After my post yesterday about
After my post yesterday about Penn's policy of discouraging the hiring and promoting of men, I received some interesting email.
One telling email was from the co-director of Penn's Women's Studies program (radical egalitarianism dictates that such programs will never have single leaders who are named as such). Addressed "to women faculty" (since men faculty are apparently not affected by or interested in questions of gender equity at Penn), the missive directed recipients to the Daily Pennsylvanian coverage of Penn's recent gender equity meeting, adding that "The reporter did a good job of summarizing Prof. Phoebe Leboy's excellent presentation on the problems in achieving gender equity at Penn." Thus did a Penn administrator blithely confirm Prof. Leboy's striking revelation: that Penn is indeed in the business of giving financial boosts to departments that hire and promote women, while at the same time instituting "disincentives" to hire and promote men. I was hoping the DP had got it wrong. And I was expecting that whether the DP got it wrong or right, the Penn administration would scramble to distance itself from the reporter's representation of their discriminatory tactics. Silly me. It seems that we at Penn are damn proud of our double standards and we don't care who knows it.
Most of the mail I received, though, was from men, and its tone was a far cry from the complacency exhibited by the co-director of Women's Studies. Here's an eloquent extract from a man who hopes one day to pursue an academic career as a historian:
I can't help wondering a few things:
How do women such as Phoebe Leboy expect someone in my position to react to this kind of nonsense? Can any honest person, in truth, actually believe that this kind of discrimination, openly advertised as "progress," fails to crush the hopes and dreams of perfectly able young men at Penn and elsewhere? Having grown up under a constant deluge of media denouncing me for my offending chromosomes, filling me at every turn with self-doubt, I have grown accustomed to shrugging my shoulders and resigning myself to the notion of being resented, even reviled, by minority classmates and colleagues. (It should be noted here that women do not constitute an actual "minority" of my classmates in any meaningful sense of the word.) It is quite another thing, however, when I am confronted with the reality that active steps are being taken, at this very moment, to prevent me from achieving anything like success in academia.
Am I expected to feel differently about this than women of just a couple generations ago felt? Do these people ever consider how heartbreaking and discouraging it is to know that the day I face nigh-insurmountable, institutionalized obstacles is the day we will have achieved "justice" in America? This strikes me as a ghastly perversion of the entire American enterprise.
I'm tempted to say, "How far we have fallen," but that's not exactly true. A better summary might be, "How little we have risen."
I couldn't agree more. And I await the day when the women who benefit from academe's dirty little secret--that women are not a minority on campus anymore, and that in some fields they have established a dominance that utterly belies the continued disingenuous cry of discrimination--realize that there are boys and men on the wrong end of their vengeful little stick. Some of those boys and men will be their sons, their husbands, their lovers, their friends, and even their fathers. All of them will be living a life wilfully hampered by the coarse retributive logic of a feminism that rejects equal opportunity and insists, illogically and destructively, that unless women constitute 50% or more of the faculty in every field, a dire state of discrimination exists.
For the record, treating men the way women used to be treated is not a means that justifies the end. Privileging sex over qualifications--or, more deconstructively, scrambling the definition of qualifications so that they become inseparable from and contingent on demographics (as in California's post-Prop 209 world of college admissions)--may get a greater variety of bodies onto the faculty. But it does so at the expense of both individuals and education itself. For planned historical change to work--particularly change as radical as that envisioned by the anti-discriminatory language of Title VII and Title IX--it must be given time to work. Race and gender preferences are explicitly imagined as ways of hotwiring historical change. They are impatient policies, centered on short-term gratification and blind to long-term ramifications. They seek to engineer a shift rather than to create the conditions that will enable a shift that the majority of Americans believe is necessary and right. And in so doing, they are eroding our educational system, our Constitution, and our lives.
Policies such as Penn's are not fair or equitable attempts to be true to the letter of Title IX. Title IX has been used to rationalize many such extreme campus policies, particularly in athletics, where it is decimating men's sports in the name of achieving parity for women athletes. There is some fine writing about academic abuse of Title IX--if you are curious, the best places to start are with Wendy McElroy and Jessica Gavora (see this and this).
October 30, 2002
If you are still meditating
If you are still meditating on L'Affaire Bellesiles, check out this long and thoughtful post from John Rosenberg over at Discriminations. Unlike many commentators on this issue, Rosenberg is not interested in taking sides so much as in characterizing the nature of the Bellesiles affair itself. The result is an evenhanded analysis that reveals a surprising amount of continuity between Bellesiles' supporters and his detractors.
At Penn, the cause of
At Penn, the cause of "gender equity" has become an excuse to institutionalize reverse discrimination. Yesterday, at an open meeting convened by Penn's Association of Women Faculty and Administrators, biochem professor Phoebe Leboy reported on the dismal state of gender equity at Penn. Her evidence? Penn does not have as many women faculty as men, and the ratio of faculty women to men is not changing as quickly as it is at peer institutions. Her gripe? Penn is not seriously committed to the cause to gender equity. Her evidence for that? Penn is not keeping its alleged promise to encourage departments to hire women while at the same time discouraging them from hiring men:
Leboy also referred to promises made by the president and provost to organize incentives for departments to hire and promote women while creating disincentives for them to hire and promote men.
According to Leboy, the administration has created small incentives via a fund through the Provost's Office, which was announced in a letter to deans and department chairs. However, she could not find clear evidence for the creation of disincentives. She supplied anecdotes of discrimination inherent in the selection processes of new faculty members as evidence of that.
[Penn Provost Robert] Barchi said that disincentives are being instituted on an individual departmental basis. He said that he had discussed recruitment policies with all the deans and that they were doing the same with department chairs.
The Daily Pennsylvanian--which is not currently in top student paper form, and has not been for some time--reports this jaw-dropping discussion with the affectless aplomb of perfect ignorance. The reporter knows not what she reports. But readers will. And the honest ones will cry foul as long and hard as their lonely dissenting voices can.
It is no secret that Penn plays demographic games at hiring time. Nor is it a secret that those games come into play full force during tenure review. When I was up for tenure, for example, I was told by a Penn administrator that based on my vital statistics, my chances looked very good. He told me point blank that if I were black, he would be able to guarantee me promotion, but that as a woman, the odds were very much in my favor. Such comments are often classified as harassment, but I was not being harassed. I was being told the truth, as ugly as it was.
Even though I am no stranger to the ugly truth of Penn "affirmative" hiring and promotion practices (practices which, it should be noted, are hardly unique to Penn, and wholly reflect prevailing campus orthodoxy about the importance of diversity and the acceptability of engineering faculty and student populations to reflect multicultural ideals), I confess myself to be thoroughly shocked by the information that Penn is not only creating incentives for departments to hire women, but actively instituting disincentives to hire men. I am shocked, too, that such a practice has become so embedded in the misguided utopian pseudo-morality of higher ed administration that it can be discussed as frankly, unapologetically, and openly as it was in yesterday's public forum.
Two points, for what they are worth:
1) Imagine such a discussion taking place with roles reversed: what would the outcry be if the Penn administration copped to officially discouraging the hiring of women, or minorities? No need to answer the question. We know what the outcry would be, and we know how far-reaching it would be. It would be national news. There would be talk of lawsuits.
2) I hope I speak for more than just myself when I say that to be hired and promoted under such a system verges on absolute meaninglessness. To know that the accident of one's genetic code has played a major--possibly even decisive--role in one's career cheapens the career itself. It renders one's accomplishments hollow, and oppresses one powerfully with the knowledge that the cynical social engineering of others has as much or more to do with one's putative success than one's scholarship or teaching. As a woman (here I invoke the sacred mantra of identity politics), I would rather be judged entirely on my own merits--or lack thereof--than on the basis of my ability to contribute to some corrupt statistical concept of "equity." I would rather fail all by myself than "succeed" because I am female.
I'm betting this DP piece won't be up on line in its present form for long. But I've got a PDF of it that I'll post if the need arises.
UPDATE: From the comment section beneath the article:
I am astonished at two things.
First, that a University receiving public monies would create "disincentives" to hiring men and openly admit it in a newspaper.
Second -- and perhaps more disturbing -- is that the "reporter" did not follow up on this admission. Is she so inured to such bias that she didn't notice it? Or is she demonstrating her agreement with such blatant discrimination?
I can only hope that male candidates for positions at the University aggressively pursue discrimination lawsuits and end this disgusting policy.
October 29, 2002
As long as we are
As long as we are on the subject of students harassing speakers who are on the wrong side of campus orthodoxy regarding the Middle East: a pro-Israel speaker at the University of Albany was heckled last night with shouts of "End the occupation!" This was one of those rare speakers who only become more eloquent in the face of hostility, however. His response: " 'Don't mess with us. Beware. You attempt to provoke us every time,' he told a protester, who stood with a sign that said 'Free Palestine.' 'When we offer you reason ... you offer us the blood trail of suicide bombings and homicide killings .... We are willing to do our share for peace. We are willing to make painful compromises. ... If you really want a state of your own, then you have to turn around to your own people and say, 'We have to come to terms and reconcile with the Jews.'"
An appalling story about campus
An appalling story about campus politics at Georgetown, courtesy of NRO's Rod Dreher:
Will Jews and Christians on American college campuses have the freedom ó and more importantly, the courage ó to speak out against oppression of their people in Islamic nations? Not, it seems, at Georgetown University, where Jewish student leaders turned on the leading historian of dhimmitude ó the state of formal discrimination historically imposed on Jews and Christians living under Islamic occupation ó when Muslim students became angry and emotional over her remarks.
What follows is an excruciating account of student spinelessness that may get Georgetown sued for libel. Read and seethe.
Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender
Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supportersí Alliance (BGLTSA) has come up with a new method of creating community: Queer Jeopardy. As one who is well-trained in the art of egalitarian academic living, I am shocked and appalled by such a mercenary and divisive approach to outreach. Doesn't the BGLTSA know that competition is a capitalist ruse, that it only drives people apart, that it cannot, by its very nature, ever bring them together?
Gilmore Award Nominee: I donít
I donít know what it is with Dick Cheney, but something about the guy really freaks me out. He has that ìI really like little boysî look in his eyes all the time. This makes him the perfect idea for a Halloween costume, not to mention a repressed pedophile, that would be utterly terrifying.
Think about it. It is perfectly legal to disguise yourself as the ultimate evil (i.e. Dick Cheney) and terrorize friends, family and local residents. Sure, all applicable laws are still in effect, but no one can recognize you anyway. Not only that, minor acts of vandalism are tolerated, if not tacitly condoned, by the community.
So, dear students, when planning your evil attire, keep these themes in mind. And, if you see Dick Cheney staggering drunkenly down High Street, fear not. He is harmless to males over 10 years of age.
--Tim Davison, Arts & Entertainment Editor of West Virginia University's Daily Athenaeum
And I thought Dan Fishback was bad.
Reason takes on the academic
Like most debates, this one demonstrates the healthy futility of debate. If you were a Pipes partisan before, you're now convinced that Islamo-fascists and pro-Palestinian maniacs are running rampant among America's intellectual class. If you were a Pipes hater before, you're even more persuaded that he's a demagogue now. Fans of political cockfighting will also find enjoyment in the exchange.
More broadly, what has been discredited in this discussion is the practice of shouting McCarthyism whenever somebody criticizes you. It's tempting to rehearse the age-old drama of, on the one hand, anti-American tenured radicals corrupting the nation's youth, and on the other, know-nothing demagogues making a hash of complex philosophy and stamping out honest inquiry. Nothing of the sort is going on here. We may in fact need an update of Mike Godwin's Hitler constant, with a corollary that the first person to use the word "McCarthy" in a debate automatically forfeits the point. Barring such a rule, it's hard to see how this debate will end anytime soon. Thank you, Campus Watch, for engaging a struggle of ideas so intense and nail-biting it deserves its own commemorative chess set.
October 28, 2002
Last week I wrote a
Last week I wrote a little bit about Vanderbilt's controversial decision to remove the word "Confederate" from "Confederate Memorial Hall," a dormitory that was so named because the United Daughters of the Confederacy footed one third of its $150,000 price tag when it was built 67 years ago. The school's position is that the word "Confederate" is insensitive and should be removed; UDC's position is that it is breach of contract to change the name of the building. UDC is suing Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt waxes unimpressed. In the words of the Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs, "the word Confederate makes many people uncomfortable." Therefore, in order to "create a more positive, inclusive environment," Vanderbilt must ensure that its "symbols reflect our values going forward."
I got a lot of email about that post--mostly from people who were grateful that someone was willing to stand up and decry the idiocy of Vanderbilt's historical revisionism. The notion that erasing the word "confederate" from a building will somehow erase that building's history (and, by extension, the history of the South), thus making the dormitory acceptable to those who presently find it objectionable, seemed patently ridiculous to me, and I said so. But it doesn't to others. Here is a remarkable op-ed piece celebrating Vanderbilt's revisionist intentions:
I applaud and am impressed that Vanderbilt University is dropping the name "Confederate" from Memorial hall, a 70-year-old building only one third financed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Seems like there should be a statute of limitations on the claim for a name.
I'm sure they mean no insult to the poor Southern farm boys who fought and died tragically for such a dubious cause but wished simply to remove the reference to that cause out of respect for ALL their students.
The Daughters are trying to intimidate the university with a lawsuit and I hope Vanderbilt will stand and win on principle. The lawyers for the Daughters say it is about history, and they are right, that is why the name is being dropped. Those who claim the Confederacy was not about war to preserve slavery are in denial and forget what Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens said in his famous Cornerstone Speech given in Savannah; Georgia, March 21, 1861, "Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition." This statement was greeted with great applause by those in attendance.
It is time for that awful and bloody chapter of history to be put to rest folks, we are all Americans now and we say we believe in freedom and justice for ALL. Either we honor that or we are hypocrites.
Howard Switzer, treasurer
Green Party of Tennessee
2411 Elliott Avenue
Nashville, TN 37204
This guy doesn't get it. The issue is not one of putting "that awful and bloody chapter of history" to rest. The issue is one of refusing to whitewash, erase, destroy, or otherwise obliterate the historical record as such. UDC spent decades saving up the $50,000 it contributed to the building (in contemporary dollars, that's somewhere between 7 and 10 million). The building itself was erected with the express purpose of providing free housing to women students of Confederate ancestry who could not otherwise afford to go to college. These are not facts that the media has bothered to report, by the way--I have them from readers who have cared enough about what is happening at Vanderbilt to find out the facts for themselves. In any case, the "hypocrites," to borrow Switzer's term, are not those who insist on calling the dorm by its rightful name, but those who think the world would be a better place if we all pretended the past is something other than it is. Vanderbilt has every right to decide whose donations it will and will not accept. But it does not have the right to disown or disavow the traces of donors whose affiliation with the university has become politically inconvenient.
An irony: a Critical Mass reader notes that if Vanderbilt is serious about expunging uncomfortable reminders of its politically incorrect past, it will have to change its own name as well as the name of Confederate Memorial Hall:
Vanderbilt could be on the slippery slope here with ideologically driven name changes.The school is named for Cornelius Vanderbilt, the 19th C. sail and rail tycoon, an ardent capitalist who became wildly wealthy. Since we know that wealth is baaad, and capitalism is baaad a case could be made for changing the whole joint's name.
PS-Vanderbilt's seal has a profile of Cornelius on it. The tobacco spitting old rogue is wearing a crown of laurels.Really.
I vote for Brave New U.
Ann Coulter spoke at Harvard
Ann Coulter spoke at Harvard Saturday--and didn't get taunted and booed like she did this time last year. A new openness to diversity of opinion? A rightward shift among students? You make the call.
Dan Fishback, of Sontag Award
Dan Fishback, of Sontag Award fame, rhapsodizes about protesting Cheney's visit to Penn last Friday. Cheney was at Penn to dedicate the Wharton School's new Hunstman Hall; the Vice President is a personal friend of Huntsman's, and the dedication was planned as a private affair. But campus malcontents couldn't seem to grasp this, and instead built an entire micro-movement on the idea that Cheney was expressing contempt for public debate by not appearing in an open forum, that this exemplified Cheney's well-known cronyism and lack of accountability, and that Judith Rodin was a hypocrite for allowing such arrogant behavior on a campus that she represents as a free speech zone dedicated to the unfettered exchange of ideas.
Fishback's editorial exemplifies the contorted illogic that fed Friday's unrest. It's a triumph of nastiness and presumption: the larger-than-life Cheney puppet that formed the centerpiece of resistance morphs, in Fishback's jaundiced imagery, into an "11-foot Dick"; Judith Rodin is depicted as "staring like a deer in the headlights at the protesters" as they shouted "Shame on you! Shame on you!"; and, in a display of positively loathsome condescension, the Huntsman children themselves are depicted as Stepford kids, little blonde robots who are already too saturated with privileged self-satisfaction to be able to comprehend the naked truth of the world as presented by protesters who confuse absurdist street theater with social activism.
Cornell graduate students have voted
Cornell graduate students have voted 2 to 1 against forming a union. I noted last week that the Cornell administration had made the unusual decision not to oppose a union election (as administrators at Penn, Brown, and Yale have done), and speculated that the administration's refusal to play the role of corporate enforcer might yield some interesting election results. And so it has. Without the galvanizing assistance of a hostile and unyielding administration, the union movement at Cornell fizzled and died by popular mandate.
October 27, 2002
Quote for the day: Christopher
Quote for the day: Christopher Hitchens on his new book, Why Orwell Matters:
The great point that I try to make is that in fact Orwell isn't a very great writer. He's a very honest and courageous writer and he does a lot of work and he does have a certain gift of phrase, there's no doubt about it. But he's not in the first rank of writers. And that's a good thing, because it shows what average, ordinary people can do if they care to, and it abolishes some of the alibis and excuses for people who aren't brave.
There's lots more where that came from.
Amiri Baraka Award Nominee: Gore
Amiri Baraka Award Nominee: Gore Vidal, for accusing the Bush administration of using the 9/11 attacks to enact pre-existing plans to invade Afghanistan and limit civil liberties. In a 7000 word piece called "The Enemy Within," published today in the Guardian Observer, Vidal speaks in uncompromising terms about the "Bush junta":
We still don't know by whom we were struck that infamous Tuesday, or for what true purpose. But it is fairly plain to many civil libertarians that 9/11 put paid not only to much of our fragile Bill of Rights but also to our once-envied system of government which had taken a mortal blow the previous year when the Supreme Court did a little dance in 5/4 time and replaced a popularly elected President with the oil and gas Bush-Cheney junta.
