Tuesday, July 22, 2003

More one-sided programs 

William Sjostrom points to an article in the City Journal by Steven Malanga on the new labor studies programs springing up in universities around the country. Where have we heard this story before?
Newly potent public unions, in their quest for an ever greater share of taxpayer spending, advocated for more labor-related studies resources at public universities (among many other things). In quick order, many states complied, setting up labor studies courses, undergraduate majors, and research centers on labor topics, till by the mid-1970s several dozen centers and departments were flourishing, mostly at public institutions. They arose just as a new generation of administrators and professors began to radicalize instruction by dumping core curriculum requirements, lowering standards, and replacing the objective pursuit of knowledge with social agendas. The result was a new kind of labor studies, more apt to encourage activism than teach students the fine points of employment trends or labor law. And these programs defined �labor� almost exclusively as �organized labor.�

The nearly 50 such programs operating today pulsate with energy and churn out new initiatives. In 1995, for instance, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst began a labor studies M.A. program in union leadership and administration�in essence, a professional school for union leaders that is emblematic of the transformation of the field from a backwater of continuing education to postgraduate academic status. In Michigan, in the late 1990s, the labor center at publicly funded Wayne State University, working with the radical left-wing group ACORN, began providing technical support to living-wage campaigns around the country.

I added the links so you can see what he's talking about. The overview of the labor studies masters program at UMass (yes, they have two different programs) is pretty plain in its advocacy:
The Labor Relations and Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is the premier graduate program in the country for those who want to work in the labor movement and with organizations advocating for workers' rights. Our Master's of Science degree is a multi-disciplinary program which combines course work and an internship in a unique and exciting graduate program. Coursework toward the Master's degree provides not only the skills necessary to work in and with the labor movement - expertise in organizing, collective bargaining, and union leadership - but also an opportunity to examine the larger theoretical and strategic issues confronting workers and their unions in the new millennium.
Maranga concludes his article that this is different from the multiculti battles sites like ours engage in:
It�s easy to view what has happened at labor studies programs as simply one more manifestation of disturbing trends within the larger academy over the last few decades: the victory of advocacy over the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, the abandoning of standards, the ascendance of race and gender politics, the growth of anti-Americanism. And, giving credence to that idea, labor studies programs, from CUNY�s Queens College to UMass Boston to Washington State�s Evergreen State College, took a highly conspicuous role in leading campus opposition to the recent war in Iraq.

But something also sets the labor studies phenomenon apart from the campuswide culture wars. Unlike gender studies or race studies, labor studies undeviatingly promotes the interests of a remarkably tiny constituency: the union movement, representing a minuscule 13 percent of America�s private-sector workers and about 35 percent of public employees. It�s an amazing coup for organized labor and its allies to have tapped so brilliantly into the campus culture wars for their own narrow purposes. Set amid the larger battles within universities, it�s a coup that also has gone largely unnoticed by traditional academics, businesses, the media, and the taxpayers whose dollars support this agenda.

The whole article bears reading.