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Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 4.27.40 PMEstimated tuition at Duke University is now more than $66,000.00 per year. That’s more than a quarter of a million dollars for a four-year degree, but hey, who takes only four years to get a degree in college anymore? If you’re a parent about to send your impressionable daughter off to Duke, what will you–and she–be getting for your money? Campus Reform explains: 

Incoming freshmen at Duke University are expected to read a graphic novel with cartoon drawings of a woman masturbating and multiple females engaging in oral sex—as well as participate in group discussions during orientation.

The book, Fun Home, addresses feminism, suicide, and sexuality—specifically same-sex attraction and experimentation with graphic cartoon images and text.

Special copies of the memoir, written in 2006 by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, will be mailed to incoming Blue Devils over the summer, according to the Duke Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper. The book details a college woman coming out as a lesbian and her discovery that her father was a homosexual as well.

Well, of course! What do college freshmen need more than lesbian porn in cartoon format? And this is a part of a competent, classical education how exactly? And who, pray tell, thinks this a good idea?

I was hesitant at first to support it as a welcoming text to Duke University,’ Ibanca Anand, a junior on the committee which selected the book, told the Chronicle. ‘Then I realized how critical these discussions are for so many of us, and it’s important that we establish this school as a place that is open and unafraid to talk about things that affect people.’

In an interview with Campus Reform, Anand said the mandatory book discussions would give students an ‘introduction to what Duke will be like for the next four years, exploring on your own.

Uh-huh. So Duke is a hotbed of lesbian sex? Or perhaps Duke is just an open and unafraid place to talk about lesbian sex, which presumably, affects people, probably those engaging in oral sex most of all.

Anand conceded that upon opening the book, her reaction was, ‘Oh geez, what am I reading?’

‘It’s shocking,’ she said. ‘But once you put it down you realize you learned something.

Right. What was that you learned? Something? Hmmm. What could this book be about, apart from lesbian oral sex, I mean?

According to a Barnes and Noble description, the graphic novel tells the story of Bechdel’s late father, Bruce, who was an English teacher and director of their town’s funeral home. Shortly after the author “came out” as a lesbian in college, she discovered Bruce was gay.

As happened in real life, her father committed suicide in the book.

The reading includes images of male genitalia and female breasts. Bechdel describes—with words and cartoons—masturbating in her bed to books she checked out at the library on lesbianism.

Another cartoon depicts Bechdel engaging in oral sex with another female while reading James and the Giant Peach to each other.

There are other graphic masturbation and oral sex scenes throughout the book.

As an educator, I find myself thinking about how I could possibly justify this book, on any professional ground. Time is a teacher’s most precious commodity. Every competent teacher must carefully choose their curriculum, giving preference to the most important and meaningful works in their discipline. To choose one is to reject others. I must be able to absolutely justify the necessity of every work I’ve chosen. There is so little time to cover any material, professionals cannot ethically imagine wasting it. Students can explore the trivial, titillating and pornographic on their own time.

In addition, I can’t imagine how a professional would approach their colleagues or administrators about something like this. “I think all incoming freshmen should read a comic book about lesbian sex and suicide. It will open them up to things they’ve never done before.” Rational people would think not having done those things a good thing in general, but at Duke, apparently that’s not an issue:

A press release from the university says that students will participate in both small group discussions and as a ‘larger community’ during freshmen orientation. Anand told Campus Reform that school leaders hope these discussions ‘will be a really interesting ice breaker.

Cool!   What possible better ice breaker could there be than a discussion about suicide and lesbian sex?  It would be even better if people volunteered to demonstrate their sexual preferences, wouldn’t it?

I think it will be a great vehicle for conversations among the incoming class about art and storytelling; about personal and sexual identities; about truth and lies, and the harm both can cause; and about judgment and forgiveness,’ selection committee member Simon Partner, a professor of history and director of the Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, said in the university press release.

‘Because of its treatment of sexual identity, the book is likely to be controversial among students, parents and alumni.

No! What makes you think that?

I think this, in turn, will stimulate interesting and useful discussion about what it means, as a young adult, to take a position on a controversial topic,’ Partner said.

Well sure. But what position?  Top?  Bottom?  And what better subject than lesbian sex, and suicide, for that! Without this book, how could college students ever be expected to take positions on controversial topics? I’m sure none of them have ever done that before.  Take positions on controversial topics, I mean.  I’m sure some of them have done that before.

But Duke isn’t forcing this on the kiddies, no. Well, yes; Duke is mailing a copy to every incoming freshman, which kind of suggests Duke expects them to read it, and Anand admits they are coercing kids that way, because if they didn’t, many kids wouldn’t read it. And she also admits that they’ll be forced to be a part of the “discussions.”

However, Keith Lawrence, a spokesman for the university, said the reading is recommended, not required.

‘We do understand that the novel may make some readers uncomfortable,’ Lawrence said ‘It addresses a lot of important issues that students will likely run into during their years at Duke, if they haven’t already: interpersonal relationships, human rights, mental health and others. It may create arguments and conversations, which are important to a liberal arts education.

I suppose lesbian sex could be considered to be part of an interpersonal relationship, though I’m not quite sure what it has to do with a scholarly discussion of human rights. However, I’m reasonably sure that people like Partner, Anand and Lawrence are in urgent need of “mental health” assessment.

The student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle, has more: 

Anand said she has only heard enthusiastic support from those who have read the book.

I’ll bet.

Fervent activism and standing up for what we believe is right has become a crucial part of Duke’s identity, and ‘Fun Home’ fits right in with all of this,’ she said.

Ah yes! Like the kind of “fervent activism” that sought to destroy the lives of everyone associated with the Lacrosse team, and sought to put innocent students in prison? And what part, pray tell, does Fun Home play in some sort of “activism?” Lesbianism in general? Some specific lesbian sexual practice? Suicide prevention? Encouraging people to commit suicide? Or perhaps it all about sitting around and navel gazing about these topics?

Let’s hear from the religious studies department:

‘Fun Home’ may be difficult for some students, but shying away from some of the issues it raises about identity, independence, relationships, violence and sexuality would be even more serious,’ said Laura Lieber, associate professor of religious studies, who was also on the committee. ‘The book will start a discussion, not end it.

So this particular book is the best way to deal with those topics? There is no other literature, in any genre, that deals with these things in a scholarly, serious way? This is truly one of the great works of literature? No one should graduate from college without having read it–and being forced to discuss it interminably?

I’m no blue nose.  Porn has its place, and may even be useful.  What consenting adults do in private is entirely their own business–as long as it’s not criminal.  But there is a time, a place, and a setting for such things.  How any rational person could justify this–I was going to say it was beyond me, but the point seems to be this is why I am not college faculty or administration.  I’m much too sane.

Just one of the many examples of educational excellence at Duke, gentle readers. And for a mere quarter of a million dollars, cheap at twice the price.

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