May 5, 2008
This controversy over the awarding of an honorary degree to Phyllis Schlafly at the Washington University in St. Louis is tailor-made for David Horowitz’s anti-academic jihad, and I’m sure that at this very moment he’s preparing a spam avalanche denouncing left-wingers on campus, blah blah blah. But the notion of awarding this wingnut Madame Defarge an honorary degree in humane letters is like giving a chair in women’s studies to a member of the Taliban, or Howard University hiring David Duke as a fund raiser.
Because the ability to ignore glaring self-contradiction is one of the defining traits of movement conservatism, it’s no surprise that Schlafly’s supporters can serenely overlook the hypocrisy of Schlafly building a well-funded career out of arguing that women shouldn’t have careers, well funded or otherwise. But why should a university honor such flim-flammery?
By Schlafly’s lights, at least half the students in attendance at her speech — i.e., the women — shouldn’t even be there. How wonderful it must be for these students to know that their soon-to-be alma mater will acknowledge their hard work by bringing in an anti-feminist crusader to puke ideological hairballs at their feet. And since Schlafly’s militant stupidity goes beyond feminism to embrace other wingnut causes, such as the jihad against teaching evolution, we are left to wonder why a university wants to bestow its laurels on someone who pretty much opposes everything a university stands for. The fact that she earned two degrees from the university doesn’t really cut it in this instance. Maybe instead of giving Schlafly an honorary degree, the university should offer her remedial education.
Does Washington U. have a program in journalism? If so, then next year they can award an honorary journalism degree to William Kristol, the man who suggested that The New York Times be prosecuted for treason for stories exposing Bush administration sleaze. If Academe wants to commit intellectual suicide, it will find no shortage of eager helpers among the conservative ranks.