^_^

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *