Harvard Classes: Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball

Yesterday, we pointed out that Cornell has some odd courses on its books, subjects which are not consonant with typical expectations of a classical education.

So, in the interest of fairness, we now look at what your tax and tuition dollars bring you at Harvard, that eminent institution of higher learning.

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 96-ABL. Off the Page and Into the World: Feminist Praxis in the Community. “This course will involve students in experiential learning in community agencies that serve women, girls, and/or gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The course will require students to apply feminist theory to the challenges of organized social change.”

Sorry straight men: no “communities” for you. Barring the recent output from Washington, have you seen more frightening words than: “apply feminist theory to the challenges of organized social change”? Brrr.

Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality 1154. I Like Ike, But I Love Lucy: Women, Popular Culture, and the 1950s. “Taught from a cultural studies perspective, the course focuses on gender politics in print media, film, television, and rock of the early cold war era. Topics include: the bomb and TV…early civil rights movement, beat generation, Hollywood dreams of true love, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball…”

True love! But, wait: no news anchor hairdos?

African and African American Studies 163. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: Hip-Hop Studies. “Class begins with a history of hip-hop’s four elements: DJing, MCing, break dancing, and graffiti art.”

Ah, yes, criminal vandalism as “art.” I don’t advocate this—because it’s wrong—but it would be justice if the professors who use non-ironically the term “graffiti art” had their houses, cars, and other property tagged indelibly with gang emblems or words such as “Joni Suckz!”

Sociology 24. Introduction to Social Inequality. “Examines individual and structural explanations for the generation and maintenance of inequality in the US with comparisons to other societies.”

You, not yet having developed a tolerance, probably read that fast and missed the key word “maintenance.” Perhaps not coincidentally—I swear this is true—as I write this airs a radio commercial in which a teacher, or an actress portraying one, whines that unlike other classrooms she does not use “grades that labels kids winners and losers.”

Hers is a smaller classroom where she can take home a bigger paycheck. The ad is to encourage signing of a petition or to vote in favor of a teacher’s union or organization. I apologize that I missed which (on KSFO about 6:24 am PDT). If I hear it again, I’ll update this page.

Sociology 98B. Race and Crime How “and why criminal justice policy in the US has such a powerfully differential negative impact on African American communities.”

Say! It looks like all we need do is make a few tweaks in “criminal justice policy” and the discrepancy in criminal activity between the races will disappear. We can ignore behavior, and the influence of classes like this, altogether.

Sociology 140. The Sociology of U.S. Foreign Policy “US actions toward other nations since the World War II, then explore…the consequences of US actions for issues of class, race, and gender in the affected nations.”

This presupposes that the US is a big bully, sadistically pushing other countries into lockers as it slumps down the hall. That is obvious in the use of the word “affected.”

Its the influence of the bully on class, race, and “gender” that is important. Economics aren’t in it; neither is security. Or science, or true culture, and on and on.

It’s difficult to find a class at Harvard that doesn’t fret furiously over these standard leftist tropes (I should say, standard reason-enthroning, state-loving tropes).


Update I originally had a discussion of the word “gender”, which I have removed; mostly because it distracts from the main point of this article. Including it forced a tedious, and very long, digression into genetics and certain genetic abnormalities and syndromes.

Suffice to say that I prefer the term “sex” to indicate “biological sex” and that “gender” is best kept to describe the declension of nouns.


  1. Speed

    Sociology through the ages.

    Social change
    Organized social change
    Challenges of organized social change
    Apply theory to challenges of organized social change
    Apply feminist theory to challenges of organized social change.

  2. Bernie

    To continue our discussion from your Cornell post, I went looking for a listing of Salaries by undergraduate majors and our friends at Payscale seem to have done a large survey that may be useful: http://www.payscale.com/best-colleges

    One interesting subset is to look at “favorite” job by major. They list the top 25 jobs for a selection of 10 popular majors. Now if you ignore the obvious potential gender issue for the moment – one can gauge the “value” of the degree by seeing where a job that could have been obtained without a degree stands in terms of its frequency for each major. Clearly if many statisticians ended up as retail clerks one would wonder at the value of such a field of study. The one that springs to the front from the Payscale data is “administrative assistant’. The results for the majors listed were as follows:

    Biology — #14 out of 25 most frequent jobs for graduates
    Business Management — #4
    Computer Science — >#25
    Criminal Justice — #4
    English — #4
    Economics — #9
    History — #2
    Mechanical Engineering — >#25
    Political Science — #2
    Psychology — #1

    Of course, Administrative Assistants have limited earning capacities and, therefore, limited abilities to payback those student loans. I imagine it will not be long before colleges are sued for some kind of consumer fraud.

    Clearly many students and their parents are treating education as a consumer good as opposed to an investment good. If they pay the full freight, so be it. However if they rely on me and other tax payers to subsidize their “rite of passage”, then as a taxpayer I am reluctant to pay so much for so little. The current Administration seems bent on exacerbating the situation by essentially providing even greater subsidies to those who decide to waste 4 years learning how to watch movies, etc., and develop expectations out of line with their ability to contribute.

  3. Briggs


    Very interesting—and not unexpected—stats. Clearly, ability to perform as an AA should be what employers test for when hiring. Asking that AAs have degrees in psychology, history, or political scientist is not as telling as knowing whether an applicant is organized.

    I’m only surprised biology came out so low. Maybe that’s because of the possibilities of quantitative and non-quantitative versions of the degree?

  4. gcb

    Bernie’s comment reminds me of the “urban legend” from my own university days… All courses at my alma mater were identified by course codes consisting of a two-digit department code, then a three digit course code indicating (among other things) the relative level of the course. So, a first-year computer science course was 95.100, for example.

    The ‘legend” part was that the department code was actually a prospective student’s likelihood of getting a job in that field should they choose to major with that department – computer science, as related was 95. The engineering courses were all high 80s and low 90s. The physical sciences were in the 60s. Psychology was 49. History was, I believe, 15 or so. And what was then called “women’s studies” was, well, 4.

  5. Bernie

    Now that is funny.

    The tough part is what one says to one’s kids as they start to make these decisions. My oldest had a strong interest in Medieval History and little interest in Economics – apart from spending money. Under some pressure from me, she read Economics and her grades reflected her interest level. So there are some difficult choices to be made. A strong degree in a liberal arts subject is probably more bankable than a weak degree in a more vocational subject. She is now in Finance and doing pretty well.

  6. Bernie

    My view is that the Payscale data reflects the type of job graduates in these fields could get not the hiring preferences of employers. We have hired administrative assistants with all manner of degree or non-degrees – we actually do not have a degree requirement for this role. Our current CFO started as an AA – she graduated Summa in Economics from Brandies!! It was a tough economy in 1985! We were amazingly fortunate. Our current assessment process for AAs involves editing skills, numerical proofing, writing, organizing (!) and intermediate skills in MSOffice. Simple simulations and tests take care of this stuff. Then it is a matter of operating under stress, initiative, a positive disposition and self-improvement goals – which are assessed using the simulations and behavioral interviews.

  7. JH

    Without a doubt, I’ll still send my children to Harvard IF they are accepted!

    Echoing Bernie’s thought… there are champions in every field of study. Ultimately kids get to make their own choices that they have to live with, and I only wish all kids could put forth their best abilities.

    Mr. Briggs,
    I think that Wendy McElroy, your Libertarian friend, probably would vehemently disagree with you, especially on gender issues. ^_^

  8. Briggs


    I had forgotten all about Wendy. Perhaps now we are not that close. I’ll have to wait and see.

    Harvard is near the top, and at it, in many fields. Including fields which have no business in a university. Or in those in which the definition of being at “the top” is, in reality, at the bottom of thought.

  9. Doug M

    I am prejudiced againts business majors. It says to me they that person had no curiosity or passion. I have had better luck with science / engineering / math degrees.

    My dad was a stock broker and then a manager of a brokerage office. He wanted people with a social science / English background. It was his veiw, that a brokers’ job to communicate and not to analyze.

  10. dearieme

    Somebody ought to study the praxis nexus.

  11. Bernie

    Study what?

  12. My sister is going to do one too. I think she’s going to do a flush because I actually lost 5 lbs doing it!

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