Dr. Carol M. Swain: Critical Race Theory’s Destructive Impact on America | 1776 Unites

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Under the guise of a venture called the “1619 Project,” revisionist history about race in America is being introduced into classrooms across America without undergoing the normal peer review expected of educational materials.

Source:  Critical Race Theory’s Destructive Impact on America | 1776 Unites

It is possible – and indeed, I frequently experience this feeling – given the current state of what passes for sociopolitical discourse in early-21st-century America, to feel like one is living in an insane asylum run by the inmates. Fortunately, every once in a while, one hears or reads something that gives one hope that sanity is not totally a thing of the past.

Such an example is this superb essay by Dr. Carol M. Swain, Ph.D., a former political science and law professor at Vanderbilt University (my graduate university, where I attended Divinity School). She writes, inter alia,

“Those who push white guilt and black victimhood ignore critical facts. One is that today’s white Americans are not responsible for the sins of generations ago. Second, slavery was an institution that blacks, Native Americans, and whites participated in as slaveholders. There’s plenty of guilt to go around there…”

“The 1619 Project is a misguided effort to keep open historical wounds while telling only half of the story. It is flawed because it is connected to critical race theory and the diversity-inclusion grievance industry that focuses on identity politics and division. Blaming today’s families for the mistakes of our ancestors is not a prescription for unifying the country or empowering racial and ethnic minorities.”

She adds,

“We can do better. Within Christian communities, there is a basis for countering destructive narratives that have invaded our educational institutions and the corporate world. The solution for hatred, bitterness, and distrust can be found in New Testament principles.

“Rather than wallow in the past and revisionists’ efforts to build a case for reparations, we, as Americans, need to move forward while practicing the forgiveness and love of neighbor that Jesus espoused. We need not look any further than the ‘golden rule’ (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) to find the tools that enable us to transcend racial and ethnic conflicts that keep us from working together and celebrating our victories.”

As I say, it is very encouraging to see / read / hear people in the African-American community – especially scholars of the caliber of Dr. Swain – beginning to push back against the dangerous absurdity of critical race theory. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!

Heather MacDonald: Uproar Over Essays Turns MLK’s Dream Inside Out | Wall Street Journal Opinion

Source: Heather MacDonald: Uproar Over Essays Turns MLK’s Dream Inside Out | Wall Street Journal Opinion

“The University of Montana asked students, staff and community members to participate in an essay contest on the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. When the school released the results last month, Montana students and race activists across the country accused university officials of racism and disrespect. That’s because all four winners were white…

“The four contest winners started receiving threats, and the African-American studies program, which had sponsored the contest, removed their photos and essays from its website. A central fact—no black students had even submitted an essay—failed to defuse the racism charge.”

This is the direction we’re headed, folks. As the author of the linked piece, Heather MacDonald, puts it,

“Turns out some would rather the school had honored King by judging entrants on the color of their skin rather than the content of their submissions.”

In this case, though, the University of Montana would have had to pick people who didn’t even participate in the contest. Let’s look at this again:

“A central fact—no black students had even submitted an essay—failed to defuse the racism charge.”

Ponder that, for a few moments. White students should not have won – regardless of the quality of their essays, or their thoughts on the subject – and regardless of the fact that no black students even bothered to participate. This may be the direction we’re headed, but are we sure this is the direction we want to be headed…? I’m not.

And what would MLK himself have thought of this? Impossible to be sure, of course, but this famous quote might give a clue:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Somehow, I just don’t think this was what Dr. King intended…

 

Yale Cancels Prestigious Art History Course For Being “Too White” | Zero Hedge

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So that’s it, apparently: the great masterpieces recognized as such by the entire world for generations are now tainted by their supposed “whiteness” and must be censored by the Robespierre-like mob of the “woke”.

Source: Yale Cancels Prestigious Art History Course For Being “Too White” | Zero Hedge

“It’s not merely that the Western Civilization-focused ‘Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present’ class has been deleted, but the entire concept of ‘Western art’ itself will be a focus of criticism in the multiple new ‘more culturally sensitive’ classes that will replace it.”

The inmates really are running the asylum.

How long before the beautiful centuries-old campus buildings themselves will be ‘discovered’ as part of the Western tradition of architecture? Will they survive the decades to come as the ‘purge’ grows ever fiercer and more anti-intellectual?

I feel like I’m living in a slow-motion (so far…) version of the French Revolution, or maybe the Cultural Revolution of Red China. God preserve us!

 

On the decline of the humanities: “Is Majoring in English Worth It?” | WSJ

The humanities have been infected by political correctness and ‘repressive tolerance.’ It’s no surprise that the English major is in decline, writes William McGurn.

Source: Is Majoring in English Worth It? – WSJ

In which American colleges and universities shoot themselves in the foot by misunderstanding the “liberal” in “liberal arts” (Latin ars liberalis) as a political stance, and not “those arts proper to a free person”:

“No one is surprised to learn that STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) out-earn English majors. After all, the purpose of what used to be called a ‘liberal education’ has never been about a high-paying career. Even so, Jonathan Pidluzny, director of academic affairs for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), notes that employers nevertheless prize the critical thinking, communication skills and judgment cultivated by a liberal-arts education.”

Or used to be:

“The English major was once a guarantor of effective, formal writing skills and the ability to comprehend and analyze the complex thoughts found within centuries of brilliant and challenging poetry and prose,” Pidluzny told Campus Reform. “Its decline into the epiphenomena of popular culture and identity politics is a self-inflicted wound that has rocked its credibility.”

I have long argued that what created the traditional pattern in which people with degrees in higher education made a greater income than those whose education consisted of high school or trade school was that the kind of people who were willing to undertake, and more importantly, succeed at, a rigorous academic curriculum – in which the above-mentioned skills were key – were rare, and understandably valued.

With an increasing number of people being, in effect, shoved through the doors of the Halls of Academe, that is no longer the case. The market is glutted with college and university graduates, which is why – as I have discussed elsewhere – degree inflation is such a thing: one now needs a bachelor’s degree to do what one used to be able to do with an associate’s, or even a high school diploma; a master’s degree to do what one used to do with a B.A. or B.S., and a doctorate to do things for which a master’s degree used to qualify a person.

And there are many, many holders of doctorates floating around, in many cases as “wild geese”: holding adjunct professorships at several institutions, enjoying tenure at none, having meaningful career prospects at none, and with little in the way of salary or benefits. It is one of the reasons that I stopped with a Masters of Theological Studies: I felt (correctly, as it turned out) that I had spent enough time and money on a course that had no guarantee, and few enough prospects, of advancement, or even permanency.

So liberal arts majors – and graduates – are a dime a dozen, these days, despite a continuing trend of shrinking enrollment in humanities disciplines.

But as McGurn’s essay makes clear, that is only part of the story. The other is the fact that the rigorous academic curriculum itself is increasingly a thing of the past. In part, this is to accommodate the lower caliber of student who is coming into the college or university, under the “you’ve got to get your degree to succeed” mentality: many of these folks simply lack the intellectual aptitude, temperament, or both, for academic study. But colleges and universities don’t want to get a reputation for flunking students, lest overall enrollment decline… and so we have a general dumbing-down of the curriculum.

But the piece of the puzzle which has, until recently, flown somewhat under the radar is the effect on curriculum of the increasing politicization – and Left-wing politicization, specifically – of colleges, universities, and their curricula. I have seen that in my own fields, medieval studies and theology, in which the rigorous treatment of significant historical trends, major and influential figures, and key ideas have been replaced with gender studies, LGBT studies, and an emphasis on a variety of other “marginalized” and “under-represented” populations (ignoring the fact that they may, just possibly, have been “under-represented” in traditional scholarship for good reason).

And now it is even worse – far worse! – than it was when I was in undergrad and graduate studies, with students throwing temper tantrums if anyone dares expose them to ideas that challenge their own (shouting down and in some cases even attacking the persons in question), demanding “safe spaces,” and even claiming that English literature is too white, among other charming behaviors. Sadly, as the linked essay notes, “what’s on offer today isn’t your father’s English degree. It goes on to report that

“An ACTA study of English programs reports that 48 of 52 top schools (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report) allow English majors to graduate without ever having taken a course on Shakespeare. In the past ACTA has also highlighted studies showing that the average grad, even those from prestigious flagship universities, shows little or no improvement in critical thinking for having gone to college.”

McGurn’s essay continues,

“Here the much-maligned English degree is simply a proxy for what is wrong with college today. It isn’t that STEM subjects are the only majors worth anything. It’s that the humanities have disproportionately been infected by political correctness and the malignant influence of Herbert Marcuse, father of the ‘repressive tolerance‘ so prevalent on campuses these days…

and inquires,

“So why have the sciences kept their integrity while the humanities haven’t? Mr. Pidluzny suggests it’s because the costs of a dumbed-down STEM degree can be both more obvious and more consequential.

“’The university can’t get away with not teaching engineering students differential equations because we’d then have collapsing bridges all over the place,” [Pidluzny] says.

“’But for an English major who studies Harry Potter instead of Chaucer, or spends his time on gender theory instead of reading great literature, the costs aren’t as obvious – except to the graduate who only later realizes he never developed the keen analytical mind and precise style of writing college was supposed to cultivate.’”

And of course, to society at large, who gains a professional activist, but loses a cultivated, discerning, and inquiring mind. Or to put it a little more bluntly, gains a “snowflake,” but loses a productive citizen; and in many cases, gains a source of disruption, but loses a source of stability.