Osama was chosen on aesthetic grounds to be the frightening logo for our long-contemplated invasion and conquest of Afghanistan ... [because] the administration is convinced that Americans are so simple-minded that they can deal with no scenario more complex than the venerable, lone, crazed killer (this time with zombie helpers) who does evil just for the fun of it 'cause he hates us because we're rich 'n free 'n he's not.
We at Critical Mass are not empowered to dispense Sontag Awards, which are the exclusive provenance of the wise and judicious Andrew Sullivan. We do, however, proudly decorate worthy individuals with Gilmore Awards and Amiri Baraka Awards as our discretion dictates. But we feel, in this instance, that an Amiri Baraka Award does not adequately recognize the supreme achievement of Mr. Vidal, whose vitriol foameth over in truly commendable quantities this fine Sunday morning. It is our hope that Judge Sullivan will honor Vidal's rhetorical feat with the rare and venerable distinction conferred by the Sontag Award.
October 26, 2002
As Emory professor Michael Bellesiles
As Emory professor Michael Bellesiles goes down the tubes, cyber-schadenfreude is running high. But it's important to keep some perspective on what his case means within the larger context of academe.
The tendency throughout the Bellesiles investigation has been to represent him as a sneaking, lying cheat, a historian who deliberately and wilfully falsified his data in order to make it accord with his thesis. More specifically, the tendency has been to vilify Bellesiles as a leftist ideologue whose political commitments led him to produce fraudulently revisionist history. Bellesiles' Arming America, the argument goes, was written in the service of the anti-gun lobby. In "showing" that most antebellum Americans did not own guns, Bellesiles both shattered the conventional wisdom that gun ownership has always been a central component of American culture and produced documentation that would support the efforts of anti-gun lobbyists to argue that the Second Amendment did not refer, in letter or spirit, to individual private citizens. Bellesiles did not do much to counter such accusations when he met them with lies about his research methods and invented reasons--among them the proverbial flood!--why he could not produce copies of his research notes. But even so, the picture here is distorted.
I'm not about to defend Michael Bellesiles. He blew it when he manipulated data in the service of his argument. He got caught. And then, instead of fessing up to his mistakes, he blew it again by crying foul and covering up. He has resigned now, and that is as it should be. But there is a bigger, messier picture here, one that is unhelpfully obscured by the truly obsessive focus that one dead-in-the-water academic has attracted. That picture is, to borrow Randall Jarrell's phrase, a picture of an institution.
Without excusing Bellesiles, I want to emphasize that what went on with him--and what went wrong with him--is more symptomatic of contemporary academic culture than not. Bellesiles is very much to blame. But he is also very much a product of an extraordinarily lax scholarly system, one that does not reliably train its members in either proper research technique or scholarly ethics; one that openly rewards "research" that conforms to the "progressive" agenda of a disproportionately leftwing academy; one that makes it very hard for scholars who do not toe the progressive party line to get degrees, jobs, book contracts, and tenure; one that would rather scapegoat individuals than examine--and change--its own self-serving structure.
There were peer reviewers who did not do their job when Bellesiles first began publishing his work on early American gun ownership, and there were the editors who chose them. There were editors who ignored the attempts of scholars such as Clayton Cramer to alert them to problems with Bellesiles' work and there were publishing houses that did not see past the chance to make a buck and a splash. There were prize committees that decorated Bellesiles with top professional honors.
I cannot speak for the quality of Bellesiles' training, nor do I know any more than anyone else about where in his work methodological carelessness cedes to blatant falsification. But I do know something about what graduate education in the humanities looks like, and I know something, too, about how low on the list of scholarly priorities such non-flashy things as thorough documentation and judicious restraint are. Until we start interrogating our systems of peer review, our patterns of professional reward, and the professional training we do, or don't do, in our Ph.D. programs, we have not yet begun to address the issues the Bellesiles case raises.
From Andrew Sullivan's new Salon
From Andrew Sullivan's new Salon piece on Harry Belafonte:
the essence of bigotry is to reduce the complex, varied, human individuality of a human being into a racial cipher. It is to smelt the irreducible complexity of a person into a racial caricature. It is to deny individuality; it is to give someone no space to think for him or herself, to free to be a person, and not a mere member of the group.
To me, this freedom is an irreducible core of what liberalism should be. It is about a person's right to think for herself with dignity and respect. It doesn't mean that you can't disagree vehemently with such a person, subject her views to withering scrutiny, rhetorical barbs or logical dissection. What it does mean is that you do not play the race card or any other card when engaging that person's views. And one of the key signs that much of today's left is actually, demonstrably illiberal, intolerant and reactionary, is the way in which this is now a common feature of leftist discourse.
There's much more.
October 25, 2002
Arizona State University has taken
Arizona State University has taken disciplinary action against a former executive vice president of student government, Brian Buck, for his participation in a sexually explicit film taped on and around ASU's campus. Produced by the company responsible for the Indiana University dorm tapings Erin mentioned earlier, the film's opening scene shows Buck kissing and fondling two naked actresses in a shower while his fraternity brothers look on and cheer. Although Buck did not have sex with the women, and does not appear nude himself, his soft-core scene earned him an array of hard-core punishments from ASU Student Life, which decided that Buck's antics violated the "public sexual indecency" clause in ASU's code of student conduct. Buck is now barred from holding any position in any student organization, a ban that effectively forces him out of student government. He is barred from holding any employment position at ASU, or from residing on university-owned property. As if that weren't enough, Buck has been placed on probation for the rest of his time at ASU; he must compose a twenty-page essay with the pithy title "Reflections on Integrity"; he must perform 100 hours of community service; and he must write four letters of apology. This laundry list of sanctions cannot be appealed. Buck's lawyer, outraged by the extensive punishments and by the denial of due process, intends to sue ASU for breach of his client's constitutional rights.
It's interesting to note that when five female Arizona State students appeared topless or fully nude in Playboy's November 1999 Girls of the PAC 10 issue, explicitly representing their school, the administration took no disciplinary action against them. If it had, campus feminists would doubtless have rallied behind the women, defending their liberated sexuality and their right to exhibit their bodies however they chose. You have to love the double standard....
A dorm at Indiana University
A dorm at Indiana University became a film set for a porn shoot earlier this month. According to a freshman witness, there was a whole lot more than artistic expression going on: in one public hallway, some of the actresses performed fellatio on dorm residents while their fellow students watched.
Link via The Hoosier Review.
Berkeley students staged a belated
Berkeley students staged a belated protest yesterday, urging the university to hire a professor of Pilipino American studies. Students put on an elaborate three-act performance of guerilla theater, using the much-trafficked open space in front of Dwinelle Hall to "survey a century of discrimination." The aim of the event was to raise consciousness about the need for a specialist in Pilipino American studies at Berkeley by dramatizing how oppressed Filipinos living in America have been. Even if you buy the dubious assumption that discrimination (or accusations of discrimination) somehow produces valid subjects of academic inquiry, and even if you accept the equally dubious premise that identity politics has scholarly validity, there is still a huge problem with this particular line of student activism: there is nothing to protest. Cal has already agreed to hire a Pilipino American studies professor. The ethnic studies department started advertising for a tenure track position earlier this month; the specialist they hire will begin work at Berkeley this June.
Divinity school does Islam: a
Divinity school does Islam: a student's eye view, via The Corner:
This week, the world religions class I'm attending at [a university divinity school] covered Islam. The kind professor spent the class whitewashing well-known beliefs and practices of Islamic Middle Eastern nations. The students, who are almost all Christian, and none Muslim, mostly shared his view. The students angrily denounced any suggestion that the Koran advocated violence any more than the Bible. Most disturbingly, they and the professor passionately defended Islamic culture's treatment of women. The professor gently explained that the women performed genital mutilation on each other, so it couldn't be about men controlling women. The female students, who thought it so bigoted to question Islamic culture's view of women, probably wouldn't toe that line if it was there own tender labia being hacked off. A couple of us raised critical points that were met with stares and mau-mauing. One student asked why only Islamic cultures were practicing suicide bombing. The professor gave the standard Palestinian rationalization that they're the poor, and don't have rich Israel's weapons. ...The clear dominant value in that class group is that the U.S. is evil. No approved victim group may be criticized, since all sensitive and compassionate people show solidarity with these groups. I think these people are out of touch with reality.
Thus does turning the other cheek become turning a blind eye.
Vice President Cheney will be
Vice President Cheney will be at Penn today to help dedicate the Wharton School's new Huntsman Hall. Protestors have been preparing all week. Some are camping out on College Green--the Scene of Protest--in order not to miss any of the morning's activist festivities (the dedication ceremony begins at the activism-unfriendly hour of 7 am). As one student put it: "We want to continually remind the campus that the most dangerous vice president in history is coming to campus, and it's kind of our duty to speak out against him." To kind of assist that effort of continual reminding, Penn for Peace has acquired a parodic ten foot tall Cheney puppet, which effigy is perhaps intended to convey the notion that Cheney is himself a puppet--albeit a shorter one. The puppet is also intended as a commentary on Cheney's purportedly inflated ego. One student interpreted its larger-than-life scowl thus: "To me, it looks like Cheney's angry at the world and is abusing his power." Counter-protestors will be out in full force today as well. They have no puppets, but they will pass out erasers, which they plan to toss at protesting mathematics lecturer Stephen Preston, whose nasty screed against Cheney was published by the Daily Pennsylvanian as part of the campus' preparation for today.
Updates will be posted as they become available.
The more things change, the
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is George Orwell during the 1940s:
Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writings of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States.Ý Moreover they do not as a rule condemn violence as such, but only violence used in defense of the western countries.
Orwell didn't think much of the dangerously uninformed and illogical rationale for the pacifism of the Left during WWII. One imagines that if he could see the moral relativism and anti-Americanism of today's anti-war movement, he would say much what he did then: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that:Ý no ordinary man could be such a fool."
October 24, 2002
Wendy McElroy fisks Battered Women's
Wendy McElroy fisks Battered Women's Syndrome. Then she has some fun with radical feminism's tendency to play fast and loose with statistics.
Cornell grad students are currently
Cornell grad students are currently voting on whether or not to unionize. If the results are for unionization, Cornell will become the second private university in the country to form a graduate student union. NYU, which unionized last year, was the first. Unlike many of its peer institutions (among them Penn and Yale), Cornell has not tried to block the union movement. It's an interesting administrative move: in sanctioning the vote, Cornell has made it hard for grad students there to shore up the institutional hostility that seems to be so crucial to the success of this particular movement. At Yale and Penn, where administrators have opposed the unionization effort, the anger is palpable. And as such, the administrations at these schools have, ironically, played into the hands of the pro-union agitators in the very act of refusing to cooperate with them. A deep rift between students and administrators is exactly what pro-union activists want. They want their constituents to be angry and outraged, they need that energy to fuel their movement, and they use even the mildest administrative objections to unionization as evidence of an evil exploitative corporatism that must be fought by the oppressed intelligentsia commonly found in Ph.D. programs. Cornell has sidestepped all that. It will be interesting to watch events unfurl in Ithaca, where the opposition finds itself running unopposed.
A new study shows that
A new study shows that dogs have taste. They become calm and mellow when listening to classical music. They bark when they listen to Metallica. And they are utterly unmoved by Britney Spears.
Quote for the day: "I
"I feel like I am in the arms of a beautiful woman."
--Yann Martel, on winning the Booker Prize
President Bush has nominated Dana
President Bush has nominated Dana Gioia to head the National Endowment for the Arts, a decision that is likely to raise a firestorm of protest from poets and academics. Gioia's credentials are impeccable -- he is a published poet and essayist, has taught writing at Johns Hopkins and Wesleyan, and won an American Book Award this year for his collection of poems Interrogations at Noon. However, the academic left will complain loudly about his corporate background (his resume lists an MBA from Stanford alongside a master's in comparative literature from Harvard, and he worked as vice president of General Foods before becoming a full-time writer); they will also point to his Atlantic Monthly article (and book-length essay of the same name) "Can Poetry Matter?" as evidence of Gioia's, and by extension, Bush's, unreconstructed academic conservatism. In that article, Gioia lambasted the insularity of American poetry circles and creative writing programs:
Decades of public and private funding have created a large professional class for the production and reception of new poetry comprising legions of teachers, graduate students, editors, publishers, and administrators. Based mostly in universities, these groups have gradually become the primary audience for contemporary verse. Consequently, the energy of American poetry, which was once directed outward, is now increasingly focused inward. Reputations are made and rewards distributed within the poetry subculture. To adapt Russell Jacoby's definition of contemporary academic renown from The Last Intellectuals, a "famous" poet now means someone famous only to other poets. But there are enough poets to make that local fame relatively meaningful. Not long ago, "only poets read poetry" was meant as damning criticism. Now it is a proven marketing strategy.
Scorning poets' sense of self-importance and questioning the wisdom of funding their insular, self-enclosed fiefdoms, Gioia hints that his NEA chairmanship will pay neither lip service nor public dollars to the pretentious, fashionably inaccessible versifying so popular among today's academic poets. No doubt there will be heated debates about the role of the poet in society and about the aesthetic validity of contemporary poetic production. We can be sure that Gioia will continue to express doubts about the smug insularity of America's academic and literary subcultures. We can also be sure that the high poetic priesthood will resist and protest Gioia's challenges with all its might, refusing above all to make its writing appeal to those whom Wendy Steiner condescendingly calls "the laity." Feels like the culture wars all over again....
Inspired by Erin's post (below)
Inspired by Erin's post (below) I checked the Not in Our Name petition's "B" section for my own name; I was disappointed to find that nobody has taken the time to sign me up, either. I did discover the following illustrious signatures among the anti-war B's: Gas Bag; Snardius The Bald (Medieval Warrior dedicated to the eradication of leftists); Lickmy Balls; Cee Mye Balls, Phoney Balloney (Gullible Liberal); Fat Bastard (Overweight homicidal Scotsman); Com E Bastards; Anita Bath; Lima Bean; M. Becile (Society for the preservation of psychopathic mass-murdering dictators); Les Behan; Aphra Behn (Guerrilla Girls On Tour); You-must Be-joking; Saul Bellows (Blacksmith); Ilove bin-Laden; Runup N Bitemyass (Department of Fenestration, MIT); James Bond (secret agent); Dusty Bottoms; I Will Not Sign This Bullshit (USA, USA, USA); Adam Bumb; Teroff My Burka; Americans Behind Bush; George I Like Throwing Bombs On Poor People Bush (President of the US of A); Go Bush; Stayout Thuh Bushes; A. Scarlett Butt; Eat My Butt; and Harry Buttocks.
October 23, 2002
Since we're on the subject
...the antiwar petition over at " Not in Our Name" continue [sic] to attract prestigious signatures from all walks of life. Here's a sample, just from the "A" page: Idi Amin, "Retired from Military"; Marie Antoinette, "Aristocrat, noblewoman, progressive dietician"; Emma Ahstrach, who describes herself as coming "from a long line of peace-loving Ahstriches who deplore all forms of violence"; Trendy W. Annabee, who asks "Will this help me get chicks?"; Ayatollah Assaholla, a "physicist" and "Nobel prize candidate for discovery of subatomic nion particles"; and Kemal Anis, "Director of Misanthropic Studies, STD College."
Since anyone can sign anyone's name to these things, I looked up the "O" section to see if I had signed it yet. As of this writing, I have not. But Artis One Name Only, a.k.a. "the Spoonman"; Axel Otto, of the "Motorradclub Kuhle Wampe; Germany"; and Jack Me Off, who identifies himself as "Mostly hippies," all have.
A rare moment of balance
A rare moment of balance in the academy: Andrew Sullivan is not only speaking at Earlham College (in my beautiful home state of Indiana), but is welcome to speak there. Check out the proud announcement of his talk on the Earlham web site. Here's the blurb for "The Crisis in the Catholic Church":
One the most provocative social and political commentators writing today, Andrew Sullivan offers piercing assessment of the scandal in the Catholic Church. Sullivan, a practicing Catholic, addresses the many challenging issues facing the Church, from celibacy, sexual morality and the role women and homosexuals in the Church to the cloak of secrecy that for so long has shrouded the crimes being committed.
Okay, so Earlham needs an editor. But this time, I say it's the thought that counts.
Yesterday, I posted a little
Yesterday, I posted a little notice about a sensitivity workshop at Berkeley. Sage McLaughlin writes in with some excellent observations about the logic of the seminar, which was devoted to the project of sensitizing men to "gender violence" by promoting the creation of "a male peer culture, an atmosphere whereby the abuse of women by some men will be seen as completely unacceptable by the male peer culture." I quote:
I'm not sure to what extent it is possible to artificially create a "male peer culture," so I have to admit I have no idea what these people think they're accomplishing. Now, I have given to all of two charities in my day: self-defense training classes for women, and FIRE. So I'm not a knuckle-dragging paleo-con with a bone to pick with the opposite sex.
But the statement that, "The goal is to create a male peer culture, an atmosphere whereby the abuse of women by some men will be seen as completely unacceptable by the male peer culture," is insulting. It implies that in fact, the abuse of women by some men is widely accepted by "the" male peer culture (whatever that is). Obviously, there are pockets of peer groups wherein this is the case. But because there is no "male peer culture" in the singular, the whole project is silly.
And another thing. What's with the constant references to "male"? Why not "men"? We talk about "women's health" and "women workers." It's a small thing, but I notice that the clinical, zoological-sounding "male" is always used by the types who run this stuff. It's a small thing, but it pesters me nonetheless.
Touche. It sounds like a crock. But it's a crock with an awful lot of momentum.
Sensitivity trainers are a dime a dozen on the college lecture circuit. The speaker in this instance is a well-known gender violence educator who specializes in the burgeoning field of man-to-man sensitivity training. He's a former college football player who was also the first man to minor in Women's Studies at UMass-Amherst. On his website, he bills himself as "one of America's leading anti-sexist male activists" and a quick click around his site shows he's all he claims to be. He's got a company, he's got an educational video, he is the U.S. Marine Corps' official gender violence educator, he's a member of the U.S. Secretary of Defense's task force on Domestic Violence in the Military. The list goes on. What launched Mr. Katz on a career that combines so much claptrap with so much influence? Why a Master's in Education from Harvard.
