Tuesday, December 26, 2006

If your idea of fighting terrorism involves dropping bombs on al Qaeda hide-outs, chances are you’re probably not a Swarthmore College student.

Some students at Swarthmore (annual tuition, $33,232) spent the fall semester learning how to deal with terrorism by studying “the dynamics of cultural marginalization” and examining “the rich history of nonviolent counterterrorist tactics.”

Visiting professor George Lakey’s “Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism” class earned Swarthmore a spot in the “Dirty Dozen,” a listing of the “most bizarre” college classes in the nation as compiled by the Young America’s Foundation (YAF).

Among YAF’s picks for 2006 are courses in Marxism, feminism and some subjects that can’t be adequately described in a family newspaper.

“The Dirty Dozen demonstrates that professors still have an obsession with dividing people on the basis of their skin color, sexuality and gender,” said Jason Mattera, spokesman for YAF, a Virginia-based conservative group.

Occidental College (annual tuition, $32,800) topped this year’s list, securing two spots in the “Dirty Dozen.”

Occidental’s first-place entry, which is scheduled for the spring semester, is taught by associate professor Jeffrey Tobin in the department of Women’s Studies/Gender Studies and involves such esoteric concepts as “phallologocentrism.”

Mr. Tobin, who also teaches another class called “Critical Theories of Sexuality,” said Occidental students are so eager to enroll in his anatomically specific class that five extra spots were added during registration to help meet the demand, and there is still a waiting list of more than a half-dozen students.

In addition to Mr. Tobin’s class, Occidental also snagged fifth place for its course entitled “Blackness,” which explores such topics as “new blackness,” “critical blackness” and “post-blackness.”

Among other “winners” in YAF’s 11th annual “Dirty Dozen”:

c “Queer Musicology,” University of California-Los Angeles: Associate professor Mitchell Morris instructs students how “sexual difference and complex gender identities in music and among musicians have incited productive consternation,” examining such composers as Franz Schubert and Cole Porter.

• “Mail-Order Brides: Understanding the Philippines in Southeast Asian Context,” at Johns Hopkins University: It is taught by visiting assistant professor Fenella Cannell, author of “Power and Intimacy in the Christian Philippines.”

• “Taking Marx Seriously: ‘Should Marx Be Given Another Chance?’ ” at Amherst College: Professor Pavel Machala’s class made the “Dirty Dozen” list for the second consecutive year.

• “American Dreams/American Realities,” Duke University: Gerald Wilson, dean of Duke’s Trinity College, taught this spring 2006 course, which examined “such myths as ‘rags to riches,’ ‘beacon to the world,’ and the ‘frontier,’ in defining the American character.” Required readings included socialist philosopher Michael Harrington’s 1962 book, “The Other America,” and then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s keynote address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention. The course is part of Duke’s Hart Leadership Program, created in 1986 with a grant from the family foundation of business executive Milledge A. Hart III.

The courses on the list are mostly electives, many coming from the women’s studies, black studies and history departments.

The goal of the YAF report is to highlight “troubling instances of leftist activism supplanting traditional scholarship,” Mr. Mattera said, explaining that the organization looks at thousands of courses and hundreds of schools to compile the list.

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