In a move that should surprise no one, the Modern Language Association (MLA) has issued a public statement that cynically leverages the nation’s ongoing racial strife to call for increased spending on academe’s most politicized “studies” programs. Just as predictably, the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) has endorsed the statement. Their demands for more money should be roundly rejected.
Following a condemnation of racism and the murder of innocent “Black people by police and the systemic racism in police forces, in educational institutions, and throughout society,” the MLA gets to the rant’s real purpose:
“It has never been more important for educational institutions to support and expand Black and Africana studies, Latinx and ethnic studies, and Native American studies and to teach the literatures born of struggle against racist violence.”
“We urge departments of language and literature to engage with the art and criticism that reflects on history and envisions another future.”
The screed concludes:
“We affirm educational projects that expose (and seek to overcome) the scourge of white supremacy.”
And what might those “projects” be? If you guessed “those taught by the dues-paying members of the MLA and MESA,” you’re right. These fields, however, exist not to advance knowledge through the production of rigorous, apolitical scholarship. Rather, their mission is to indoctrinate students in the supposed evils of Western civilization. Trained narrowly rather than broadly educated, they emerge as activists determined to force the world to conform to their radical beliefs. If you’ve wondered where the leaders of America’s burning and looted cities got the idea that abolishing the police and applauding violence originate, look to the academics represented by these organizations.
Their demands come as universities rich and poor, public and private grapple with drastically falling revenue thanks to the Covid-19 lockdown that saw students flee campuses nationwide. As professors, administrators, and their lobbyists come begging for scarce public dollars, remember this: the “disciplines” represented by the MLA and MESA are precisely those that should see their budgets cut or eliminated altogether. In fat times, they demonstrate academe’s intellectual and moral decadence. Now, as coffers are emptied, there is no justification for their continued existence.
Winfield Myers is director of academic affairs at the Middle East Forum and director of its Campus Watch project.