Tradition is the passing down of customs, beliefs, but also knowledge and information, from one generation to the next. A liberal arts education – and the colleges and universities, originating in the Middle Ages but based on classical antecedents, which provided it – has been a primary means for passing the down the traditions of Western civilization from one generation to another, for the last thousand years.

I have commented more than once in this forum (and elsewhere) that just as a tree which is separated from its roots withers and dies, the same is true of a culture, a society, or a people. The disruption and practical destruction of the collegiate and university liberal arts tradition, and its replacement by a politically-corrected, culturally Marxist, identity-and-entitlement sandbox in which squalling children throw ideological tantrums is extremely disheartening, and blow after hacking axe-blow at the roots of our Western culture and civilization.

But it can happen, on rare occasions, that a tree which has been felled, or blown over in a gale, falls in such a way that its branches thrust into fertile ground, and themselves take root. There are glimmers of hope in this regard, from the growing number of classical Christian academies and homeschool programs, to a handful of institutions of higher learning such as Hillsdale College (nonsectarian Christian) or Magdalen College of Liberal Arts (Roman Catholic). I pray that such a near-miracle may occur for us, because frankly, without it, our future looks rather bleak!

The Demon in Middlebury by ​Ryszard Legutko | Articles | First Things

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The invitation from Middlebury College to speak about my book The Demon in Democracy came last year. I was pleased to receive it…

Source: The Demon in Middlebury by ​Ryszard Legutko | Articles | First Things

This just isn’t funny anymore, if it ever was.

I used to like Middlebury College; heck, I used to want to go there, or teach there, or both. I like Vermont. I like the town of Middlebury. I especially like the “secret” recipe for a maple syrup vinaigrette that I got from someone there, during my brief stint teaching outdoor education nearby! But I do not like what Middlebury College has become.

This is from Ryszard Legutko, author of the book The Demon in Democracy, which I referenced in a previous post, but have not yet had the chance to read. Now I want to, all the more! Because there is a demon lurking at the heart of liberal democracy, one whose existence is unsuspected by many, studiously ignored by others, and actively fed and worshiped by some. And I am not sure that I am using that term entirely metaphorically!

At any rate, Legutko comments, inter alia, on the socialist-fascist-cultural Marxist mess our academic world has become; and he does so using Middlebury as his personal example, since the college soviet unloaded on him, there. I will let you read his account of the incident in question! But he follows that account with this analysis:

“By comparing the clichés with the realities they supposedly describe, we find that the aim of this language is to reverse the meanings of words. ‘Marginalized people’ are not people who are marginalized, but people who set the college’s agenda and can get away with just about anything, including physically assaulting their professors. ‘Respectful and non-disruptive counter-space’ means subjecting a lecturer to insults and humiliations. ‘Inclusivity’ is the systemic censuring of people and ideas. I don’t know what ‘healing’ is supposed to mean, but I suspect it might refer to the joy a hooligan feels in his acts of vandalism.”

This is precisely the sort of warping of language Orwell tried to warn us about! Newspeak, the memory hole, some animals are more equal than others… but I digress:

“Am I exaggerating? Am I unjust to the students and their faculty mentors, people who may be misguided but are sincere in their desire for a better world? Let us see what their better world would look like. Here is one of the demands that the SGA (Student Government Association) at Middlebury made after the incident:

Any organization or academic department that invites a speaker to campus will be required to fill out a due diligence form created by the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in coordination with the SGA Institutional Diversity Committee. These questions should be created to determine whether a speaker’s beliefs align with Middlebury’s community standards [emphasis added by The Anglophilic Anglican], removing the burden of researching speakers from the student body.

“I learned from this statement that Middlebury has two offices (at least) to monitor diversity, equity, and inclusion at the college. Student activists seem to find it an undue burden to have to do the work of policing invited speakers. They insist that the institution do their bidding. And Middlebury is not an anomaly. Similar bodies are everywhere, at every college, university, and corporation in the U.S. and many European countries, all of them surveilling the words and actions of their members and implementing ideological directives with bureaucratic ruthlessness.”

So, only speakers whose “beliefs align with Middlebury’s community standards” (thank you, Facebook, or as some now call it, Fascistbook) will be allowed on campus? Or if others somehow manage to be permitted, they can expect to experience protest, heckling, or worse? All in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

Alles klar, Herr Kommisar?

How is this not Communist? Marxist? Fascist? Totalitarian? Did we live through the 20th century, defeating both the Nazis in the Second World War and the Soviets in the Cold War, in vain? Did my father fight and earn the Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the first, and defend our country via signals intelligence in the second, in vain? I begin to fear so, to my deep dismay!