In an interview with the
In an interview with the French literary magazine Lire, bestselling French novelist Michel Houellebecq vented his distaste for Islam, calling it "the stupidest religion." That remark landed Houellebecq in the dock: Incensed Muslim groups accused him of "inciting religious hatred," and the government dutifully tried him for his thought-crimes. Although a Paris court yesterday acquitted Houellebecq, the very fact that the French are now putting writers on trial for their opinions is indicative of that country's ominous turn toward politically correct policing. Further evidence can be found in the 93% tax recently imposed on "any French-made film deemed pornographic or an incitement to violence" (parliament deputy Charles de Courson explained bluntly: "We want to destroy their profitability to discourage further investments") and in the French interior ministry's move to ban Rose Bonbon, a novel that portrays a paedophile murderer. It seems that in France, liberte, egalite, fraternite is fast becoming histoire.
Visit Vegard Valberg's blog to
Visit Vegard Valberg's blog to see some anti-war spam shredded Mystery Science Theater-style. (Found on Instapundit.)
I get a lot of
I get a lot of anti-war spam--it comes with the academic territory. With that spam comes petitions, petitions, and more petitions. We academics have not yet worked out that electronic petitions are an entirely bankrupt means of registering protest. Anyone can start a petition about anything, in anyone's name. Anyone can sign anyone's name to such petitions, and anyone can sign as many names as he wants as many times as he wants. It goes without saying that no one verifies the "signatures" that find their way on to such petitions. And yet, they keep circulating. Here's one that landed in my inbox this morning:
If you are against the probability of war against Iraq, please sign this list and pass along.
The U.N. is gathering signatures in an effort to avoid a tragic world event.
Then came the usual instructions about how to pass the petition along. Nearly 500 people had "signed" the version that came to me (at 500, it is slated to be forwarded to Petition Headquarters, which is located at the United Nations Information Centre).
The petition is illiterate (you can be against war, but you can't be against the "probability of war"--unless, of course, you are also against statistics). It's also a hoax. If you actually go to the UNIC website, instead of mindlessly signing a petition whose authenticity is obviously suspect because, in the heat of activism, you wish it were real, you will find the following notice:
Note:Ý We have learned that there is a new petition circulating that claims to have been started by our office -- we have not, nor have we ever, initiated any petition.Ý
You will then be offered a link to this notice:
The UN is NOT involved in soliciting or collecting such petitions. We would suggest that since it is member governments of the UN who will decide on whatever action occurs in various situations, citizens should contact their own government.
Member states of the United Nations decide on the policies and programs of the organization. Citizens wishing to express their views or concerns on any issue, such as international peace and security should consider addressing their views first to the officials of their own government. The General Assembly is the main deliberative body of the UN, where all member states have one vote, and where issues relating to peace and security, admission of new Members and budgetary measures are decided by a two-third's vote. The Security Council with 5 permanent and ten rotating member states has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and has the power to make decisions binding on all members of the organization. Security Council Decisions on major issues require nine votes, including the concurring votes of all the permanent members: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The 10 other current members of the Security Council are: Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Guinea, Ireland, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Singapore and Syria.
Your inquiry and interest in the work of the United Nations are appreciated.
Note to the gullible: you do not shore up credibility for your views by affixing your name to bogus virtual protests. Nor do you make a political statement. You do, however, make a powerful statement about where logic fits into your personal political schema. And as such, you do damage to the viewpoint you are trying to support.
The history and philosophy of
The history and philosophy of campus hate groups remain to be written in full. But in the meantime, Boundless.org has traced the origins and progress of one of the most hateful student groups of all, MEChA:
Radical politics have been part of the game on American campuses since at least the mid-1960s but have recently taken a new and disturbing turn. At colleges and universities across the country, the Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Aztlan (The Student Movement of Aztlan Chicanos) ó better known by its acronym, MEChA ó is calling for the surrender of wide swaths of American territory to Mexico. Worse yet, in doing so, it has the support of university administrators, elected officials, and ó thanks to the mandatory student activity fees on which the organization depends ó tuition-paying students.
Founded in the late 1960s, MEChA has spent the last three decades indoctrinating Latino students on American campuses in the ideology of reconquista (reconquest). According to MEChA propaganda, the Southwestern United States ó including California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, as well as parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado ó sits on the territory of the ancient (and mythical) ìNation of Aztlan.î Supposedly the cradle of Aztec civilization, MEChA charges that Aztlan was unjustly seized by the United States following the Mexican-American War. Now MEChA wants this territory given back to its alleged rightful owners: the people and government of Mexico.
As a matter of fact, the American Southwest was not, as MEChA claims, ìstolenî from Mexico. Following the Mexican-American War, the government of Mexico legally ceded this territory to the United States (by the Treaty of Guadalupe de Hidalgo, 1848). Nor has there ever been any place called ìAztlanî on American soil, much less a ìNation of Aztlan.î Invented 30 years ago by radical Latino activists, the Nation of Atzlan has more in common with Atlantis than with Israel.
But MEChA is not a group to let facts get in the way. There are today more than 300 MEChA unions in existence, with more than 100 in California alone. While the group is concentrated in the Southwest and along the West Coast, it can also be found farther East: Itís got chapters at MIT, Yale, Cornell, George Washington University, and Brown, among other East Coast universities. On the West Coast, where MEChA is to be found in nearly every institution of higher education, the movement is spreading so quickly that it has set its sights on the public school system, establishing high school chapters and encouraging its young supporters to participate in its numerous (and sometimes violent) protests and marches.
There's lots more, including a rundown of MEChA's tender feelings toward "gringos," Jews, and the U.S. Constitution.
Link via Campus Nonsense.
The Daily Pennsylvanian agonizes about
The Daily Pennsylvanian agonizes about Penn's low "yield rate" when it comes to attracting black students. Maurice aptly observes that it sounds as though the DP is talking about crops, not people. Can it be that publicly discussing black students as a commercial quantity--one whose annual yield makes Penn look more or less good in comparison with other institutions--may have something to do with the fact that 60% of blacks who are admitted to Penn go elsewhere? The DP explores many reasons why Penn is not cultivating black students as successfully as it would like. But the mercenary objectification that comes with such "concerned" rhetoric is not among them.
Daily Cal readers express their
Daily Cal readers express their dismay that the paper falsely reported UC Berkeley professors as saying the Bali bombing was engineered by the U.S.
October 12: University of Pennsylvania
October 12: University of Pennsylvania senior Dan Fishback is quoted thus in the New York Times:
Campus activism at Penn is a bit frustrating because it seems like most people agree with us. ... I'll talk about the various reasons we shouldn't go to war, and they'll be, like, `Yeah, I'm totally with you.' But they're not, because they're not involved. They're so used to feeling helpless that it doesn't occur to them to be outraged.
October 21: Dan's dream comes true. Campus activism becomes a joy again because most people don't agree with him. He talks about the various reasons we shouldn't go to war, and they're like, "You're delusional" (comment #26 of 29). They're not with him, and yet they are involved. They're so outraged by his callow reasoning that they give him a Sontag Award and fisk him royally in the comments under his article.
October 22, 2002
A former Daily Pennsylvanian editor
For the record: it was Critical Mass' very own Maurice Black who spotted the prizeworthy piece and brought it to Judge Sullivan's attention.
Free sensitivity training at Berkeley
Free sensitivity training at Berkeley tonight: as part of Relationship Violence Awareness Week, Jackson Katz, a leading figure in the field of sensitizing men to "gender violence," will speak at 7 pm in 2050 LSB. There he will challenge each member of the audience to become "empowered bystanders." In his own words: "The goal is to create a male peer culture, an atmosphere whereby the abuse of women by some men will be seen as completely unacceptable by the male peer culture." Someone at Berkeley, please go and report back. I am dying to know what an "empowered bystander" is. How, for instance, does an empowered bystander differ from an innocent one? What is the nature of his or her power? Does an empowered bystander feel good about standing idly by rather than getting involved? Is an empowered bystander endowed with special interpretive abilities, so that the act of doing nothing becomes the condition of understanding what others are doing? Inquiring minds are standing by, waiting to be empowered.
Mother Jones magazine has ranked
Mother Jones magazine has ranked UC Berkeley 4th in the nation for activism. Wesleyan, the University of Michigan, and Florida State took the top three spots. The high approval rating is largely due to last spring's pro-Palestinian sit-in at Wheeler Hall. I'm guessing Cal got extra points for staging a "peaceful" protest that disrupted classes, resulted in arrests, and led to suspension for the organizing group, Students for Justice in Palestine.
David Brooks takes self-esteem down
David Brooks takes self-esteem down a notch. In the process, he has a lot to tell us about how our classless society is actually all about equal-opportunity elitism.
Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes' Middle
Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes' Middle East Studies watchdog website, has created a new "Solidarity With Apologists" page to honor those academics who demanded to be listed alongside the eight academics the site originally singled out as egregious abusers of their professorial positions. So outraged were certain academics at the putatively "McCarthyite" tactics of Pipes' creative use of the public domain, so incensed were they by the manner in which his attempt to challenge the academy's hard left stance toward Middle East affairs "chilled" their own expression, that they joined symbolic hands with their oppressed colleagues, flooded Pipes with nasty mail, and sanctimoniously urged him to single them out, too. (Readers of Critical Mass will recall that Berkeley queer theorist Judith Butler led the pious charge). Ever the gentleman, Pipes has obliged. In his own words:
After we launched www.campus-watch.org, academics deluged us with emails; some of them requested inclusion with the original eight professors cited. ... Most of them are academics from other fields and I suspect that few of them actually read our statement of purpose, for very few of them understand what issues Campus Watch was created to address. Still, if they insist on declaring public solidarity with Palestinian or Islamist violence, this is important information for university stakeholders to be aware of, so we are posting their names.
I know a number of these martyrs to justice. I even own some of their books. I'm so proud.
Andrew Sullivan nominates the Daily
October 21, 2002
The Daily Californian has reported
The Daily Californian has reported that a panel of U.C. Berkeley professors thinks the U.S. may have engineered the Bali bombing. The report was in turn reported at Angry Clam and Instapundit. Meanwhile, deep in the growing comments section on Angry Clam's blog, a correction has been posted by one Tom Villars. Here it is in full:
Oct 21 2002, 12:23 pm
Seems there has been a mistake. I just received an email from Prof. Jeffrey Hadler denying everything. Here it is:
Amiri Baraka Award Nominee: Louis
Amiri Baraka Award Nominee: Louis Farrakhan, for accusing Bush of allowing the September 11 attacks: "He couldnít seem to get on track on September 10th. But on September 11th, 12th, 13th, the country suddenly united behind its president. Who benefited from the coming down of the World Trade Center? It wasnít you; it wasnít me."
"We have a major national
"We have a major national security problem on our hands. There's a man -- a deceitful man -- who has consistently lied to the world, jeopardizing the safety of Americans. As long as he stays in power, we are at a greater risk of terrorist attack. As long as he continues to disregard the truth, spouting lies into the air, this international bully will threaten our safety. This man must be stopped: George Bush."
-- University of Pennsylvania senior Dan Fishback partakes of some leftist moral relativism.
Quote of the day: "I
"I don't need Harry Belafonte to tell me what it means to be black." --Condoleezza Rice
UPDATE: Connoisseurs of cant will recall that in addition to advising the national security advisor to get some spine, Belafonte accused Colin Powell of being the Bush administration's subservient "house slave." Scott Mc. writes that Belafonte has historical ignorance to add to his other stellar qualities:
Belafonte needs to get his facts straight about house slaves.Many ex-house slaves testified as to how they hated being under the constant eye and thumb of "massa" and "missus" and envied in a way the other bondsmen's lack of that contact. House slaves turned vehemently on their ex-masters at liberation,to the shock of the latter; the former were by no means merely
Doh! Or should I say, "Dayo!"
Twelve thousand professors have signed
Two points of stupidity Horowitz misses: the report he links to does not give the name of the petition, and the petition itself is online. Online petitions have a tendency to be signed by Santa Claus and I. P. Freely; unnamed petitions can neither be signed nor properly critiqued.
October 20, 2002
For the first time in
For the first time in a decade, Harvard has slipped to second place in a national diversity survey. Yes, there is such a thing as a national diversity survey. And no, it is not concerned with how many points of view are represented on a given campus. What is it concerned with? Why, the number of black students who enroll, of course. The survey is conducted by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, so it's easy to see where its bias--I mean focus--comes from.
Last year, Harvard admitted 184 black students and 113 accepted the offer. The year before, 118 of 185 admitted black students enrolled. Harvard's slip is being blamed on the fallout from last year's clash between President Lawrence Summers and the rappin' philosopher Cornel West. When Summers challenged West about his priorities, suggesting he was spending too much time on the road giving talks, making CDs, and campaigning for his friends, West yelled racism and hightailed it to Princeton. The chairman of Harvard's Afro-American Studies department, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., sees a causal connection between the scandal and the numbers:
For a prospective black student, nothing is more important than their [sic] idea of the racial atmosphere at their [sic] prospective colleges .... With that dispute, a dark cloud descended over Harvard's public image of race relations, which had been nothing but stellar under President [Neil] Rudenstine.
Never mind the grammatical errors. Let's concentrate on the inadvertantly revealing phrase "Harvard's public image of race relations." Gates isn't concerned with the actual state of race relations at Harvard. He is concerned with the public image of race relations at Harvard. In the competition to see which school can celebrate diversity loudest and longest, actual race relations on campus are less important than what race relations appear to be. It's all about show. It's not about reality, but about pageantry. Diversity is ultimately about display.
Looked at this way, it's easier to see why such a stupid criterion as the number of black freshman can carry such weight in national assessments of schools' commitments to diversity. Admitting a lot of black students, rather than admitting only remarkable black students, becomes the goal. Numbers matter more than qualifications; quantity is more important than quality. It is probably also for this reason that the survey is not based on a more telling statistic--such as the percentage of black students who go on to earn their degrees from the prestigious schools that take such pride in admitting them. Those numbers would not look nearly as good.
Amiri Baraka isn't the only
Amiri Baraka isn't the only dud Poet Laureate in the U.S. California's resident Laureate of four months, Quincy Troupe, has resigned after the state Senate Rules Committee discovered that he lied on his resume. A routine background check revealed that the 62-year-old Poet Troupe did not graduate from college as he had claimed. The revelation may jeopardize Troupe's tenured position at UC San Diego, where he has taught creative writing and Caribbean literature since 1991. You can download an MP3 of Troupe reading from his work here.
This was predictable: Vanderbilt is
This was predictable: Vanderbilt is being sued by the United Daughters of the Confederacy for its decision to change the name of the campus dormitory that group helped finance 67 years ago. The building cost $150,000 to build, one third of which was paid by UDC. It is called "Confederate Memorial Hall," a name that raises all the usual hackles of politically correct faculty and students. Some black students have even refused to set foot in the building since it was renovated in 1988. Recently, university administrators caved in to pressure to change the building's name to "Memorial Hall" and to remove the word "Confederate" from the stone inscription over the entrance. In response, UDC claims that Vanderbilt is committing breach of contract.
When I read a while back that Vanderbilt was effectively rubbing out the building's history, and that this involved formally erasing its financial ties to a Confederate-affiliated organization, I thought to myself that this would not be the end of the story. And so it has not been. In the interim, I have had time to meditate on compromises that should satisfy all parties, and I offer them herewith in the hope that a balance can be struck between the rights of UDC and the moral obligation of Vanderbilt to pander to the petty political pressure exercised by radical student groups.
I begin by noting that the problem does not seem to be the fact the UDC helped pay for the dorm. What irks people is that the word "Confederate" is written in stone on the dorm. This explains why the university is seeking to allay student grievances simply by changing the building's name. It's a classic instance of the consumerist mentality of even the most politicized of today's youth. Change the label, and you change the substance. Get the word "Confederate" off the building, and the building will no longer have a historical connection to Confederate descendants or their money. It's all about brand-name recognition. Get the word "Confederate" off the building, and you'll be left with a generic substitute for offensive specifics; you'll have "Memorial Hall," in memory of nothing in particular, a memorial to the moment when its past was deliberately effaced.
With that in mind, solutions begin to appear.
1) Vanderbilt can buy UDC out--simply pay back the 50 grand (with interest) the UDC sunk into the building and then they can call the building whatever the hell they want. I vote for "Historical Revisionism Memorial Hall," or, perhaps, for "Frankly, My Dear, I Don't Give A Damn About History Memorial Hall." If Vanderbilt goes this route, it would be a nice touch if they were to whitewash the building.
2) Vanderbilt can become contractual sticklers. Since UDC paid for 1/3 of the building, they should be able to put 1/3 of the word "Confederate" on it. The options are many, but I would personally favor either "Con Memorial Hall" (to commemorate the con job that Vanderbilt is currently spearheading) or "Deface Memorial Hall" (that's more than a third, I know--but maybe Vanderbilt is feeling generous).
3) Vanderbilt can destroy 1/3 of the building, and declare that the ruined part was the part financed by UDC. Then UDC would have no claim on a name change.
4) Vanderbilt can close the dorm down and turn it into a museum dedicated to the place of hypocrisy in the history of the American South. The building itself could be Exhibit A.
Speaking of historical revisionism, Russian
Speaking of historical revisionism, Russian researchers are currently unearthing a mass grave just outside St. Petersburg. The grave, which researchers believe contains thousands of the nearly 40,000 people Stalin was said to have executed between 1937 and 1938, is seen as additional proof of Stalin's legendary "Great Terror." The New York Times reports that it is also proof of the Russian government's unwillingness to acknowledge the depths of its degraded past. The Russian security service issued a dismissive statement saying their archives contain no records of graves at the site, while military bulldozers have torn up the roads researchers need to use to get to the excavation. It's a good article about historical repression, about the longterm consequences of governmental failure to acknowledge past atrocities, and about the difficulty of remembering atrocity as such when it is kept buried beneath the surface of a nation's desire to move on.
You'd think that with all
You'd think that with all the talk of Hitler that has been circulating lately--I refer particularly to those happy analogies between Sharon and der Fuhrer and between Israel and Nazi Germany--that people would have some idea what they are saying. You might think that because so much of this talk is coming from inside universities, out of the mouths of scholars and into the heads of radicalized students hungry for a cause, that it would be accompanied by some degree of historical and philosophical comprehension. Even if you find such comparisons repellent and morally bankrupt, you might still think that there is an element of deliberate strategy to them, that on some twisted level the crazy invocation of Nazism to describe contemporary Israel is an informed one. Think again.
Twenty per cent of high school seniors think Germany was our ally during WWII. More than 33% of seniors graduating from America's top fifty colleges and universities can't name the Axis nations. This means several things:
1) Historical education in this country sucks, and it sucks all the way through the B.A. We should not be surprised. As multiculturalism takes over historical education, students are much more likely to study--and celebrate!--"diversity" than they are to learn about actual historical events. Even top colleges are more likely to require students to take a course dealing with diversity (more than 60% do, and the number is rising) than to take a straightforward course in U.S. or European history.
2) Many pro-Palestinian and anti-war protesters do not have the foggiest idea what they are talking about when they resort to that most evocative and rabble-rousing of comparisons between Israel and a Nazi state. They know such a comparison is rabble-rousing, which is why they use it. But can they develop that comparison? Can they explain what fascism is? Can they either describe how German national socialism evolved into genocidal totalitarianism or explain how Israel's democratic government can be seen as a fascist state? No, no, and no.
3) Colleges and universities are failing students in unconscionable, possibly actionable, ways. The push to see Israel as an essentially Nazi-type regime is coming from the faculty, particularly those who teach in Middle East studies departments.
4) We are, as a country, collectively forgetting not only the most significant moments in recent Western history (thus making it possible for the worst moments of that history to repeat themselves), but we are also losing touch with the founding principles of this country. We are so busy massaging the notion that America is terrible, awful, racist-classist-sexist-imperialist--sending this message has become a mission in our schools--that we are not taking time to appreciate, or even comprehend, what this country is founded upon, and why that matters.
Read what the government is doing to try to reverse this scary trend toward massive national forgetfulness in this NRO piece.
October 19, 2002
Commenting on Judith Rodin's refusal
Commenting on Judith Rodin's refusal to divest Penn from Israel, Sean Lee writes:
Rodin should have responded:
"We will continue to do business with Israel because they are a DEMOCRACY that encourages Capitalism." END OF STORY.
We must continue to fight those who push big government and higher taxes here in the USA. We must reduce poverty through education and job training. Our nation's founders never envisioned an America with cradle to grave entitlements.
We must have University Presidents who embrace the concepts of:
1. small limited government,
2. low taxes (taxes only used for national defense, infrastructure, scientific research grants and essential services only),
3. school vouchers to help the disadvantaged kids and improve all schools.
4. support Capitalism and have Charitable organizations handle those who need temporary assistance (no more Socialism that the Communists and Clintons endorse).
Libertarian university presidents? I hope I live to see the day....
October 18, 2002
NYU law student Aaron Nagano
NYU law student Aaron Nagano has an update on the law school faculty's unwillingness to debate the issue of whether the military should be allowed to recruit on campus. If Nagano's summary of University of Chicago professor Richard Epstein's comments on anti-discrimination law and the proper role of the university is any indicator of how forceful the man is in person, it isn't hard to see why no one on NYU's law faculty wanted to debate him. The good news is that students attended the event and asked questions. The questions themselves reveal a disturbing attachment to the notion that the right thing to do with objectionable ideas is to ban them, but students' willingness to subject that notion to public scrutiny shows a commitment to reasoned debate that puts the faculty's comparative anti-intellectual arrogance to shame.
You'll find living proof of
You'll find living proof of Erin's points about ed school in this Daily Pennsylvanian op-ed piece by Hilal Nakiboglu, a second-year U. Penn doctoral student in higher education management. Thanking her parents for their foresight in sending her to an all-female high school, Nakiboglu reflects ironically on the opportunities she missed by not going co-ed:
I miss[ed] out on the pompomed-sporting events, I also missed a prime chance to develop an eating disorder. I missed out on being subjected to imbalanced classroom dynamics and sexist teachers. I missed out on the chance to decide that I was inept at math or science. And on the opportunity to realize that I wasn't beautiful, curvy, thin or fill-in-the-blank enough.
Given her single-sex educational experience, one wonders how Nakiboglu can state with such certainty that America's co-ed schools are bastions of anorexia, sexism, and plummeting female self-esteem. It turns out that she's read (and has most likely been taught) the American Association of University Women's report "How Schools Shortchange Girls," which she proceeds to cite liberally:
According to the AAUW, transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is especially rough on girls. The report chronicles a serious loss of overall self-confidence with an especially marked drop in perceived ability to perform well in science and math.
Adolescence is the time when girls learn to be dangerously critical of their appearance and their bodies. They decide they are not smart enough and become increasingly silent in class. For them, it's a time of self-censorship and is discerned by a sad shift away from a positive self-image.
Young girls especially leave their adolescent years behind with low expectations of themselves. They, according to the AAUW report, are more depressed than their male counterparts and are four times more likely than them to attempt suicide.
The adolescent girls captured in the study overwhelmingly said they felt "not good enough" or "not smart enough" to be successful. Not surprisingly, they tended to underscore the importance of their physical attributes. Most offered a component of their appearance as their best trait. Meanwhile the boys stressed their "talents," be they athletic or intellectual.
Nakiboglu would do well to read more about this AAUW report before reciting it like hallowed doctrine. In particular, Nakiboglu should read Christina Hoff Sommers' Who Stole Feminism? and The War Against Boys, books that meticulously itemize the enormous methodological flaws and ideological distortions in this study (and others like it). As Hoff Sommers puts it in her Atlantic Monthly article "The War Against Boys": "The research commonly cited to support the claims of male privilege and sinfulness is riddled with errors. Almost none of it has been published in professional peer-reviewed journals. Some of the data are mysteriously missing. Yet the false picture remains and is dutifully passed along in schools of education, in 'gender-equity' workshops, and increasingly to children themselves."
Nakiboglu and her peers received this "research" through their participation in a prestigous Ivy League doctoral program. Because it came from an authoritative, trusted source, they unthinkingly integrated it into their writing, their politics, and their teaching. I don't directly blame Nakiboglu for her presumption that "How Schools Shortchange Girls" is an objective, fair, and well-intentioned report: It is intended to come across as such, especially to the naive and receptive feminist doctoral student. I blame established feminist academics (such as Carol Gilligan) who perpetuate the myth that America's school system is a patriarchal conspiracy designed to systematically ruin girls' health, lower their self-esteem, and minimize their career prospects; I blame the ed school professors who pointedly ignore articles and books that challenge and counter such mythmaking, professors who choose instead to present biased feminist ideology as objective, impartial truth.
At the end of her editorial, Nakiboglu congratulates herself and other Penn women for "beating the odds" and making it to college. Feminist self-congratulation all round. However, when one looks at nationwide undergraduate demographics one finds that it is actually Penn men who are beating the odds. In 1997, 55% of America's full-time enrolled undergraduate students were female, 45% were male. Studies predict that the proportion of women in college will continue to rise throughout this decade; by the year 2010, a whopping 66% of America's undergraduate students will be female. This means that in eight more years, women will outnumber men on campuses by a ratio of two to one. This means that if you have a a young son and daughter, your daughter is twice as likely to get a college education. Her future is safe in the hands of upcoming school administrators such as Nakiboglu, who concludes her op-ed by encouraging women to be "mindful of ourselves and attuned to each other." You might ask who will be mindful of and attuned to your son as he makes his way through school. Who will help him beat the odds? Nobody, it seems, but a handful of "right-wing reactionaries" whose sacreligious books will never see the light of day on an ed school syllabus.
Truly progressive thinkers about the
Truly progressive thinkers about the sorry state of American education will tell you that ed schools should not be gateways to the classroom. Radical thinkers about the sorry state of American education will tell you that ed schools should be banned from the planet. Ed schools are corrupt and pointless professional holding pens; they take your money, they teach you to spout platitudes about diversity and self-esteem, and they send you out into the schools, credentialled, incompetent, and responsible for the intellectual future of the country. Most people who ought to be teachers can't stomach the thought of ed school. Those who go to ed school--it has been shown--are below average students themselves. Care to fume a bit more on a quiet Friday afternoon? Check out this NRO column by Peter Wood.
UPDATE: Things aren't looking too good in Scotland, either. It seems that nearly half the students training to be teachers at Aberdeen have inadequate writing skills. Thanks to Mike Z. for the link.
One small step for creationism,
One small step for creationism, one giant step backward for science education. Caving in to the pressure of--let's be frank--an uninformed and wilfully obtuse public, the Ohio Department of Education has voted unanimously to require evolution not to be taught as fact, but as a controversy in which there are many competing, equally valid views. Apparently 82% of Ohioans think that curricular treatment of the origins of life should not be confined to evolutionary theory. The numbers reflect a national consensus--one that in turn reflects an overwhelming and troubling disconnect between the general education level of the American people and the current state of science. Evolution is only controversial to people who are more inclined to superstition than reason; our schools are catering to the public's desire to believe in magic when it passes measures such as these. Despite what postmodernism and multiculturalism want us to believe, there is such a thing as truth, and there are such things as facts. Truth can be differentiated from falsehood, and we can tell the difference between facts and fallacies. Evolution is a fact. Creationism--or "intelligent design" as the current newspeak has it--is a fallacy.
John Leo writes on creative
John Leo writes on creative coercion in the law, at school, in the home, and especially in speech. Lots of stuff on censorship and on schools.
University of Pennsylvania President Judith
University of Pennsylvania President Judith Rodin opposes divestment. In a detailed piece in today's Daily Pennsylvanian, Rodin explains:
Because Penn defends freedom of expression as a core academic and societal value, we will not use the power of the University either to stifle political debates or to endorse hostile measures against any country or its citizens.
Divestiture is an extreme measure to be adopted rarely and only under the most unusual circumstances. Certainly, many countries involved in the current Middle East dispute have been aggressors and calls for divestment against them have been notably absent.
Divestment also runs counter to the University of Pennsylvania's long-held position that investment decisions are best guided by the University's fiduciary responsibilities to its donors, students and employees, and by its overarching institutional responsibility as an educational and research institution to remain unbiased and non-partisan in the pursuit of knowledge. The policy, "Response by the University as an Institution to External Issues," itself can be found in the Feb. 3, 1998, edition of the Almanac.
Therefore, the University of Pennsylvania will not support divestment from Israel, boycotts of Israeli scholars and scientists, or any effort to stifle the free expression of diverse ideas and opinions about the Middle East conflict by our faculty and students.
There she is, practical and principled. Love the way she reads the divestment campaign as a giant attempt at censorship, the pot of repression at the end of the speech-code rainbow. She's right that the people who support the one do tend to support the other. Rodin also explains why she was not one of the university administrators who signed the October 7 New York Times ad denouncing anti-Semitism on campus:
While I personally endorse the substance of the American Jewish Committee statement against intimidation of Jewish and Zionist students and faculty, I and many other current presidents refused to add our names to the statement because we felt the ad was unbalanced -- particularly after a year in which Arab and Muslim students on Penn's campus have been subjected to at least as much harassment and intimidation as Jewish students. Reportedly, despite requests from several presidents, the authors of the statement refused to broaden its language to recognize this fact.
My overriding responsibility as Penn's president is to protect all of our students from intimidation and threats of violence. I believe the best way to do this is to expose the haters and intimidators to the public scrutiny of their peers.
Safety and security are prerequisites of academic life -- and universities and colleges go to great lengths to protect our students from harm -- but that is not the same as assuring that they always feel comfortable. As we learned during the era of campus speech codes, the fastest way to empower and embolden hatred and intimidation is to try to suppress it. Learning how to bring hatred and intolerance into the light of day and to engage its emotions, arguments and rhetoric with reason and evidence may involve confrontation and discomfort, but it inevitably strengthens our students and institutions for the responsibilities of citizenship and civic engagement we all share. Invariably, hateful ideas will crumble under the weight of relentless scrutiny and informed debate.
There's more, all wise. Rodin came to Penn in the wake of what is probably this country's most infamous episode of politically correct intolerance, the Water Buffalo Affair. Her presence at Penn is predicated on her belief in academic freedom and her willingness to uphold the principles of free speech and open expression. She has taken a lot of heat for that, as there are still plenty of would-be censors among Penn faculty and students. But she stands firm in the face of pressure to protect the wounded sensibilities of various outspoken campus groups; she has consistently recognized, and consistently said, that the best way to combat hate is not through suppression, but through public discrediting. And so she does again this morning:
We certainly do not remain aloof from the pain felt by groups and individuals who are the targets of threats or hate speech, or from their deeply felt concerns for their own safety. But I will not respond to intimidation with more intimidation. Others may do as their own sense of professional responsibility dictates, but I will stay the course of encouraging, rather than discouraging, the most robust and engaged debate possible -- even, and especially, with those who would seek to intimidate or threaten their opponents. Public confrontation is their greatest enemy, not presidential statements.
Finally, we all should recognize that neither Penn nor any other institution has the power to ban hatred; rather, we believe that the appropriate role of an academic institution is to counter hatred and intimidation by empowering our students with the knowledge, self-confidence, and critical thinking skills they need to defeat hate.
Harvard's Lawrence Summers has become a bit of folk hero for his condemnation of the divestment drive as anti-Semitic, and for his refusal to be bullied by Cornel West. Judith Rodin has been around longer, and has consistently occupied her post with the sort of dignity and clarity that she shows here. She's the highest paid university president in the country (in 2001-2, her total compensation package was just over $808,000). There's a reason for that.
Martin Kramer gives a hard-hitting
Martin Kramer gives a hard-hitting rundown of the early days of Daniel Pipes' notorious Campus Watch. Kramer is in fine sardonic fettle, describing in delicious detail the public contortions Campus Watch produced in the academics it outraged:
Nothing confers more prestige on an academic than putative status as a victim of some right-wing conspiracy. It's probably the shortest route to academic power, tenure included. It was no surprise, then, when a hundred academics submitted their names for inclusion. These people sign their names to activist petitions all the time, and many were clearly anxious join the list, so as to bask in the admiration of their colleagues. Alas, Campus Watch abolished the list after about a week, and the disappointment of the tenured radicals was palpable.
As for the actual targets of Campus Watchóthe egregious eight and their colleaguesóthey can hardly be faulted for hitting back. But the way a few of them did it exemplifies the very flaws that Campus Watch promises to expose. The responses thus open yet another window on the Escheresque world inhabited by the mandarins of Middle Eastern studies. Let's peer through it for a moment.
Go peer. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and then your blood will boil.
Joseph Sabia offers some interesting
Joseph Sabia offers some interesting thoughts on why the gay community appears to be taking a right turn.
October 17, 2002
Damien Hirst, the British artist
Damien Hirst, the British artist famed for including sliced animal carcasses in his installations, congratulated the 9/11 terrorists last month for their "visually stunning" attack on the World Trade Centers. New Zealand artist Gail Haffern hailed the same attack as "wonderful ... because it was a new idea"; German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen called the World Trade Center devastation "the greatest work of art ever." Deplorable as these statements are, I'm less interested in their callous detachment than in how they continue a distinct intellectual trajectory that started long before 9/11, one that can partly explain the academic and artistic left's heartless response to that tragedy. Stepping back to the late 1980s, one finds intellectuals and artists becoming obsessed with aestheticizing (in fashionable academic prose, art galleries, and elsewhere) headily sensationalistic combinations of death, mutilation, disease, monstrosity, torture, sadomasochistic gay pornography -- anything, in fact, that was likely to shock and disturb a supposedly bourgeois, heteronormative sensibility. That trend largely sustained American cultural studies and the "Britpop" art scene through the 1990s, with artists and academics vying to out-shock, out-transgress, and out-perform each other. It's hardly surprising, then, that these artists and intellectuals take such an eagerly twisted view of the 9/11 massacres: the crashing planes, the crumpling buildings, the slaughtered victims are to their eyes a grand aesthetic spectacle, fodder for their twisted creative and theoretical appetites. But Charles Paul Freund points to ominous historical parallels, arguing that these trends "represent an aesthetic barbarity not evident since the painters and writers of prewar Italy and France celebrated violence, destruction and martial strength as necessary to create a fascist order. These, too, saw something positive -- something wonderfully aesthetic -- in force, blood and mayhem, which is why the German critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin charged fascism with 'aestheticizing' its repellent politics." If Freund is correct -- and I think he is -- what we're seeing is a re-emergence of a fascistic aesthetic that seeks to build character through inurement, that tries to blunt emotional and aesthetic sensibilities, that would take away any capacity for empathy. The implications of this are deeply frightening.
An English couple has filed
An English couple has filed England's first ever "wrongful adoption" lawsuit. Seems they got themselves a wild child who made their lives hell. He was--is--violent and uncontrollable; has attacked other kids and has threatened to kill his pregnant adoptive mother's unborn child. He vandalizes the house he lives in, and has tried to kill his adoptive father with a carving knife. No behavioral problems or warning signs were mentioned when the couple adopted the boy seven years ago. Now they want restitution--and say unequivocally that they would not have adopted the boy if they had known what they were getting. I feel for the parents. But I feel worse for the kid who is treated like a defective product. The parents' anger comes from their belief that they were cheated, that they were the victims of false advertising; it comes, in short, from a consumerist mentality that sees orphans as off-the-rack commodities. Their son was a disappointment. He was broken before they even got him home. And now they want a refund. There is no question the son is sick. But the parents don't seem to be models of mental health, either.
The suit follows on the heels of the House of Lords' thoroughly noxious debate on the subject of gay adoption. Yesterday, in a fine display of overbred narrowmindedness, the House of Lords voted down a proposal to extend adoption rights to gay and unmarried couples. It seems their reactionary principles trump the needs of kids and the very real love that gay and unmarried couples have to give them.
Stories like these make me think of Dickens, who did orphans better than anybody. There is a fabulous scene in his last novel, Our Mutual Friend, in which a nouveau riche couple, flush with the desire to do good, goes shopping for an orphan. The description is priceless (which is part of Dickens' point):
Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, sitting side by side, with Fashion withdrawn to an immeasurable distance, fell to discussing how they could best find their orphan. Mrs. Boffin suggested advertisement in the newspapers, requesting orphans answering annexed description to apply at the Bower on a certain day; but Mr. Boffin wisely apprehending obstruction of the neighbouring thoroughfares by orphan swarms, this course was negatived. Mrs. Boffin next suggested application to their clergyman for a likely orphan.
