Gimme a P! Gimme an A! Gimme a T!…
Katha Pollitt scores again. “Penn State’s Patriarchal Pastimes” [Dec. 5], her column about the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal, blooms into an editorial about patriarchy in which—in one page—she embeds football in the same “rich, loamy craziness of American popular morality” as “God, the flag, the military and the family.” Her writing is as breathtaking as a last-second Hail Mary touchdown pass. Katha is a treasure.
Katha Pollitt’s column was a superb critique of the dangerous overemphasis on athletics in higher education. Pollitt, as usual, writes perceptively about contemporary life, and her call to reduce college sports to a valuable recreational enterprise for students makes enormous sense.
It is therefore unfortunate that she added a gratuitous statement that premier athletes are “hauled through dumbed-down courses in gut majors like ‘interdisciplinary studies’ and ‘social science.’” This condemnation of major curricular changes, many of which are progressive responses to rigid, educationally dubious disciplinary specialization, reflects a disconcerting lack of knowledge of academic reform efforts of more than forty years, which have created internationally respected programs in, among others, ethnic and women’s studies. A few professors in all disciplines cater to student athletes with easy classes and grades. That problem should be identified and condemned rather than making a sweeping judgment about interdisciplinary studies and social sciences.
PAUL VON BLUM
African American Studies, Communication Studies, UCLA
I am an athletic director. Our college doesn’t offer sports scholarships, although it is often discussed. When it comes up again, I will hand each administrator a copy of Katha Pollitt’s column. She has gone beyond the obvious corruption of the system to educate me on the unfairness of leaving deserving students behind in favor of an undeserving athlete. Giving athletes a way out of the ghetto? How about giving someone who studies hard and wants to be a nurse or doctor a chance to get out of the ghetto?
JIM AUSTIN, Athletic director
Old Lyme, Conn.
Katha Pollitt, as usual, has a bead on the bull’s-eye, but beware the bull’s backside. Hauling the Penn State bigs off to the dunking chair might be a good public show and even have some effect, but the deeper issue is the entire university culture, these days cast in the corporate rather than the academic mold. Good corporate citizens are rewarded for loyalty and behavior that protects the brand and its marketing. In the once-upon-a-time days of shared faculty/administration governance, the moral climate was wider and more likely to encourage and protect those who spoke out. The decline of faculty authority has adversely affected the academy. The unchecked and cumulative decay exposed by the Penn State horror can be disinfected by firing its present custodians, but restoration will take a more persistent commitment to inquiry, analysis and, eventually, discovery—a process that, fortunately, defines scholarship.
Thank You, Readers!
Thank you to readers Dayton, Hirschhorn, Harris and Thomas for their excellent responses to complaints about President Obama [“Letters,” Dec. 5]. As a young country, we’re still in the adolescent phase, thus our impatience with solutions that take time; refusal to support leaders who don’t immediately fulfill our desires; and thinking that not voting is a smart move. Fellow Americans, it’s time to grow up!