Paul From Minneapolis

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Have a Master's Degree! From Sangamon State!

The school that granted Ward Churchill a master’s degree in communications (!) can’t locate Churchill’s thesis and in fact they’re not sure he needed to write one.

Doesn't that sound like a great place to get a master's degree? Recently I dig a little into this institution of relaxed and higher learning, Sangamon State, in Illinois, which started as a radical experiment around 1970 and has since been subsumed into the state system as the “University of Illinois at Springfield.” That’s a move that was hugely controversial with the Surrealists and neo-Marxists who still dot its faculty, like the Professors Sakolsky and Fox who penned this sad history.

“From ‘Radical University’ to Handmaiden of the Corporate State” screams the headline, drawing the reader. Recently the same Fox fellow offered his thoughts on Churchill:

“The supposed focus on Churchill himself -- his specific word choices, his academic credentials, his personal background -- masks the right's broader effort to rid higher education of anyone who rejects mainstream conventionalisms.”

Okay! Got it. College professors who reject mainstream conventionalisms face extinction like the California condor. We must cherish and protect the few we have left. And I trust it is with the same level-headedness and equanimity that our angry professor approaches all topics related to American Empire.

I’m not kidding, by the way. Surrealists. I didn’t just pull that name out of my oddly misplaced ear. Prof. Sakolsky himself is an expert on Surrealism (and pirate radio) and particularly the Surrealism that has long been found in Chicago. He covered it recently in a book he edited entitled “Surrealist Subversions: Rants, Writings and Images in the Surrealist Movement,” reviewed here. Nelson Algren, 1975: “Surrealism? In Chicago? You're going to need a lot of luck." Not quite so, says Sakolsky:

In his essay in the massive 742-page tome Surrealist Subversions, Ron Sakolsky says that despite Algren's skepticism, a healthy surrealist movement had been blooming in the Midwestern city since the mid-60s. "The Chicago Surrealist Group had been a defiant presence in the Windy City for nine years," writes Sakolsky, a pirate radio expert. "And it has sustained that persona ever since, blowing in and out of the unfolding cityscape of collective imagination, speaking bluntly in the language of desire, and unabashedly urging the realization of our dreams."

I don’t remember that, growing up outside Chicago, unless he’s talking about Cubs fans. Also, when I see that hunger for speaking bluntly in the language of desire, as distinct from acting on it one is forced to suspect but never mind, I start to conceive of my own essay: Why, exactly, does there seem to be some vague magnetic pull between the far left and Radical Islam?

My search concerning Ward Churchill and Sangamon State led me also to the homepage of University of Texas at Austin professor of Marxist economics, Harry Cleaver. From Ward Churchill to Harry Cleaver. Never again will I mock Surrealism or Dada.

A note at the bottom of Prof. Cleaver’s homepage said, “You are my visitor since March 29, 2000.” Oh no I’m not. You got me confused with someone else.