They duly apply to the Reverend Frank Milvey, who eagerly accepts the job of orphan headhunter:
"We have orphans, I know," pursued Mr. Milvey, quite with the air as if he might have added, "in stock," and quite as anxiously as if there were great competition in the business and he were afraid of losing an order, "over at the clay-pits; but they are employed by relations or friends, and I am afraid it would come at last to a transaction in the way of barter. And even if you exchanged blankets for the child---or books and firing---it would be impossible to prevent their being turned into liquor."
Accordingly, it was resolved that Mr. and Mrs. Milvey should search for an orphan likely to suit, and as free as possible from the foregoing objections, and should communicate again with Mrs. Boffin. Then, Mr. Boffin took the liberty of mentioning to Mr. Milvey that if Mr. Milvey would do him the kindness to be perpetually his banker to the extent of "a twenty-pound note or so," to be expended without any reference to him, he would be heartily obliged. At this, both Mr. Milvey and Mrs. Milvey were quite as much pleased as if they had no wants of their own, but only knew what poverty was, in the persons of other people; and so the interview terminated with satisfaction and good opinion on all sides.
Later, we are told of the Reverend Milvey's search for a suitable orphan:
Mr. and Mrs. Milvey had found their search a diffcult one. Either an eligible orphan was of the wrong sex (which almost always happened) or was too old, or too young, or too sickly, or too dirty, or too much accustomed to the streets, or too likely to run away; or, it was found impossible to complete the philanthropic transaction without buying the orphan. For, the instant it became known that anybody wanted the orphan, up started some affectionate relative of the orphan who put a price upon the orphan's head. The suddenness of an orphan's rise in the market was not to be paralleled by the maddest records of the Stock Exchange. He would be at five thousand per cent. discount out at nurse making a mud pie at nine in the morning, and (being inquired for) would go up to five thousand per cent. premium before noon. The market was "rigged" in various artful ways. Counterfeit stock got into circulation. Parents boldly represented themselves as dead, and brought their orphans with them. Genuine orphan-stock was surreptitiously withdrawn from the market. It being announced, by emissaries posted for the purpose, that Mr. and Mrs. Milvey were coming down the court, orphan scrip would be instantly concealed, and production refused, save on a condition usually stated by the brokers as a "a gallon of beer." Likewise, fluctuations of a wild and South-Sea nature were occasioned, by orphan-holders keeping back, and then rushing into the market a dozen together. But, the uniform principle at the root of all these various operations was bargain and sale; and that principle could not be recognized by Mr. and Mrs. Milvey.
You'll have to read Our Mutual Friend to find out what happens with the Boffins' quest for an orphan. But it's worth noting in the meantime that the commercial mentality surrounding adoption is an old and ugly thing, one the courts should not now reward.
Michelle Goldberg explains how America-hating
Michelle Goldberg explains how America-hating fringe groups are driving the anti-war agenda.
Bill Clinton is to be
Bill Clinton is to be inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. He is the first non-black person to be so honored. He is also, if Toni Morrison is to be believed, "our first black president."
Maurice notes that Noam Chomsky
Maurice notes that Noam Chomsky appears to be a bit behindhand in his understanding of data encryption technology. I note, in turn, that a man of Chomsky's powers of rhetorical obfuscation has no need for AES. Academic jargon, it might well be said, is an encryption technology unto itself--one so powerful that no one, not even its own authors, can decode it. When Chomsky tells The Guardian that he "stay[s] transparent," he sounds just a little bit like Bill Clinton swearing that he did not have sexual intercourse with that woman.
Here's the Washington Times' post-mortem
Here's the Washington Times' post-mortem on the recent civil liberties debacle at Washington University at St. Louis' law school. The article gives due credit to FIRE's role in helping the Student Bar Association see the illegal error of its illiberal ways. Pity, though, that they get the name of FIRE's president wrong (for the record, it's Alan Charles Kors, not Charles Kors). But as FIRE's reputation spreads, such mishaps will become fewer and further between.
The Guardian quizzes Noam Chomsky
The Guardian quizzes Noam Chomsky about his Internet and e-mail habits. "Do you encrypt?" they ask. "I stay transparent," Chomsky replies. "When I was organising resistance against the government I was open -- that's the best protection. Somebody will be able to overcome any encryption technique you use! Our only weapons are truth, honesty and openness."
It would seem that Noam has not been keeping tabs on cutting-edge cryptographic research. The number of possible keys in the new 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is 1 followed by 77 zeros, a figure that approximates the total number of atoms in the known universe. If all the computers on earth were to cooperate, they could not break this ecryption code for trillions of years. Don't worry, Noam -- your secrets are safe with AES.
Lest Noam require further assurance that he can encrypt his anti-governmental activities with impunity, he should read Salon.com's "The Encrypted Jihad."
"He started out as an
"He started out as an avowed socialist who believed that the good society was one in which a few wise men made most social, economic, and political decisions. Over the years, he gravitated toward a libertarian position that holds that individuals should be as free as possible to make their own tradeoffs." Now he's a Nobel laureate. Reason interviews George Mason University economist Vernon Smith.
The humanist side of the
The humanist side of the academy has not been a viable marketplace of ideas for some time now. That's why campus "debate" on the Middle East has been so morally and informationally impoverished. And that's why, if one wants to see the marketplace of ideas at work on the most pressing issue of our time, one has to look to the internet. Here's Eric Raymond's "Anti-Idiotarian Manifesto, Version 2." And here's N.Z. Bear's remarkable response. You guys rock. You should found a college. You can call it Anti-Idiotarian State. I'll come teach English there if you'll have me.
Powerful piece by Murray Soupcoff
Powerful piece by Murray Soupcoff on "Leftwing McCarthyism". Soupcoff traces how namecalling has become the left's favored means of silencing and discrediting opposing viewpoints:
... what name calling would we be referring to? Why the use of such pleasant labels of disapprobation as right wing, right winger, right of center, far right, rightist, reactionary, extremist, fanatic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, anti-female, etc., etc., etc. Of late, even the term "conservative" has increasingly been tainted in everyday discourse.
Use of such adjectives in a derogatory and detracting manner has increasingly been employed by the liberal-Left for such varied purposes as marginalizing Republican candidates for office, justifying the denial of judicial appointments to strict constitutionalist judges in the U.S. Senate, and stifling debate on liberal college campuses.
Of course, what it all comes down to is reverse McCarthyism. Plain and simple, liberals have made it a risky business to espouse conservative opinions in legal contexts, in the mainstream media or on college campuses. And that's for fear of the targets of liberal wrath being politically lynchedótarred with one of the many nasty labels employed by the liberal-Left to marginalize and disarm any opponents it can't otherwise deal with.
As already indicated, we're of course taking about such common ever-so-polite liberal-leftist appellations as "extremist", "fanatic", "racist", or "homophobic"óas in "right-wing extremist", "conservative fanatic", "hateful racist" and "homophobic right winger". Having one of these labels applied to you in mainstream North American society these days is a unique kind of status degradation ceremonyóalmost the equivalent of experiencing a secular excommunication or modern-day shunning. For these days, such loosely-applied labels as "right winger", "reactionary", "extremist", "racist", "misogynist", and "homophobic" prescriptively imply that the stigmatized person is so irrational, unfair, selfish, ignorant and cruel as to be beyond the moral pale. Built into such judgmental labels is the ideologically-charged assumption that anyone espousing such "hateful" views must be so twisted and pathological as to be some kind of subhuman monsteróthe left's ingenious method for 'Hitlerfying' (and thus stigmatizing) any dissent against their prevailing orthodoxies.
As many a victim of such political labeling has discoveredóespecially in legal circles or on college campusesóthe unspoken intention of such prescriptive labels is to de-legitimize in the eyes of their peers (or potential employers) these selected "deviants", and to strip away any and all credibility from the ideas or opinions expressed by such individualsóattempting to somehow identify them with cataclysmic outpourings of hate, extremism and wrongdoing in the past. In other words, this Orwellian corruption of language is used to stigmatize any vocal dissenters from the liberal orthodoxy as dangerous social reprobates so morally bankrupt they're not worthy of even being given a hearing.
In honor of one academic's recent achievements in the field of leftwing McCarthyism, Critical Mass recently created the Gilmore Awards. All nominations are accepted all the time.
When David Horowitz gets dissed
When David Horowitz gets dissed by the left, he tends to devote excessive space to it on his webzine, Front Page Magazine. Often, his detailed enumerations of the many ways he has been wronged by nasty comments devolves into a peculiarly bureaucratic bathos, a uniquely Horowitzian combination of self-pity and obsessive documentation. But there are times when one is grateful for Horowitz's attention to detail, when one thanks him heartily for his utter inability, even at this advanced moment in his long public career, to let things go. Today is one such day. Check out Horowitz's account of his recent visit to Emory University and its aftermath. Horowitz spoke there earlier this month, and his visit was the first stand alone visit by a conservative speaker since Ward Connerly was booed off the stage in 1988. Certain people, led by the president of the Black Student Alliance, did not like that Horowitz was coming to campus, and sought to control what he would and would not discuss. They then monitored his speech, and when Horowitz spoke about such touchy issues as reparations and suicide bombing, they raised hell with the administration, calling Horowitz's visit an "outrage," accusing Horowitz of racism, and demanding that the College Republicans, who financed the talk, be punished and fined. Horowitz reprints the Orwellian screed the Black Student Alliance sent out after he spoke, and he responds in characteristic, exhaustive detail.
One thing that emerges loud and clear: it is not just politically correct professors who are threatening civil liberties on campus. Sometimes--even oftentimes--students lead the neo-fascist charge. This was true recently at Washington University at St. Louis' law school, and it is true now at Emory. Often, the vitriolic and damaging intolerance exhibited by so-called progressive student groups doesn't come in for the criticism that it should. There is an unspoken rule on campuses that students are not to be called to task when they overstep; everyone is supposed to bend over backwards to respect their learning process and their feelings and their energy, even when what they are learning is to be self-righteous censors, even when their energy is fuelled by hate and a desire for power. This is especially true when the progressive group is made up of "oppressed" people. To criticize them is to wound them; to insist that they be held accountable is to be insensitive to their historical and personal pain. Mewling and whining about one's victimhood and one's institutional disempowerment are time-honored techniques by which students refuse accountability while seeking, simultaneously, to control others. Horowitz could not care less about such claptrap and he has nothing but contempt for its punitive and power-hungry agenda. Frankly, it's nice to see him let the Black Student Alliance have it. They had it coming.
October 16, 2002
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that renovations to Bennett Hall, the Penn English Department's building, won't happen anytime soon. This is no surprise. What is surprising is the article's opening sentence: "As professors in Huntsman Hall adjust their electronic podiums to prepare for an in-class video teleconference, their colleagues a few blocks down the street still struggle to present simple PowerPoint lectures." This is highly irresponsible journalism on the DP's behalf -- the writer evidently doesn't realize that few people in Bennett Hall even know what PowerPoint is. A more realistic version of this sentence would read: "As professors in Huntsman Hall adjust their electronic podiums to prepare for an in-class video teleconference, their colleagues a few blocks down the street still struggle to decode e-mail attachments, create basic Web pages, and add students to class listservs."
The author should also realize that architectural opulence does not ensure technological acumen. All the electronic podia and the in-class video teleconferencing facilities in the world won't compensate for the institutionalized technophobia that is virtually ubiquitous among English department faculty.
You can read a report
You can read a report on last night's "Is War Necessary?" teach-in at the University of Oregon here. Five professors from the University's Concerned Faculty for Peace and Justice spoke on topics ranging from how the U.S.'s woeful dependency on oil affects foreign policy to how attacking Iraq would jeopardize the security of everyday Americans and increase anti-American sentiment. The money shot was delivered by political science professor Jane Cramer, whose capacity for moral equivocation and wildly illogical conjecture far surpassed even the considerable abilities of her colleagues. Here is the Daily Emerald's account of her talk:
Political science Assistant Professor Jane Cramer said attacking Iraq because of Saddam Hussein's alleged connection to terrorism would be a mistake.
"We have to evaluate what kind of connection (Hussein) would possibly want," she said.
Cramer added it is unlikely that al-Qaida -- which is a fundamentalist group -- would support a secular ruler like Hussein. She said al-Qaida would love for the United States to topple Hussein because a fundamentalist leader would likely be elected in his place.
I'd comment, except I'm speechless with disgust. I will note, however, that the teach-in appears to have accomplished its corrosively relativistic end. Concerned Faculty for Peace and Justice hung up a poster where attendees could record their comments. Among them: "Iraq soldiers bleed and Iraqi families grieve, just as we do."
Last week, Law & Order:
Last week, Law & Order: Criminal Intent did the Cornel West Debacle. The Harvard Crimson has the details:
... the episodeís plot bore an uncanny resemblance to the West-Summers incident last spring that resulted in Westís departure for Princeton.
The Sunday show, which was seen in more than 10 million homes, opened with the news that the American Studies department chair at the fictional Hudson University would be retiring.
American Studies professor Sanders, who sports an afro and a goatee and who recently released a rap C.D. he calls ìdanceable education,î is a candidate for the post. But conflict ensues when university president Winthrop criticizes what he calls Sandersí focus on non-academic issuesóconcern that Sanders says is motivated by racism.
During a reception for the outgoing department chair, Winthrop says of the absent Sanders: ìAnd where is he today? Heís probably still working on that rap record.î
Later, during a heated meeting between the two in Sandersí office, Winthrop says, ìI expect my professors to be in the classroom teaching.î
To which Sanders replies, ìI am not your professor. Just because you run this university like a plantation doesnít mean youíre the massah and Iím yoí field-haní.î
Sanders then threatens to leave if he is not given the chairmanship, at which point the plot veers substantially from realityóWinthrop is murdered by a love-struck graduate student seduced by a visiting (and mass-murdering) Oxford professor. Although Sanders is initially a suspect, he is later cleared.
In the real-life scenario, Westówho also keeps a goatee and afro, and who released a ìspoken wordî CD last Novemberóleft an October meeting with Summers alleging he had ìdisrespectedî him by calling into question the quality of his work.
I have long thought that academe is stranger than fiction. Now the networks seem to think so, too. The appearance of last year's West-Summers clash on TV speaks to several things: 1) Petty academic intrigue is no longer slipping beneath the radar--we all know what it is, we all agree it exists, and we all have a low opinion of it; 2) Petty academic intrigue is becoming part of our pop cultural canon--far from finding it arcane and easily dismissable, we find it imaginatively resonant; it speaks to us and we recognize ourselves and our lives in it; we are ready to see it become the stuff of televised drama; 3) The resonance petty academic intrigue has for us is inseparable from two of the biggest trouble spots in our culture: political correctness and racial opportunism. In other words, the reality of contemporary academe is acquiring a symbolic signficance within American culture as a whole. It's becoming a parable of how not to live and an object-lesson in the personal, political, and institutional costs of rank hypocrisy. In this, ironically, it is finally becoming the thing it most wants to be: crucially relevant to society.
Someone should write a book
Someone should write a book about legal education in the U.S. PC on campus is one thing. But PC legal education is something else again. What's scary about the stories coming out about law school insanity--I am thinking not just of the recent outrages at Washington University at St. Louis, but also of the brewing storm of stupidity at NYU as reported by Stanley Kurtz--is that the people involved have such close ties to how existing law is interpreted and to what new laws will be made. Watching the law students at WUSTL utterly fail to comprehend such basic legal concepts as the First Amendment and viewpoint discrimination was chilling. Watching the law faculty at NYU refuse to debate University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein on the issue of military recruitment on campus--even as they sign petitions opposing it--is even more chilling. When students are painfully clueless, we look to their teachers (and I do hope that WUSTL is looking hard at a law school faculty that is not teaching its students about the First Amendment). But when faculty are clueless (i.e., incompetent), where are we to turn? They are the teachers, the mentors, the guides, the examples, and in a very real way, the gatekeepers. And at NYU they are saying as loudly as they can that some issues are not up for debate, that some positions do not need to be defended or discussed, that the exchange of ideas does not matter as much as having an inflexible opinion, that they cannot be bothered to explain themselves, and that opposing views are beneath their notice. I would say that such intolerance is itself beneath notice--except that the people who are practising it are also those who are responsible for training the next generation of lawyers, judges, and, yes, law professors.
UPDATE: My mom writes in to say Epstein should take a page out of Alan Dershowitz's book and debate an empty chair. I second that motion.
UPDATED UPDATE: Lane McFadden, an NYU law alum, has more.
Step 1: Blame America. Germaine
Step 1: Blame America. Germaine Greer suggests that the Bali massacre happened only because Australia has repeatedly offered military support to American-led campaigns. If only Australia's politicians and military leaders hadn't been so foolish, Greer laments, their country would still be the land of sun, beer, and "No worries, mate." This is terrorist appeasement at its finest.
Step 2: Blame the media. Greer explains that rising tension between Australian Muslims and non-Muslims is "fuelled by media massaging of deplorable cases of gang-rapes of girls who happened to be Christian by boys who happened to be Muslim." Greer reaches remarkable levels of denial here, deploring the act of rape but denying evident racial causality. Even the Guardian attributes racial motives to these sex attacks: "During the rapes teenage girls were threatened at gunpoint, beaten, insulted, forced to perform oral sex and raped by up to 14 boys at a time. In a particularly inflammatory twist, several of the victims were subjected to a barrage of racist taunts by their assailants, all of whom were from Lebanese backgrounds" (my emphasis). I'd love to see Greer explain personally to these poor girls that they "just happened to be Christian" while their attackers "just happened to be Muslim."
The Royal Society of Chemistry
The Royal Society of Chemistry has awarded an honorary fellowship to Sherlock Holmes. The rationale? It's elementary: Holmes was a great, if fictional, man. According to the society secretary,
Had Holmes really been a flesh and blood hero like Brunel or Livingstone, other Victorian greats, he would unquestionably have been honoured publicly.
His creator was honoured by Edward VII in 1902 after the hound was tracked down.
Now, a 100 years on in 2002, we are stretching the rules slightly, tongue very slightly in cheek, to say to the world, here was a great man who selflessly pursued bad people on behalf of the good, using science, courage and crystal clear thought processes to achieve his goals.
