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Jewish World Review March 23, 1999 /6 Nissan, 5759

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez
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Time for the ‘Real Thing’?

(JWR) ---- (
NOW THAT HOLLYWOOD HAS BESTOWED an Oscar on a fictitious "Shakespeare In Love," maybe colleges and universities can go back to teaching the real thing.

Hundreds of colleges eliminated Shakespeare requirements, even for English majors, when the diversity craze hit campuses more than a decade ago. The Bard of Avon was thrown on the curriculum trash heap of dead, white males, replaced by more enlightened authors, like Rigoberta Menchu.

The Mayan woman's eponymous tract, "I, Rigoberta Menchu," remains a favorite among campus feminists and Marxists, despite a recent scholarly expose of the book by anthropologist David Stoll that reveals the "autobiography" contains as much fiction as fact.

Menchu describes herself as an illiterate and impoverished peasant, who spoke no Spanish and whose family was tortured and killed by Guatemalan death squads. Yet Stoll discovered not only that Menchu comes from a middle-class family and attended Catholic schools (where the curriculum is in Spanish), but that the murder of her brother and 22 others, which she graphically describes having witnessed, never even occurred.

How is it that universities have been taken in by this fraud? One reviewer of Stoll's book described the phenomenon as adherence to "political truth"-- the substitution of what could have happened for what actually did, in service of some higher political ideal.

This ideology has infected undergraduate education for more than three decades and has now come to dominate law schools, as well. But some students are rebelling. A new book of essays by more than two dozen Berkeley law students, "The Diversity Hoax," describes why students have become frustrated in their pursuit of learning.

Gwyneth and the Bard
The book began as an invitation by first-year law student David Weiner to his classmates at the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Law School. David asked his fellow students to submit essays responding to a few simple questions: "How healthy is the marketplace of ideas here at Boalt? Do you have fair opportunity to share your ideas in the classroom? Does expression flow freely in an environment tolerant of diversity, or does the climate of tolerance at Berkeley paradoxically inhibit true diversity of opinion? Has political activism within the classroom silenced important student perspectives? What should have been said but never was?"

The impetus for the project was the tremendous political tension that existed on campus in 1997 when the law school was forced to abandon its previous policy of admitting black and Latino students with lower test scores and grades than whites and Asians. Weiner describes heated classroom harangues by professors and students decrying the "re-segregation" of Berkeley, rowdy demonstrations in the corridors and outside the law school, and a general atmosphere of intimidation against any student who objected to racial preferences. Weiner wondered whether other students felt as he did that intolerance was masquerading as "diversity" at Berkeley.

In response to his message, Weiner soon discovered that he wasn't alone. Although a distinct minority in this liberal bastion, several students submitted essays, often personal and poignant, recounting their own experiences with the prevailing "political truths" on campus. While some students wrote essays describing themselves as conservatives or moderate Republicans, others said they were Democrats or liberals. But nearly all complained of a politically correct orthodoxy that dominated classroom discussions, whether the subject was race, gender, or sexual orientation -- which pervaded classes even in property law.

"The Diversity Hoax" is only the most recent in a series of testimonials against what has happened to American higher education in recent years. It seems the greater the lip-service to diversity on many campuses, the more likely that divergent points of view will be squelched. This trend started when schools began stripping their curriculum of the contributions of "dead white males" like William Shakespeare.

Perhaps now that Will has become a Hollywood heartthrob and Rigoberta Menchu has been exposed as a impostor, we can hope that colleges and universities will soon regain some intellectual equilibrium.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate