Thoughts on "Women's Studies" at Barnard, 1971, page 3
determined by the educational and practical considerations that guide depart- mental offerings along with the impalpable criterion that applies to each course at Barnard: does it have a convincing life of its own? The applica- tion of these traditional criteria will in itself discourage an incongruous proliferation of courses. One could raise the further objection: why courses on women? Don't they make as little sense as courses on men? Those who propose such analogies are failing to acknowledge that most courses already center around the experiences and perceptions of males. In existing courses attention is rarely given to the social and economic role of women, which means that there is a neglect of the resulting psychological relationship between men and women, which in turn influences the nature of society and partly determines its values. The distinguished historian David Potter has observed that the frontier phenomenon in American history, with the high value it has placed on certain traits of aggressiveness and adventurousness, has resulted in significant differences in the experiences of men and women in American society. Courses on the West do not customarily explore this difference. Primary sources on women's life in the West would not typically appear on a reading list, al- though they add a needed perspective to a major period in American history. To give another example, the implications of Social Darwinism for the structuring of American society inspired a wide spectrum of critical response. It ranged from the belief in cooperation to the belief in competition as the most desirable means of social growth. what have loosely been called masculine and feminine traits might be associated with these modes of behavior. How one assessed sexual differences would perhaps influence one's intellectual con- frontation with Darwinism. Such considerations are not apt to arise in standard histories of social thought. 3.