Ah, but this is not entirely so. If Holmes could discern your mother's maiden name just by looking at your hat, he also did more than a little of his detecting while high on cocaine (the stories are full of references to Holmes' beloved seven per-cent solution). The Holmes stories are as much about addiction as they are about detection--which puts a bit of a cramp in the notion that Conan Doyle's creation can be held up as a model professional. Unless of course the Royal Society is trying to send a subversive message about the intellectual benefits of altering one's body chemistry.
Watch Thomas Friedman turn moral
Watch Thomas Friedman turn moral pirouettes today addressing Israel divestiture campaigns on college campuses. Friedman first issues a stern memo to the pro-divestment camp:
Memo to professors and students leading the divestiture campaign: Your campaign for divestiture from Israel is deeply dishonest and hypocritical, and any university that goes along with it does not deserve the title of institution of higher learning.
One imagines Edward Said and Noam Chomsky spitting horrified coffee over their morning newspapers. The Times? But memo the second, to anti-divestment campaigners, will put the smile back on their faces:
Memo to Israel's supporters: Just because there are anti-Semites who blame Israel for everything that is wrong does not mean that whatever Israel does is right, or in its self-interest, or just. The settlement policy Israel has been pursuing is going to lead to the demise of the Jewish state. No, settlements are not the reason for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but to think they do not exacerbate it, and are not locking Israel into a permanent occupation, is also dishonest.
Beautiful. Friedman's strident tone serves only to conceal his moral relativism: Divestiture campaigners should reflect on their hypocritical political bias ("How is it that Egypt imprisons the leading democracy advocate in the Arab world, after a phony trial, and not a single student group in America calls for divestiture from Egypt?" he asks); yet anti-divestiture campaigners should reflect as well, both on the sins of Israel and on the "extremists within their own camp." Stir in a reference to the Bush Administration's "diplomacy of benign neglect" on Israel/Palestine relations and you have a perfect New York Times editorial: smug and morally superior, yet ambivalent and relativist. The only truth, it seems, is that Dubya is always wrong.
Thomas Sowell suggests that the
Thomas Sowell suggests that the Bali disaster offers those who adopted a blame-the-victim stance toward 9/11 a chance to reconsider their position.
Wendy McElroy demands that we
Wendy McElroy demands that we exorcise the PC attitudes that have possessed our culture, and suggests that we begin by refusing the sick and destructive relational and intellectual patterns that PC has made respectable. These include gender bashing (not just men bashing women, but women bashing men), psychologizing disagreements (any idea or opinion you dislike signifies the psychopathology of other individuals or even whole groups), making the personal political (which licenses intrusive attempts to regulate private belief and personal choice), celebrating victimhood (which raises victims up as authorities on pain and oppression), and zero tolerance (which turns just about every part of life it touches into a war zone). McElroy's point? Eliminating PC begins at home: "Sweeping up the debris of political correctness means demolishing the laws, the institutions and the tax-funded bureaucracies that are its structure. But it also means eliminating the vicious attitudes of intolerance and anger that are its spirit."
October 15, 2002
Tonight at the University of
Tonight at the University of Oregon, Concerned Faculty for Peace and Justice will hold the first ever "Is War Necessary?" teach-in. The ostensible goal of the teach-in is to help students become more informed about the situation in the Middle East. But the title of the event and the topics to be addressed suggest that there is a definite slant built in to the teach-in's activities. According the the student-run Daily Emerald, there will be sessions on "oil resources and foreign policy, the domestic impact of the war on terrorism, preemption and international law, assessment of strategy and the geopolitical consequences of war." I'm guessing that as far as Concerned Faculty for Peace and Justice are concerned, the right answer to the question "is war necessary?" is "no."
Stanley Kurtz reports that there
Stanley Kurtz reports that there has been victory for freedom of association at Washington University at St. Louis:
Last night, after two hours of debate, the Student Bar Association of Washington University Law School voted 26-6-4 to recognize Law Students Pro-Life. Although these radical students are now talking about ìcensuringî Law Students Pro-Life, FIRE, and the Washington University Law School administration for pressuring them into this reversal, this is unquestionably a victory for freedom of speech and association in the American academy. On the other hand, the continuing resentment of leftist students who did not--and do not--understand the meaning of freedom continues to send a warning sign about how deeply the politically correct academy is damaging our society.
I'm sure FIRE will be interested in any punitive moves SBA makes toward Law Student Pro-Life. Retaliating against a group you have voted to recognize because you have voted to recognize it is not only not legal, but stooopid. It will make great copy--just like all the rest of the Student Bar Association's late idiocy. If only all ideological fools were so helpful in their own public pillorying.....
Things are getting nasty at
Things are getting nasty at Penn as the movement to unionize graduate students heats up. GET-UP (Graduate Employees Together at the University of Pennsylvania) filed two unfair labor practice charges against the university last week, alleging, essentially, that two Penn administrators are threatening financial retaliation if grad students unionize. GET-UP alleges that grad students have been threatened with reclassification (so that their taxes would increase) and with frozen stipends (so that their pay would not increase). University spokeswoman Lori Doyle says the charges are a "typical union tactic" used to "stir up visibility and support."
GET-UP--which filed its complaints with the National Labor Relations Board--is still waiting to hear from the NLRB on whether Penn grad students have a right to unionize and to hold union elections. It seems likely enough that the NLRB will approve GET-UP's bid for recognition. But no matter what is decided, one thing is sure: at Penn as at other campuses across the country, unionizing graduate students will be--indeed, already is--synonymous with institutionalizing an antagonistic relationship between grad students and the Penn administration.
Dave Barry relates the harrowing
Dave Barry relates the harrowing tale of how his column on how kids don't read newspapers became assigned reading in a Missouri school. "It is a well known educational fact that if you want young people to hate a writer, you order them to read his writing, form opinions about it, and write these opinions down under harsh classroom conditions. This is why Shakespeare is so unpopular," he writes. He then proceeds to fisk the unintentionally eloquent fiskings he received at the hands of a group of indignant eighth-graders. Assigned to respond to Barry, the students offered advice about how to get more kids to read the paper. Some pointers:
''I don't like reading about death, war and government. Write about things that we can relate to.''
''Make the newspaper more humorous, it is soooo boring. Talk about skateboarding, it is so huge now you don't even know.''
''Talk about not boring stuff. Like the peace thing. It's very important, I understand that. But it's boring.''
"Don't use jokes that we don't understand. In your article, you said, 'a much higher percentage than the general population voted for Stalin.' Who is Stalin? Put in jokes kids understand.''
''When you talk about this stuff make it interesting. Like when we kill a terrorist, don't just say he died, say he blew up in a million pieces or something like that.''
Ý''I think that one way you could improve newspaper sales to young people, would be making the paper look more appealing? Maybe some blue and red ink?
Ý''Another thing that would sell good to kids is by typing bigger.''
''Another suggestion is to make more comics, like Get Fuzzy. There shouldn't be these stupid comics about the guy who talks about nature, that comic sucks.''
Read the whole thing, and behold the intellect of America's youth at work.
Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis
Christopher Hitchens and Martin Amis lock heads over whether it is fair to compare Stalin's evil to Hitler's. The ongoing debate between the two lifelong friends has been compared to "a village cricket team that suddenly gathers in a circle of Maoist self-criticism." More accurately, it raises an important wrinkle in leftist thought--one that has to do with the left's morally equivocal habit of bracketing events in order to preserve ideology--to the level of public debate. Go boys.
Nat Hentoff writes about free
Nat Hentoff writes about free speech on campus, with particular emphasis on encouraging developments at Wesleyan. Hentoff recently delivered the Hugo Black Lecture on Free Expression there (Justice Black was the one who made state and local governments responsible for upholding the First Amendment). In his lecture, he discussed the assault on free speech that has become endemic on campuses nationwide, and spoke, too, about how real diversity is not diversity of race and gender, but of ideas. What he said took root. It led to a student paper-sponsored campuswide survey in which 32% of Wesleyan students confessed to feeling "uncomfortable speaking their opinion . . . Debate is limited to a dialogue between liberal and progressive, which has the effect of silencing any and all conservative views. When the rare conservative stance is taken, a shouting match usually results, making impossible the dialogue, which the university claims to value so highly." It led to editorials in the same student paper, on the subject of how, "In our attempts to foster discussion and wrestle with issues, we have forgotten the basic liberal tenet of promoting freedom of expression. The booming voice of the left has almost completely drowned out a considerable portion of the campus's population." The editorial further noted that "when liberals and progressives are silenced, they decry it as ignorant and unjust." Deans even joined the call for more tolerance of dissenting views at Wesleyan. Hentoff notes that there is still considerable confusion at Wesleyan about what constitutes free speech--as one student member of the Wesleyan Democrats revealingly said, "The question is how tolerant we are of intolerance. ... Personally, I'm not very supportive of homophobic, racist and xenophobic opinions. Nor do I feel necessarily inclined to provide those people with a venue for their opinions." But he concludes on a positive note, observing that the willingness to speak out and the courage to change are alive and well on at least one campus, and reminding us all that "the ultimate test of a belief in free speech should be whether it can be extended to people you hate." Our ability to understand this simple concept has been seriously eroded in recent years, particularly with all the flap about "hate speech." The idea that we must tolerate speech we find abhorrent--because it is not an act and because it is indivisible from thought and conscience, which must never be fettered--is foreign to a growing number of young people, and is being forgotten by a growing number of older people. If we want to remain free, we have to learn (or re-learn) what freedom means. This is an excellent place to start.
October 14, 2002
Welcome Andrew Sullivan readers! Learn
Welcome Andrew Sullivan readers! Learn about the Gilmore Awards here, and enjoy your stay at Critical Mass.
This is the fourth part
This is the fourth part of my blog series on the summer reading programs that many colleges and universities attach to their freshman orientations. The first three parts focused on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Summer Reading Program, looking at how, under the guise of adding some "intellectual uplift" to orientation, UNC has effectively created a mandatory diversity training program. In my last post, I suggested that diversity training that masquerades as intellectual inquiry--that takes place in the academic classroom rather than in the therapeutic workshop--is the most invidious, and most effective, kind of thought reform to be found on today's campuses. Today, I develop that claim by taking a short detour through some common teaching malpractices that come with the territory of the politicized classroom.
First, a distinction: the difference between a diversity workshop and a diversity workshop pretending to be a college course is, in effect, the difference between form and content. In the workshop, the question is one of content: what one believes. In the classroom, it is one of form: how one thinks. In the ideologically motivated workshop, one "clarifies" one's "values" in accordance with a predefined moral absolute; one learns to conform to a clearly stated set of ideological tenets that are presented as the only ethical way to look at the world. It's coercion pure and simple. In the ideologically motivated classroom, one learns to reason in such a way that one "naturally" arrives at conclusions that support a particular worldview. Certainly course content is often slanted, particularly in such fields as women's studies, ethnic studies, English, and sociology. But far more important, ultimately, than biased or partial content--than, say, a women's studies course that dispenses incorrect data about date rape, or a literature course that excludes major white male writers in order to make room for the minor, marginal voices of women and minorities--is the control the professor exerts over how the course content is understood. You can look up facts, and fill in the gaps in your reading on your own. But you can't just unlearn your ways of knowing. Your ways of knowing are a part of you in a way that dates and numbers and novels are not. By controlling the classroom in strategic ways, professors exert an enormous amount of control over how--and whether--students think.
Professors with agendas commonly establish such control by placing strategic limits on the style of class discussion. It's deceptively easy to do. In the name of "civility," or "sensitivity," you declare certain kinds of comments, or certain lines of thought, off limits. Saying that you want to create a "safe" classroom environment for all, one that will encourage the open exchange of ideas, you circumscribe the form class discussion can take; in the name of civility, in other words, your classroom becomes an exercise in censorship by prior restraint. You circumscribe the content of your course even as you righteously maintain--and even believe--that yours is an open classroom, one where any subject can be broached and where debate is welcome--just as long as nobody breaks any of the ground rules. It's a brilliant ruse. Under the apparently neutral and unimpeachable guise of getting everyone to play nice, you can totally control the game.
Recall the case of Lynn Weber, the women's studies professor at the University of South Carolina whose prohibitive and doctrinaire "Guidelines for Class Discussion" have raised such a ruckus in the media. Weber's guidelines are a classic example of the sort of formal deck-stacking that I am talking about here. They not only disallow any but the mildest disagreement and debate (by making people's hypothetical wounded feelings the arbiter of actual discussion), they also treat contentious propositions as matters of basic intellectual etiquette (in order to speak, students must agree that oppression exists, that we must all fight actively to end it, and so on). Requiring students to accept political premises as the terms of civil discussion, Weber's guidelines make the form of academic inquiry into a vehicle for transmitting ideological content. That gesture, in turn, naturalizes fringe opinion as mainstream manners. To play by Weber's rules is to reason from within her ideal worldview; it is to take her personal politics as a logical procedural given .
Not all professors are as blatant as Weber is (or as stupid as Snehal Shingavi). But many operate along very similar lines. Consider the following course evaluation from NoIndoctrination.org:
This professor bodly [sic] stated to the class that she was a Marxist and that she disagreed with any conservative or right-wing view. She openly expressed appreciation for students who agreed with her liberal standpoint. She would say such things like, "You get an A today," when someone would mention oppression, discrimination, prejudice, or exploitation. When I spoke in class quite the opposite would take place. She rolled her eyes at me, brushed me off, and would not listen to my arguments. For example, one day we were discussing Tiger Woods. The professor felt that he should not deny his African-American heritage and that he should proudly refer to himself as black. Students were raising their hands and saying that maybe he should be characterized as Asian-American and African-American. Others said that he should be in a different racial category. I raised my hand and said, "I think he wants to be called Tiger." The professor let out a groan and exclaimed, "That's a cop-out." I was outraged at the way she ignored my statement. Even if she disagreed with my view, she could have at least taken what I had said into consideration. She could have let me speak without degrading me or making her own views known. From that point on, I always felt that in her eyes I was an enemy, not a young student who had come there to learn and discuss and debate. She did not want to hear what I had to say if I did not agree with her. She was not open, she only wanted to silence the other side to the story. It seemed ridiculous because here she was teaching freedom and equality, yet she was discriminating agianst me based on my political views.
In this account of a Black Studies class at UC Santa Barbara, the professor does not say that conservatives need not apply, as Snehal Shingavi did, nor does she play Miss Manners, as Lynn Weber does. She is more subtle, less catchable. She doesn't put her agenda down in writing for all to see. Instead, she opts for classroom confession: "My name is Professor X, and I'm a leftist ideologue." Coming clean with one's students about one's politics is a popular move among academics who take the truism that everything is political to mean that they do not have to try to be objective when teaching. And so it is with this professor. Confession of bias licenses her to be openly and unapologetically biased in the way she treats her students. Those who ventriloquize her views are her pets. They get an A for the day. Those who question her orthodoxy are dismissed (as I noted in a blog last spring, sometimes such students are even treated as threats). The result: ideological conformity is openly equated with academic excellence, and dissent is just as openly labelled sloppy thinking, or "copping out."
Now consider this account of an introductory sociology course, also from UCSB:
When I signed up for this class, I was under the impression that I would be learning the basics of sociology as the course description indicated. I quickly got the impression that I would not be learning such a thing at all. The entire course seemed more like an introduction to victimology to me. The course began with the Marxian and Durkheimian models of social stratification and then progressed into 10 weeks of anti-capitalist, anti-globalization rhetoric. We were shown several theories on globalization that portrayed Western civilization as almost demonic, heartless, and ruthless beasts that enslave the world for financial gain. When I asked whether there were other models of globalism that did not progress [sic] such ideas, the professor threw an angry glare my way and said there are no other models. She then added that even if there were, it would be unconscionable to mention them when there was so much oppression and exploitation going on.
This is, to my mind, the most invidious sort of academic thought control. Teachers are imparters of information--and to a very real degree, what they do not impart does not exist. It is the rare student who will hit the library, or even the internet, searching for more than his professor has given him. Most students--through a combination of trust, innocence, and passivity--simply accept what they are taught by their teachers as right and true. Most do not question the facts they are given, or stop to wonder whether they are being given the whole story. Most just write down what the professor says and memorize it when midterms come around. Sometimes this is done cynically, sometimes it is done earnestly. But in both cases, the damage is the same: history has been handed to them as a series of half-truths; what they have learned--or memorized--is a lie. In the case above, the lying is as blatant and unrepentant as can be.
There are, as a matter of fact, theories of globalization that do not treat capitalism as evil (Brink Lindsey's Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism, which I recently reviewed for Knowledge@Wharton, is a marvelous example [registration required]). But competing theories do not accord with the professor's politico-pedagogical vision. There is only one way to view globalization as far as she is concerned, and she will do what she must to ensure that her students imbibe the one right way--including lying to them, suppressing alternative viewpoints, and telling them that it is immoral to question her approach or to seek additional knowledge. Teaching students that intellectual inquiry should not be genuinely inquisitive, that some kinds of questions ought not to be asked, and that some kinds of information ought not to be sought, is teaching them to accept pedagogical fascism. It's teaching them to be passive tools of a political agenda in the name of teaching them to be independent, thinking agents. It's abusive, it's criminal, and it happens all the time.
The pedagogical thought control I am describing here is increasingly the project of academia today. It's why we should care that upwards of 90% of the professoriate is politically left of center. It's why we should be concerned that more and more colleges and universities are requiring all students to take one or more courses on diversity-related issues even as they drop requirements in such comparably insignificant fields as history. (The University of Maryland's Diversity Web (funded by the Ford Foundation) proudly announces that as of 2000, 62% of schools either have or are developing such a requirement. The number grows every year.) It's also why we should be far more concerned than we collectively are with graduate training and with the tenure process.
Today, the debate about the politicization of higher education centers largely on the undergraduate experience (perhaps because that's what more Americans can connect with). But the means by which the professoriate recreates itself through a series of ideological checkpoints known as graduate school and assistant professorship are, to my mind, where the problem lies. These days, in the humanities and social sciences, the acquisition of scholarly expertise is increasingly synonymous with the adoption of a set repertoire of analytical methods. Knowing the content of your field matters far less than knowing the theories that tell you how to interpret content. Those theories, in turn, are the tools of leftist thought.
