Caroline Higgins

Caroline Higgins


* Former professor of history, peace studies, and global studies at Earlham College
* Her courses were premised around community activism.
* Conceded that her courses made no attempt to provide ideological balance
* Retired in 2007

Born in 1944, Caroline Higgins was a professor of history and peace studies at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana. She also directed the college’s Global Studies Program from 1987-2007. (Her husband, Howard Richards, founded this program in 1974.) Among her current scholarly interests, Higgins lists the “role of participatory democracy in the transformation of civil society, especially in the southern cone of Latin America.”

In an academic review of Empire, a 2001 polemic authored by the neo-Marxist writers Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Higgins applauded the book’s “vision of putting an end to capitalist exploitation and ushering in a communist society based on cooperation and community.”

Higgins’ course “Methods of Peacemaking” amounted to a blueprint for community activism. A syllabus for the course noted that it was principally concerned with “social movements and initiatives which suggest new strategies for change.” Students were expected not only to study these strategies “for peace and justice,” but to implement them in the Richmond community so as to foster “an intersection of practice and theory.” They were required, moreover, to write a paper meditating on “the challenges and rewards of ethnographic activity for the social activist.”

An analogous methodology marked “Theory and Practice Revisited,” a senior seminar for peace-studies students taught by Higgins. After taking the seminar, students were expected to achieve “clarity” about their “personal positions with regard to peace and social transformation.” Readings for the course were comprised, without exception, of works by radicals and Marxist revolutionaries, including Gore VidalAngela Davis, and the Mexican Marxist guerrilla leader, Rafael Guillén Vicente (aka Subcomandante Marcos). No alternative social analysis or opposing viewpoint was even attempted.

The tenor of Higgins’ other courses was similarly tilted toward her political beliefs. Her course “Philosophy of Social Science” took as its mission the adulation of African, Asian, and Latin American philosophers who have “challenged European hegemony in the field,” as well as “women, people of color, and other diverse groups who have also rejected what they consider to an [sic] European, male-centered approach to philosophy.” Noted Higgins in the syllabus: “Against the approach of this course it can be objected that students get essentially one point of view, a point of view critical of mainstream thinking. This is a valid objection. My response is that rather than changing this course, I should urge all of you to take more courses and read more books.” In defense of this position, Higgins cited her belief that the function of a professor is to challenge the “common assumptions of our culture.”

Higgins’ course “Feminism, Ecology and Peace” examined “three kinds of oppression—sexism, exploitation of the earth, and class and colonial violence.” In addition, it considered the ways in which “cultures, especially Western culture, both encourage and resist oppression.” In keeping with its promise, outlined in the syllabus, to offer “[a]lternatives to oppressive economic social structures,” the required readings for the course consisted entirely of tracts from radical feminist and environmentalist ideologues.

Despite her many years as a full professor of peace studies, global studies, and history, and as the head of an entire academic program, Higgins’ scholarship was limited to editing a book of essays praising peace studies. Her only solo-authored book, Sweet Country, is a propagandistic novel about a leftist underground movement in the wake of the 1973 coup d’état that drove Salvador Allende from power in Chile. Higgins wrote this book under her married name, Caroline Richards.

She retired from teaching in 2007.

© Copyright 2024,