Robert Dallek proposes that the University of California save money by returning to what he arrogantly calls the “core materials” (“UC Can Learn to Do More With Less,” Commentary, March 10), and laments: “The history department at UCLA . . . has several people capable of teaching women’s and minority history but no one with a principal focus on the Civil War and Reconstruction.” What does he think African-American history is about?
Dallek’s mistake is to assume that women’s and ethnic studies have remained peripheral accessories with no effect on the so-called “core” curriculum. His arrogance is to assume that a traditional white, male view of the Civil War (or any other event) is central and a black woman’s or man’s view merely an “enrichment.” Research in these new fields has so completely reshaped our knowledge of history, literature and the arts and sciences that we need to rethink the very organization of the curriculum. A segment of the university community feels threatened by this need and tries to deny its reality.
Many of its adherents are using the budget crisis as an expedient to stop the growing influence of women’s and ethnic studies. We should all follow Dallek’s example in thoroughly debating the university budget cuts. And we should certainly debate the curricular changes resulting from the new knowledge about women and ethnic minorities. But we should not use the first debate as a weapon to repress the second.
LESLIE W. RABINE
Professor of French
Director of Women’s Studies