Thoughts on "Women's Studies" at Barnard, 1971, page 1

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          Thoughts on "Women's Studies" at Barnard

The spectre of educational decisions made as a response to current
enthusiasms is often invoked in discussions of courses on women. The
critical question at such times is whether in the proposed courses there
is a body of knowledge related to the understanding of our human selves
which deserves examination in the liberal arts curriculum. There is in
fact an important body of knowledge which has hitherto escaped regular
examination within conventionally organized courses centered around the
experience of human beings, frequently implicitly understood as mostly

More and more scholars are looking at neglected materials and finding
that problematic differences exist in women's experiences and that there
may be problematic differences in their perceptions of that experience.
Related to this is the still vexing question of how biological differences
affect both experience and perception. Popular interest may explain why
neglected materials are rapidly being resurrected and re-examined, but the
interest of scholars in these questions will not diminish when student
interest diminishes. This is presumably what makes us teachers and
scholars and our students students.

But while student interest in women is at a peak, how should we as
teachers and scholars respond? Should we reject the validity of the subject
on the grounds that popular interest contaminates a subject and threatens
the impartiality of the teacher? Or should we as scholars and as teachers
dedicated to a continuing quest for knowledge find the strength to make these
judgments independent of popular pressures but not perversely resistant to

them? If we call into question a subject's legitimacy simply on the grounds