In the humanities, for example, just about the only available respectable methods for thinking about literature, art, and history are methods derived from Marxism, psychoanalysis, and/or postmodernism. Everybody who is anybody--or who wants to be anybody--in the academic humanities subscribes to one or both of these lines of thought. If you want to think about ideology (and you had better want to think about ideology), then you have to use Marx, or one of his many twentieth-century offshoots, to do so. You are a Marxist by virtue of your subject matter--whether you want to be or not, whether you realize it or not. If you want to think about psychology, then you had better get up your Freud (or, if you are more masochistic and more inclined to obscurity, your Lacan). If you want to think about "power" (and you had better want to think about power), you will turn to Foucault. Who will in turn tell you it's all about discourse. Which will send you over to Derrida, and the radically egalitarian linguistic land of deconstruction. Does it matter that Foucault reviled Derrida? Or that Freud was more a Victorian fabulist than a viable theorist? Or that Marx was wrong? But of course not! These thinkers are indispensible to today's academy--not, ultimately, because of what they argue or how they fit together, but because they supply intellectuals with a ready repertoire of rhetorical and conceptual moves. Those moves, in turn, facilitate the creation of endless amounts of redundant, unoriginal, utterly predictable "scholarship" whose primary reason for existing is not to make a real contribution to knowledge, but to shore up the techniques of leftist analysis.
As I mentioned above, it's all about form. It is far less important, in today's academy, to know something than it is to know how to approach something. People are trained, from day one of grad school, to be walking toolboxes of interrogatory technique. They are trained, in other words, not to be experts in poetry or the Protestant Reformation, but to be experts in what one colleague has revealingly described as "rhetoric and textuality;" they are trained to think everything is a text, and to believe that because they carry around an identikit interpretive toolbox, they are uniquely qualified to "read" the "texts" they see all around them--novels, nations, bodies, paintings, film, rap, advertisements, clothing, desire, suicide bombing. They are trained, in short, to be ideologues while at the same time believing that they are in the business of debunking ideology. They are the future of the professoriate.
So what does all this have to do with summer reading programs, freshman orientation, and UNC Chapel Hill? I'll tie things together as best I can in the next installment.
Yale students past and present
Yale students past and present are commenting furiously on Glenda Gilmore's "Variations on Iraq" column (scroll to the bottom of Gilmore's text to read their posts). One former member of Gilmore's department writes:
I was a teaching assistant in the Yale History Department during a portion of that period when C. Vann Woodward, Edmund Morgan, R. R. Palmer, J. H. Hexer and other true scholars made serious research and analysis the sole criteria for work in the department. Prof. Gilmore, who is more interested in political street theater and posturing, simply would not have been accepted in the history department during those years. She would have been laughed out of the room. So what's happened since then? My guess is that political correctness, academic fashion, and outright fear and intimidation has opened the door to people who earnestly believe that a hysterical screed qualifies as analysis. Gilmore's "analysis" is simply the way ignorant and impotent ideologues react to whatever they don't like. As a result, Yale undergrads in her courses are having a great fraud perpetrated upon them. I admit, however, that Gilmore has inadvertently made the most convincing argument I've ever heard for one key issue: abolishing tenure, an institution which now -- all too often -- protects and furthers incompetence.
This poster is absolutely right about tenure. Originally designed to protect scholarly integrity and academic freedom, tenure was founded on the idealistic assumption that academics could and would judge the intellectual quality of one another's work carefully, respectfully, and without undue political bias. How sadly ironic that hope was: the pomo Left, having deconstructed all notion of "quality," now freely uses tenure review as a demographic and ideological filter, as a powerful mechanism for perpetuating homogeneity and squelching dissent. As such, tenure now sustains the stultifying political and intellectual orthodoxies permeating almost every crevice of the modern university. In fact, so powerful an ideological filter is tenure that no effective challenge to these orthodoxies can possibly precede its abolition.
October 13, 2002
Last week, Andrew Sullivan awarded
Last week, Andrew Sullivan awarded his prestigious and exclusive Sontag Award to Yale history professor Glenda Gilmore. As the name suggests, Sullivan reserves this elite honor for a select few. You have to commit knee-jerk anti-American idiocy to win this one, preferably while also engaging in piously self-aggrandizing moral relativism. In the words of Sullivan himself, the Sontag Award goes to "statements by public figures uttered in the same spirit as Susan Sontag's post-9/11 preference for the 'courage' of Islamist mass murderers as opposed to the 'cowardice' of NATO air-pilots over the skies in Iraq. Glib moral equivalence in the war on terror and visceral anti-Americanism are qualities most admired by the judges in this category." In this as in so many things, Sontag's is a hard act to follow. But Gilmore's recent editorial in the Yale Daily News showed her to be a true contender, and Sullivan duly recognized that. Her entire piece is richly deserving, but Sullivan singled out the following sentences as particularly worthy:
It is not enough for Bush to be President of the United States, he must become the Emperor of the World. This unclothed emperor is, as they say in Texas, all hat and no brains. In the years before us, I fear there will be causes worth dying for. There will be tyrants so unstoppable that we will have to fight them to preserve our own freedom. But that is not the case now. Instead of standing up against tyranny, we are bringing it to our own doorstep. We have met the enemy, and it is us.
Professor Gilmore accepted her award in what appear to be characteristically gracious tones. Here is the thank-you note she sent to Sullivan:
Dear Mr. Sullivan, I am delighted to accept the Sontag Award. I have disagreed with you since you were a boy wonder. In fact, I cancelled my subscription to The New Republic when you hijacked it, and I have watched your downwardly mobile career path with interest. Are you a U.S. citizen yet? Thank you for bringing a small part of my essay to a larger audience. Glenda Gilmore
I was so moved by this touching homage to Sullivan's judgment, career, and foreignness that I bethought myself to create a new award in its honor. Henceforth, Critical Mass will confer the Gilmore Award on statements by public figures uttered in the same spirit as Glenda Gilmore's nasty ad hominem response to legitimate criticism of her ideas. Off-topic personal attacks, ethnic and gender slurs, and metaphoric accusations of terrorism are the qualities most admired by the judges in this category. Critical Mass has an unlimited number of Gilmore Awards to bequeath; we are thus accepting all nominations, all the time.
Here's a copy of the
Here's a copy of the open letter FIRE and the Eastern Missouri ACLU have written to the Student Bar Association at Washington University at St. Louis:
AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF EASTERN MISSOURI AND THE FOUNDATION FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION TO THE STUDENT BAR ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, OCTOBER 11, 2002
Dear Members of the Student Bar Association,
We were both surprised and profoundly disappointed to learn of your most recent meeting, at which the Student Bar Association (SBA) left unchanged its decision not to recognize Law Students Pro-Life (LSPL) as a legitimate student group at Washington University School of Law (WUSL). We hoped that, with time and further thought, LSPLÌs right to exist would become as clear to you as it is to all of the individuals and organizations that have opposed your decision. We will try one last time to persuade you to recognize LSPL and to reaffirm your commitment to tolerance, openness, and pluralism.
The right to private conscience is more than a constitutional right and an internationally recognized human right. It is also a moral principle upon which our entire system of liberty depends. By offering to recognize LSPL only if it modified its beliefs to suit principles that you found more to your liking, you were asking your fellow students to betray their deeply held beliefs as a precondition of enjoying the minimal rights of a recognized organization at WUSL. In short, you made their moral right to associate freely as a student group dependent upon their abandonment of their right to private conscience. No school that believes in freedom and human dignity could ask such a thing of its own students.
SBA has contended that LSPL's mission is "too narrow" to allow for recognition. Although the SBA and WUSL routinely recognize associations organized around group-identity and common interests such as golf, you have ruled that issues relating to reproductive rights are "narrow." In fact, issues related to reproductive rights are some of deepest and most divisive issues in our country, desperately in need of the sort of reasoned advocacy that produces significant debate. It is particularly strange for law students to argue that reproductive rights are a "narrow" issue. For example, you have recognized a student group organized around interests in the criminal law. Far more individuals will face reproductive choices than will face the system of criminal justice, and no one would consider issues of criminal justice "narrow." Anyone familiar with constitutional law knows that the debates and battles surrounding reproductive rights have transformed legal notions concerning control of oneÌs body, privacy, protest, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. There is nothing narrow about LSPL, except your conception of it.
We are pleased that the administration of WUSL at least attempted to convince you that LSPL should be recognized. However, we do not agree that it is appropriate for them to place the autonomy of the SBA over the fundamental rights of LSPL students. Majority votes by agencies of power do not trump constitutional rights (and their moral principles), any more than they undo the moral right to legal equality. Civilized democracy includes rights so essential to liberty, dignity, fairness, and decency that we place them outside the power of elected government to vote them away. Civil liberties reflect, among other things, the moral necessity of restraint upon power.
Simply put, if you do not live up to your obligations to respect the deeply held beliefs and rights of your fellow students, you are acting outside your legitimate powers. The administration of WUSL may not and must not permit such an action to stand.
We hope that you--as law students and as citizens--understand that the ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights are more than just regulations. They codify moral principles and rights that we, as a people, believe are inalienable. We ask you to act in the spirit of these essential moral principles and to recognize the right of your fellow students to organize in accordance with their own beliefs, even if you disagree with those beliefs. We hope that the SBA will finally make the right choice. It is no weakness to change oneÌs mind when it is appropriate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
Matt LeMieux, Executive Director, ACLU of Eastern Missouri
Phone: 314-361-2111 (work); 314-753-3693 (mobile)
Greg Lukianoff, Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, FIRE
Phone: 215-629-4043 (weekend); 215-717-3473 (weekdays)
Read more about the situation at WUSTL here.
Here's a detailed account of
Here's a detailed account of yesterday's festivities at the Second National Student Conference on the Palestinian Solidarity Movement, written by a mathematics grad student at Michigan who also happens to be Israeli. It includes telling descriptions of the presentations given by UC Berkeley's Snehal ("conservatives need not apply") Shingavi, as well as Sami Al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who has been accused of aiding and abetting terrorism. (link via Instapundit)
I noted yesterday that the conference planners seemed to be unusually organizationally challenged, and reflected that this may be a sign of similar political disorganization. To which a reader wrote in with this chilling observation:
It is this lack of basic organizational competence that has left Palestinians with suicide bombers as their most effective weapon and why their armies and creamed in every war. It will be a Black Day for Israel when they finally pull their heads out of the sand and learn to organize things.
Hopefully, they return to sanity first.
Yes, let's hope so. Here's an op-ed detailing the philosophical and material ties various speakers at the conference have to terrorism.
October 12, 2002
From Laura Bush's opening remarks
From Laura Bush's opening remarks at the second annual National Book Festival:
Let this festival remind us of the pure joy of the bookworm -- the one who sits in a quiet corner and focuses on just one thing, devouring a story or argument or idea unfolding on the written page. ... Our love of reading is what makes us tuck a paper under our arm on the way to work. It's why our bedside tables include piles of books that we read before we fall asleep, or continue reading long after we should be asleep.
The extremely cool Mrs. Bush held similar festivals in Texas when Dubya was governor. Check out the festival web site. Be glad there are such strong advocates out there for reading. And then curl up with a good book.
The Dartmouth Review notes that
The Dartmouth Review notes that a professor of religious studies has been circulating anti-war petitions via Dartmouth's faculty and class listservs. The newspaper calls these actions "highly inappropriate," and I agree: these listservs were created for faculty and class business, not as tools for political recruitment, and the fact that a professor is asking his students to endorse his personal political beliefs reeks of ideological indoctrination. Alas, such listserv abuse is all too common on campuses: If only I had a dollar for every political petition I've received via an official University of Pennsylvania listserv....
The Second National Student Conference
The Second National Student Conference on the Palestinian Solidarity Movement begins today at The University of Michigan. Over four hundred activists from more than 90 campuses across the country will converge on Ann Arbor to discuss divestment strategy and--I hazard a guess--to spread the hate that typically goes along with divestment campaigning. Conference goers will not be able to stay in Ann Arbor, though, since all the hotel rooms in the area were already booked by the time the organizers got around to actually organizing the conference. It seems that there is a football game in Ann Arbor this weekend--and, if forethought is any indication, it seems that Wolverine fans care a bit more about their cause than these activists do. Pro-Palestinian activists will thus be housed in the Super 8 Motel in Livonia, MI, and will have to take the bus in to Ann Arbor to attend panels. One wonders: if these people can't plan a conference without screwing it up, how do they expect to plot the demise of Israel?
Columbia University English professor Edward
Columbia University English professor Edward Said denies that pro-Palestinian campus movements can be legitimately characterized as anti-Semitic: "This charge of anti-Semitism is utter nonsense. It is really a form of paranoia to deflect attention away from Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes. ... Israel has been in occupation of Palestinian territory for 35 years. . . . In light of that, a divestment campaign modeled on the campaign in South Africa seems to be the mildest and most decorous of responses."
FIRE has launched a petition
You can also write to the dean of the WUSTL law school Joel Seligman to express your views on the unconstitutional bigotry of the SBA. He's been flooded with mail about this, though, so you'll probably get a form letter that resembles this in response:
Thank you for your recent email. The SBA and the ProLife students have been meeting and in the normal course of events, the ProLife student's application for recognition will be considered again and I suspect ultimately adopted. I have been far more impressed by the ProLife students here who have recently been constructive and worked to secure approval than I am in the wild posturing of FIRE. To be quite precise, all of us at this school of law also value democratic process. It would be thoroughly inappropriate for a dean to override or ignore the traditional autonomy of student organizations. I did, however, communicate to the Student Bar Association my personal view that this school should be based on mutual respect and pluralist principles.
Read more about WUSTL and the "wild posturing" of FIRE here and here. It's good to know that defending the First Amendment has become, in certain legal educational circles, synonymous with desperate insincerity. Such are the vagaries of politicized postmodern legal studies.
UPDATE: UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has more.
October 11, 2002
Despite public outrage over his
Despite public outrage over his anti-Semitic verses and statements, New Jersey's poet laureate Amiri Baraka has refused to resign his post; in fact he's prepared to go to the Supreme Court (an institution he describes on his Web site as being "peopled largely with 'ugs' wearing cellophane Klan lids") should Governor James McGreevey try to oust him. How ironic that Baraka, who positively seethes with anti-American sentiment, should claim immunity under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
After discussing the issue, KOC and I agree that Bruce Springsteen should replace Barfaka as the poet laureate of New Jersey. KOC assumes that the Garden State would prefer Born in the USA to Barf on the USA.
Contrarian fiction-reader B. R. Meyers
Contrarian fiction-reader B. R. Meyers has expanded his controversial Atlantic Monthly essay, "A Reader's Manifesto," into a book. Therein, Myers argues that "the typical 'literary masterpiece' of today is usually in fact a mediocre work dolled up with trendy writerly gimmicks designed to lend an impression of artsy profundity and to obscure the author's lack of talent. An affected, deliberately unnatural prose style, banal pronouncements intoned magisterially as if they were great pearls of wisdom, relentless overuse of wordplay, and the gratuitous inclusion of foreign words are just a few of the affronts to good writing of which Myers finds several well-known authors guilty." Read the full review.
The Student Bar Association at
The Student Bar Association at Washington University at St. Louis is standing by its decision not to recognize Law Students Pro-Life, despite national media exposure and admonishment by their own dean. At a meeting of SBA yesterday, Joel Seligman, dean of the law school, frankly informed the group that in denying recognition to Law Students Pro-Life, SBA had done "some real damage to the reputation of this school." Noting that prospective law students are likely to be discouraged by the doctrinaire and discriminatory behavior of SBA, Seligman characterized the group's actions as blatantly censorious: "We appear to have stomped our foot down and said there's only one ideologically and politically appropriate way to behave," he said. SBA, which recognizes specialized law student groups for black and Asian students, Christians, Jews, and feminists, as well as a humor publication and golf and softball clubs, maintains that Law Students Pro-Life is too narrowly focussed to warrant recognition. They now see themselves as the victims of media and administrative persecution, and are steadfastly maintaining their lack of integrity in the wake of the brutal assault on their high double standards. FIRE, which is leading the assault, simply remarks the monumental ignorance of SBA. As FIRE's president Alan Kors puts it, "What is very striking is to see this at a law school, for it to have no understanding of freedom of association."
It's National Coming Out Day,
It's National Coming Out Day, and Harvard is celebrating with tasteful tributes to high and low culture. To publicize the event, posters outing famous characters have plastered the campus all week. The Mona Lisa, for example, has chosen this week to announce that "Nobody knows I'm a lesbian" (or so the caption beneath her picture states). She is competing for attention with a picture of Batman and Robin kissing. Sponsored by two student groups, the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supportersí Alliance (BGLTSA) and Building on Diversity (BOND), the posters are not at all what the BGLTSA had hoped for. According to the BGLTSA co-chair (which is about as authoritative a position as one can have in a group dedicated to flouting authority--unless of course you are one Michael Tan, who bills himself as GLBTSA's "grand empress"), the posters are not as "political" as she would have liked. The Crimson does not elaborate what, precisely, would have constituted a more "political" poster, but does note that in the past, the posters have been far more confrontational. In 1999, for example, GLBTSA's consciousness-raising posters featured slogans such as "Can I bum a fag?" and "Have more sex, join the GLBTSA." In a world where activism is increasingly conflated with confrontation, where consciousness-raising is routinely confused with embarrassing people who do not share one's views, and where, by some mysterious countercultural alchemy, public displays of bad taste count as political statements, such posters sound like positively revolutionary agents of change. Pity this year's smooching superheroes and smirking paintings are so subtle and refined.
Ward Connerly, who figures prominently
Ward Connerly, who figures prominently as a "wooden Negro" in Amiri Baraka's infantile and venomous "poem," "Somebody Blew Up America," responds:
It's not every day that one gets immortalized along with Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell in a poem, especially a poem penned by the New Jersey poet laureate. But I think I'll have to pass on this "honor" after reading it and learning the poet is Amiri Baraka (the poet formerly known as LeRoi Jones), one of America's premier haters and anti-Semites.
Mr. Baraka got into hot water recently after his poem, "Somebody Blew Up America" was widely circulated. The stanza that has gotten the most attention and criticism suggests that Israel knew about the September 11 attacks before they occurred and didn't warn anyone:Ý
"Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed;Ý
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin TowersÝ
To stay home that dayÝÝ
Why did Sharon stay away?Ý
Who? Who? Who?"Ý
According to newspaper interviews with Mr. Baraka, he insists, "that Israel and its prime minister, Ariel Sharon, as well as President Bush, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and many United States allies, knew of the pending terrorist attacksÖ " This maniacal litany, and the anti-Semitism unpinning it, has now joined the ranks of other "ghetto-facts," such as the claim that Jewish doctors inject black babies with the AIDS virus.
