Lynne Cheney Shone a Light on Culture

Article excerpt

Defenders of free expression in the "culture wars" are losing an ally in Washington. Lynne Cheney, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is leaving 15 months before her term of office was to end because she doesn't want to compromise her leadership in a Clinton administration.

Not everyone is unhappy. Applause is coming from the groves of academe. The professors resent Lynne Cheney's use of the bully pulpit to scorn the feminist-leftist-post-structuralist-deconstructivist mumbo jumbo that passes for scholarship among the politically correct yahoos at some of our finest universities.

Cheney, like a female Diogenes, shone a lantern inside ivy-covered walls and found that the search for truth had often been reduced to the discovery of a "political construct" and that established moral and intellectual standards of Western civilization were being reinterpreted as "patriarchal propaganda."

She exposed professors who saw their mission as advocacy, not academics, who aimed to convert students to a specific ideology rather than sharpen their perceptions through open discussion of ideas. (One male student advised another of his strategy for success in a feminist classroom: "Pretend to be a male chauvinist. Then have a conversion. You're bound to get an A.")

Among other things, this ideology affects recruitment of good teachers. "A white male conservative who admired Madison more than Marx had about as much chance of getting hired on some faculty as Woody Allen of starting as point guard for the Knicks," says John Patrick Diggins, a history professor at the City College of New York.

Bill Clinton should put Cheney's lantern in similar hands. The stakes are high. More than 2,000 colleges and universities now offer women's studies, supported by mainstream philanthropic foundations such as the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Andrew W. …