Bear in mind, Legutko is a person who grew up in Communist Poland, having been born there in 1949. He is Professor of philosophy at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, specializing in ancient philosophy and political theory, and a Member of the European Parliament. He knows whereof he speaks, when it comes to totalitarianism and dictatorship: historically, philosophically, and personally. He continues,

“The growing power of these offices would not be possible without the corruption of language. Diversity, equity, and inclusion have ceased to mean what they always meant and now mean the opposite. They now mean rigidity, dogmatism, conformity, intimidation, control, arbitrariness, and censorship. The offices of diversity, equity, and inclusion are in fact guardians of the regnant ­ideology — ‘Middlebury’s community standards’ — and their job is to censure all ‘beliefs’ that do not ‘align; with those standards. In ­Orwell’s world, war was peace, freedom slavery, and ignorance strength. At Middlebury, diversity is monopoly, equity bias, and inclusion censorship.”

So now we have student soviets, sitting in judgement on both their professors (most of whom are cultural Marxists themselves, anyway, and most of the few who aren’t, are – understandably, it must be confessed – interested in protecting their jobs, their incomes, and their families’ futures), and on anyone who might be invited to speak to them?

What can we call these, other than academic soviets? How did we allow colleges and universities to become neo-bolshevik? What happened to academic freedom, to freedom of inquiry? What happened to a challenging intellectual environment (for anyone other than conservatives and traditionalists, who are to be actively ghettoed)?

I knew the situation was bad, and getting worse. I knew it was already heading in that direction when I was last directly involved with the academic world, in the mid-1990s; and I knew it had only tanked still further since. But I have to admit, even I did not know it was this bad. Heaven help us.

The only bright spot is Legutko’s concluding paragraph. I am tempted to reproduce it here, but I shall refrain: better you should read the whole article!

 

US declining interest in history presents risk to democracy | Financial Times

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Alas, America’s curiosity about itself is suffering a prolonged bear market. What may work for individual careers poses a collective risk to US democracy.

Source: US declining interest in history presents risk to democracy | Financial Times

More on the plummeting U.S. interest in history, and its consequences. Unfortunately, the author, Edward Luce, has to get in a dig at President Trump! But he makes a number of good points, nonetheless.

Indeed, the idea that a de-emphasis on history (and other humanities) in favor of more technical fields “works for individual careers” may itself be a flawed assumption: the author himself notes that

“the biggest culprit is the widespread belief that ‘soft skills’ — such as philosophy and English, which are both in similar decline to history — do not lead to well-paid jobs. But the data do not bear this out. Engineers do better than those who study humanities. But the latter are paid roughly the same as those who graduate in the booming fields of biology and business services.”

But there is a greater cost to society generated by the near-demise of the humanities than simply missed employment opportunities. Luce goes on to comment,

“The demise of strong civics coincides with waning voter turnout, a decline in joining associations, fewer citizen’s initiatives, and other qualities once associated with American vigour. The spread of fake news is often blamed solely on social media… But the ultimate driver is the citizens who believe it.

“There is no scientific metric for gullibility. Nor can we quantitatively prove that civic ignorance imposes a political cost on society. These are questions of judgment. But if America’s origins tell us anything it is that a well-informed citizenry creates a stronger society.”

Indeed! And the reverse, sadly, is also true.

 

Sir Roger Scruton: on being an intellectual conservative | YouTube (with reflections by me, on politics, economics, and society)

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Source: Sir Roger Scruton: How to Be a Conservative | YouTube

“It is not unusual to be a conservative. But it is unusual to be an intellectual conservative. In both Britain and America some 70% of academics identify themselves as being ‘on the Left,’ while the surrounding culture is increasingly hostile to traditional values, or to any claim that might be made for the high achievements of Western Civilization.”

— Sir Roger Scruton

And like it or not, the academic world does have a major impact – directly, through the pronouncements of academics, and even more significant, indirectly, through its graduates (who end up in business, media, and politics) – on the wider culture.

The “Benedict Option” (or what Sir Roger here calls “catacomb culture”) is valid and likely essential as a short-term strategy for survival of traditional values, ideas, and ideals (and perhaps, for traditional people who wish to bear and raise children in those values, ideas, and ideals), but it is not an end in itself.

Remember that the monks of medieval Europe did not merely remain in their monasteries, but in some cases actively evangelized (think the Celtic monks, Franciscan friars, and the preaching orders), or in the case of the Benedictines themselves, served as “leaven in the loaf” of the wider culture.

It’s not enough merely to “opt out” of secular culture – although, as I say, that can be an important first step, and survival strategy, just as the monks made the decision to leave their secular lives and enter the monastery. We have to keep the longer-term goal in mind: taking it back. Continue reading “Sir Roger Scruton: on being an intellectual conservative | YouTube (with reflections by me, on politics, economics, and society)”