April 25, 2006

Race and the Core

Racial tension has come to the forefront of discourse at the U of C and its peer institutions across the country this year. The discussion resulting from this tension has been beneficial, but if a group of students at this University is able to skew this issue to the point of dramatically changing course offerings and requirements, the result would be adverse.

Academia grows organically. Intellectual fashions rise and fall, but in time, those that are included in the academic regimen are the ones that the most people have come to a consensus on. Other areas of study are also important and may be added to the canon, but this cannot simply be mandated.

The proposal to require racial studies as part of the Core all of a sudden would harm rather than aid the discourse on campus, in that it would go against the precedent of consensus directing intellectual development. The intervention of a few, rather than the developed consensus of academics, is unlikely to yield an effective introduction of the new material.

Race has always been, and will continue to be, an essential element in the understanding of our society. Besides just African-American studies and different civilization programs, the integration of racial issues into multiple course offerings in more traditional disciplines like political science, history, and English affords students who wish to learn about race ample opportunity to do so. Given the endless areas of possible study, the U of C must keep the Core dedicated to the intellectual canon. This does not mean discriminating against other areas of study; it just means giving priority to the basis of Western intellectual thought.