Longtime Stanford scholar quits teaching American Indian course after PC mob mau-maus him out of it

So the P.C. mob has gotten itself another one, at Stanford, where a longtime scholar of American Indian culture has cut his course after politically correct students hollered about "cultural appropriation."  Apparently, you can't even discuss another culture without being accused of that.  In this case, it's obvious what the implications are: a loss of scholarship and knowledge for Stanford, which is now diminished. 

Legal scholar Jonathan Turley writes:

For 50 years, Stanford Professor Professor [sic] Kenneth Fields has taught the course "American Indian Mythology, Legend and Lore," Professor Fields has agreed to stop teaching the course.  A nationally recognized academic and poet, Fields dropped the course after some students accused him of being "insensitive and inappropriate" and circulated a petition requesting to "improve" the course.  The bases for the protest raise serious issues of academic freedom and the lack of of [sic] support for faculty in such disputes.

I have been critical of the widening charges of cultural appropriation and microaggressions on our campuses as statements and even programs are targeted with little resistance from faculty or administrators. (here and here).  Indeed, there seems an ever-widening array of "microaggressions" and cultural appropriations. 

Some of those "insensitivities" according to Turley involve merely talking about the Dine Indian tribe and their beliefs at the wrong time of year, because based on Dine beliefs, certain things must be discussed only at certain times of year.  It sounds as if the protestors, some of whom are American Indians (Stanford has a large American Indian community), are saying everyone needs to become the Dine to study the Dine.  Nobody can study or think about the Dine from the outside.

This sounds like cultural appropriation in the name of being against cultural appropriation.

The bottom line is that this is a threat to scholarship, and Stanford is diminished as an institution by it.

Because how many people out there have scholarly knowledge of American Indian culture?  It's a rare field because it doesn't have many practical applications in business, yet it's a worthy field, too, because it's about a little known part of human culture.  Fields does, and he has moderately good ratings as a professor (apparently he rambles a bit too much about himself) and obviously a deep well of knowledge, given that he's been teaching the course for 50 years.

Now a P.C. mob has put a stop to it, which represents a loss of the knowledge bank for Stanford, which up until now has been an elite university.

Who's doing it?  Activists from among the students.  Aside from the fact that many are Indians, since when do only Indians get to determine what constitutes Indian scholarship?  Is there no such thing as an outside or objective view?  Must one be an Indian to say anything about Indian culture because anything else is "inauthentic"?  It's absurd.  Yes, Indians, trained in scholarship, could be tremendous assets to explaining their own culture.  But not Indians off the street, or in the college dorms, who have not learned the disciplines of scholarship.  They could say anything, after all – Nathan Phillips was pretty much making things up about what he was doing when he beat a drum into the face of a Covington High School kid, and as it turns out, he was never raised in an Indian culture despite his ethnicity.  He was raised in a foster home.

Even more important, since when do students, presumably the people there to be taught, get to determine what gets taught? If they already know everything, what is there to learn?  By making demands of Stanford and winning them by sheer mau-mau pressure, these people saying they already know the outcome of what is to be learned, which rather defeats the idea of education.  Stanford then becomes an expensive babysitting service, not a scholarly institution.

The Indian community at Stanford was a pretty P.C. one when I was living in the Bay Area.  When I was in college in San Francisco in the 1980s, I had a great roommate who was a full-blooded American Indian from the Southwest.  She would occasionally participate in American Indian events whenever a Stanford official she knew would call her up and ask her to make the 45-minute drive to Palo Alto.  She once said to him on the phone that she couldn't come, "because I'm dressed," meaning she would look "white" (she had a gorgeous church-lady dress on instead of jeans).  Talk about peer pressure.  There seemed to be a "mean girls" atmosphere there that may be great for group cohesion but not free thinking.

That represents a mentality that threatens scholarship and free inquiry.  Anyone who wants to be an expert on a topic should have free rein to pursue that topic in a university context of free inquiry.  P.C. pressure shuts that down.  Now Stanford has one less expert on Indian culture to teach the kids, and one more score on the belt of the P.C. crowd, setting another precedent.  What's next?  Math?  Will the Middle Eastern students protest the teaching of math because math uses the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, amounting to cultural appropriation?  There's not a culture in the world that hasn't borrowed from another culture, which is why the human race is so interesting.  But you'd never know it from the P.C. mob that shuts courses down.

To square scholarship off into tiny ghettos of whose origin allows whom to teach or study this or that is an actual threat to scholarship itself.  This can't be protested and halted too soon.  Stanford is lessened as an institution by this stupid cave-in.

Image credit: Zaskoda, via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.