Connerly--whose name is not even spelled right by the illustrious Jew-hating bard--goes on to enumerate the sick joke at taxpayers' expense that is Baraka's plush little appointment as New Jersey's Poet Laureate. He concludes by lamenting both the misguided tokenism of Baraka's position and the offense the whole fiasco is to the dignity of art: "because Mr. Baraka is seen as an 'authentic' black artistic voice, he gets a pass from the council on matters of decency and taste. If this is what passes for cutting-edge poetic 'human experience,' no wonder poetry is no longer relevant in our cultural lives."
David Horowitz, whose anti-reparations ad
David Horowitz, whose anti-reparations ad campaign rocked campuses across the country a couple of years ago, is launching an analogous campaign to support Israel. He is currently collecting donations, and says that every $500 he collects will buy an ad in a campus newspaper. The gist of the ad is that supporting the Palestinians at this time is not championing the oppressed, but participating in a long history of "Arab and Islamic Jew-hatred." Suicide bombing, the ad claims, "is the Nazi virus revived." The full ad can be viewed at Front Page Magazine--or you can just wait until it hits a campus near you.
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz debated an empty chair last night. Two hundred students turned out to hear the debate-which-was-not-one, Dershowitz's way of showing his contempt for those who signed Harvard's divestment petition. The particular target of Dershowitz's ire was Winthrop House Master and Near Eastern Languages professor Paul Hanson, who signed the petition along with 73 other Harvard faculty members. Outraged by an act he vociferously condemns as both "anti-Semitic" and "ignorant," Dershowitz challenged Hanson to a debate. When Hanson declined, Dershowitz went ahead with an empty chair for his opponent. The debate was held in Winthrop House. Taped to the empty chair was a copy of Harvard's divestment petition. ìYour House master is a bigot and you ought to know that,î Dershowitiz told the audience. ìEveryone else who signed that petition is also a bigot.î
October 10, 2002
Here in England, the Telegraph
Here in England, the Telegraph has announced its Free Country Campaign, designed to heighten public awareness of legislation that chills individual freedom. "Earlier this week, Parliament solemnly debated whether there should be a law to prevent people having messy gardens," notes the Telegraph, "and no one said that it was none of their business." Public apathy toward such legislative debates leads to gradual but ongoing erosion of individual freedom, the outraged Telegraph argues, asking rhetorically "Why should the police be able to subject drivers to random breath tests, or to spy on the public through CCTV, or the Government keep information on you that it shares across departments, or tell you whom to employ, or intercept your electronic communications?" Why, indeed.
A campaign such as this comes nary a moment too soon: Alistair Scott, a 33-year-old British engineer, today faces a prison sentence of up to seven years after being convicted under the British government's Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act. Scott's crime? In a moment of anger, he expressed hatred of a Muslim neighbor who called September 11 a "great day," hailed Osama bin Laden as a "great man," and said that all Americans "deserved to die." Section 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act makes it a criminal offence to incite religious hatred; Scott's words to his neighbor were judged to have violated that Act. The ramifications of this are scary indeed: The British citizenry, who have no First Amendment to protect their free speech rights, must now live under the shadow of a politically correct thought police whose double standards and hypocrisies should be clear to all. Let's restate the facts: Alistair Scott faces a seven-year prison sentence for saying "I hate you" to a Muslim who cheered 3,000 American deaths, wished all other Americans dead, too, and praised the greatness of Osama bin Laden. The Muslim neighbor in question naturally did not stand trial for his beliefs or statements.
I would have high hopes for the the Telegraph's campaign if it didn't immediately wade into a mire of self-contradicton. "The Daily Telegraph does not support the doctrinaire libertarian argument which states that freedom is the only good," the rationale states. "Clearly, all states have a need for order, and the price of one person's freedom can be too high for somebody else." What we have here is an an age-old confusion of libertarianism with anarchism (the distinction is elemental: libertarians accept the need for order, rule of law, and [limited] government; anarchists do not), a consequent disavowal of freedom in its purest sense, and a resulting slippery slope back toward the position the Telegraph ostensibly resists. Individual freedom, it argues, is all very well until its price becomes "too high" for someone else. This is exactly the Left's logic, too: the price of unfettered free speech is "too high" for oppressed minorities; the price of pornography is "too high" for objectified women; the price of private, encrypted electronic communication is "too high" for national security; and so on. Thus do repression and totalitarianism quibble and nitpick their way back into legislation; thus does individual freedom get eroded until one can spend seven years in prison for uttering three words.
FIRE is taking on on
FIRE is taking on on Washington University at St. Louis. The Student Bar Association has twice denied recognition to Law Students Pro-Life. It seems that Law Students Pro-Life does not get to be an official student group because its members subscribe to beliefs that the moral paragons who run SBA find personally repugnant. The ruling disqualifies Law Students Pro Life from receiving any university funding, despite the fact that each of its members pay money into the university's student activity fund as part of their tuition. This one is a no brainer. The Supreme Court has been eminently clear on the question of funding student groups, stating in several cases over the years that decisions about whether to fund a group must be made solely on content-neutral grounds. Denying a group funding because of what it stands for is viewpoint discrimination, pure and simple. How ironic that at WUSL it is law students who are busily butchering the First Amendment in the name of political correctness.
FIRE has fought--and won--similar cases at Tufts and Penn State, and they will win this one. The only thing that is uncertain is just how much more humiliation WUSL's chancellor is willing to bring upon his school before he gets educated about the law and does the right and only thing. You can read FIRE's letter to Chancellor Wrightman here, and you can read the denial of funding letter sent by the president of SBA to Law Students Pro Life here.
Readers interested in the constitutional issues raised by student activities fees might be interested in the blog series I wrote last summer over at Cant Watch. Part One is here, and Part Two is here.
UPDATE: The people at WUSL now think Law Students Pro Life might fare differently if they file a third application for recognition. FIRE has a lot to do with it, though university administrators are reluctant to admit it.
The New York Civil Rights
The New York Civil Rights Coalition has issued a report entitled "The Stigma of Inclusion: Racial Paternalism/Separatism in Higher Education." Focussing on the many offices, programs, residences, orientations, courses, and centers campuses set up specifically for minority students, the report shows how a systematically patronizing "segregationist" mentality pervades the so-called support systems that campuses are so proudly creating, maintaining, and expanding as part of their "commitment to diversity." From the introduction:
Amidst all the hue and cry over affirmative action programs, little attention has been given to the color-conscious policies of the colleges and universities that permit or encourage, and, oftentimes, fund a balkanized campus environment. While proclaiming their dedication to a phenomenon of so-called "ethnic identityî, ìchoice,î and ìdiversityî the officials of many colleges regard the self-segregation of minority students on their campuses as supportive of their efforts to foster the comfort of a culturally, economically, geographically, and racially diverse group of students. Stripped of its paternalism their policies and funding actually support a new form of ethnic and racial segregation in higher education. They proudly and increasingly pursue a segregationist agenda.
The same schools that use race as a factor to achieve inclusionary admissions will also permit its use as a factor in the selection of roommates and preferences for living quarters in campus housing, for scholarships, and even for the remediation and counseling of ìat riskî students. Race and ethnicity considerations permeate almost every facet of campus life. Both public and private colleges, from CUNY Queens to Princeton University, have fostered this kind of racial and ethnic separatism. In so doing, college officials who ought to know better confuse the goal of "diversity" with the deification of race as a factor for treating students differently. These colleges abuse academic freedom and the open pursuit of knowledge by funding separatism and by placating or empowering students who advocate and practice separatism.
From the conclusion:
We have shown in this study how colleges and universities of some distinction have shirked or redefined their responsibility to foster an atmosphere of freedom on campus. Many have embraced ethnic and racial separatism as ìfreedom of choiceî on the part of minority students they bring to campus sometimes ahead of the rest of the campus population because minority students are seen by college officials as ìat riskî or as ìculturally differentî than white students. Minority students who resist separatist dogma are stigmatized as politically incorrect or as ìOreosî who ìwant to be white.î Hence, their freedom of thought, action and independence as students are seriously compromised.
The so-called militants on campus get the attention, recognition, and largesse of the colleges and universities. Theyíre accorded incentives in the form of residential facilities, and social centers, special funding for their minority student organization, academic support in the curricular, as well as intellectual support from the faculty and administrative leaders of the colleges and universities. Through such methods, some colleges inculcate students with separatist thinking in both curricular and extracurricular campus life. Through housing, some colleges separate minorities from the general, mostly white, population. That separation in turn fosters racial stereotyping, generalizations about each other's groups. Finally, by offering special events and remedial services for minorities, some colleges stigmatize minorities as having inferior capabilities.
Colleges and universities have a responsibility to educate and challenge their students. Through color-coding, today's institution of higher education have done a disservice to both minority and non-minority students. Segregated housing, courses, and programs disseminate poisonous stereotypes and falsehoods about race and ethnicity. They limit interaction between minority and non-minority students, and reward separatist thinking. By discouraging whites and, sometimes, Asians from minority-specific programs, they deny equal interaction on campus. Although they claim to have minorities' interest at heart, these colleges in fact take the civil rights movement giant steps backward.
All of this separatism is fostered in the guise of helping minority students. And trustees have accepted their presidents excuses and explanations for the balkanized campus, presidents who have argued with much success that separate orientation programs and housing and other such programs make campus life more comfortable for the minority students. They liken racial comfort zones to sports teams, fraternity and sorority groupings, and to even ìlanguage housesî where students who want to learn a foreign language live together in support of their ìspecial interests.î This is mostly doubletalk, of course, laced with racial paternalism. It is their alibi for not fostering racial integration, for reversing themselves, midstream, about the value of interaction and discourse premised on the rigorous pursuit of knowledge and truth. The purpose of higher education is to remove narrow constrictions of the mind, to extirpate prejudice, to remove barriers to the open pursuit of knowledge. Separatism in all of its forms, but especially when it is aided and abetted by college and university officials and resources, is a betrayal of that mission. Shame on the colleges and universities that do this to successive generations of their students!
Read the whole thing. Penn figures large in the report.
This is the third part
This is the third part of my blog series on the summer reading programs that many schools make a required component of freshman orientation. The first part commenced a case study of the summer reading program at UNC-Chapel Hill, home of last summer's infamous Approaching the Qur'an incident, by looking at how the reading program became part of freshman orientation; the second part continued that case study by showing how, from its inception, UNC-Chapel Hill has equated the "intellectual uplift" the program is meant to supply with racial consciousness-raising. I ended the last installment with the suggestion that forcing community by forcefeeding belief seems to be the mission of the Carolina Summer Reading Program. Today's blog develops that claim by looking at the contradiction that lies at the heart of the program's rationale.
UNC's Summer Reading Program was ostensibly adopted because there was a felt lack of "tone" at freshman orientation, one that ill-prepared students for the intellectual rigors of college life. This seems reasonable enough, especially when you consider the problems UNC, along with many other colleges and universities, has been having with freshman retention. As I reported last August, more than a third of the nation's freshmen drop out before their sophomore year. In response to those appalling numbers, many schools have spent untold hours and dollars putting together designer orientations to help new students settle comfortably into the campus "community." The thesis is that alienation is the reason for the high drop out rate; statistically, most of the students who quit before their sophomore year are in good academic standing and could stay on if they chose. In this context, using a summer reading program as a bridge between the largely social, nonacademic activities of orientation and the scholastic rigors of the school year makes a lot of sense. Building a scholarly component into orientation is a way of helping students grasp the specific nature of an intellectual community; it can be a nonthreatening way of introducing freshman to the particular pleasures of connecting with others through ideas rather than, say, through mutual membership in a sorority or physical proximity in a dorm.
So why, then, has UNC centered the texts for its reading program so relentlessly--even religiously--on questions of race, cultural difference, and diversity? If the idea is to supply the "intellectual uplift" necessary to inspire new students, then it follows that the only criteria for selecting texts would be that they are themselves intellectually uplifting. This is a content-neutral requirement, one that can accommodate any topic in any discipline--science, history, literature, anthropology, basketweaving, you name it. And yet, at UNC the scope of the reading program has been narrow indeed. In the four short years of its now-notorious existence, it has assigned the following: in 1999, it was There Are No Children Here, a book about growing up poor and black in the Chicago projects; in 2000, it was Confederates in the Attic, a book about the unresolved racial legacy of the Civil War; in 2001, it was Anne Fadiman's The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, a study of a Hmong family's clash with the American medical system; and in 2002, as we all know a bit too well, it was Michael Sells' Approaching the Qur'an. Each year, UNC creates a variety of informational web pages to enhance students' experience of the chosen text. On those pages, historical background, bibliographic references, selected links, timelines, and study questions all make it very clear that the point of the reading is to become more sensitive to questions of cultural difference. You'd think there was nothing else of importance in the world; that the one real and pressing issue facing us all is racism: our own, if we are white; that which is directed at us by whites, if we are not.
Based on its track record, UNC clearly believes that talking about diversity is the best--and possibly the only--way to achieve "intellectual uplift" with a group of freshmen. It also clearly believes that its incoming freshmen desperately need the special brand of diversity training that such a seminar can provide.
We are accustomed to think of diversity training as something that takes place outside the academic classroom, as part of an orientation or part of a punishment; when we think of diversity training, we think of workshops run by professional diversity "trainers;" we think of Jane Elliott, Hugh Vasquez, Ed Nicholls, and their legions of loyal knockoffs; we think of educational videos about institutionalized racism and values clarification exercises designed to make us get in touch with our inner bigots; we think of Marxian psychobabble and pretentious ideologues wielding meaningless degrees in Education. This sort of diversity training has been aptly described by Alan Charles Kors as "thought reform" and by Wendy McElroy as political "re-education" a la Maoist China and the Soviet Union. But we would be wrong to imagine that thought reform on campus is confined to clearly demarcated sensitivity seminars, or to believe that overt attempts at political re-education only take place in the university in loco parentis, in the residential and disciplinary arms of the university. These are merely the most blatant instances of a far more thoroughgoing project, one that arguably finds its most effective expression in the classroom. UNC's summer reading program is a classic illustration of this point.
As a putatively "intellectual" component of orientation that "requires"--or, when things get a little dodgy, "expects"--students to become politically enlightened about race and cultural difference by reading a certain kind of book a certain kind of way, UNC's reading program is perhaps best understood as a training session for the ongoing diversity training that is the entire undergraduate curriculum. Where official diversity workshops tell students what their attitudes should be, diversity workshops that are billed as academic courses do far more subtle, far more dangerous, work. Students can tell when they are being told what to believe, and can refuse--privately or publicly--to participate in the hamhanded attempts at indoctrination that are regularly incorporated into their orientations. Open attempts at indoctrination do have that advantage, as noxious and unconscionable as they are. If you have a brain, you can see it for what it is. And if you aren't a lemming, you can say no. Far more powerful, though, is the indoctrination that takes place under the guise of intellectual inquiry. It is masked. It presents itself as open exploration of issues. It uses discussion and even debate as a means of foreclosing alternative viewpoints. And when it is done well, it never looks doctrinaire at all. In short, it looks and feels like good old-fashioned education--just as long as you don't look too hard or know too much. Freshman reading projects like UNC's are vehicles for this sort of training. They are etiquette lessons masquerading as exchanges of ideas. In effect, they train freshman how to be trained.
How do I know? And how can you tell the difference between real education and "indoctrication"? Some thoughts in the next installment.
October 9, 2002
One leftist intellectual's disgusted response
One leftist intellectual's disgusted response to last weekend's anti-war protest in Central Park:
After a couple of hours there, listening to speeches, reading the hate-America literature, I still donít know what to think about Iraqówill an attack open a Pandoraís box, or close one?óbut I think I know what I feel about this antiwar movement, or at least many of the flock who showed up in the Sheep Meadow.
A movement of Marxist fringe groups and people who are unable to make moral distinctions. An inability summed up by a man holding a big poster that proudly identified him as "NYC TEACHER." The lesson "NYC TEACHER" had for the day was that "BUSH IS A DEVIL Ö HANDS OFF NORTH KOREA, IRAQ, AFGHANISTAN Ö.
The author details a number of morally and intellectually bankrupt encounters he has had with leftist intellectuals in the wake of 9/11 and concludes that he, like Christopher Hitchens, has had enough of the rank, knee-jerk idiocy that has become the characteristic tone of dissent in the U.S.:
So, for my part, goodbye to all that. Goodbye to a culture of blindness that tolerates, as part of "peace marches," women wearing suicide-bomber belts as bikinis. (See the accompanying photo of the "peace" march in Madrid. "Peace" somehow doesnít exclude blowing up Jewish children.)
Goodbye to the brilliant thinkers of the Left who believe itís the very height of wit to make fun of George W. Bushís intelligenceóthereby establishing, of course, how very, very smart they are. Mr. Bush may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer (I think heís more ill-informed and lazy than dumb). But they are guilty of a historical stupidity on a far greater scale, in their blind spot about Marxist genocides. Itís a failure of self-knowledge and intellectual responsibility that far outweighs Bushís, because theyíre supposed to be so very smart.
Goodbye to paralysis by moral equivalence: Remind me again, was it John Ashcroft or Fidel Castro who put H.I.V. sufferers in concentration camps?
Goodbye to the deluded and pathetic sophistry of postmodernists of the Left, who believe their unreadable, jargon-clotted theory-sophistry somehow helps liberate the wretched of the earth. If they really believe in serving the cause of liberation, why donít they quit their evil-capitalist-subsidized jobs and go teach literacy in a Third World starved for the insights of Foucault?
Goodbye to people who have demonstrated that what terror means to them is the terror of ever having to admit they were wrong, the terror of allowing the hideous facts of history to impinge upon their insulated ideology.
Goodbye to all those who have evidently adopted as their own, a version of the simpering motto of the movie Love Story. Remember "Love means never having to say youíre sorry"?
I guess today, Left means never having to say youíre sorry.
Read the whole thing.
The judges of the 2002
The judges of the 2002 Booker Prize have declared what the Guardian suggestively calls a "fatwa" on "pompous, portentous, and pretentious fiction":
In a radical departure from convention - "the beginning of a new era", according to [the prize committee's] chairwoman, Lisa Jardine - they vowed to cast their net wider to more plebeian literary forms, and even into the lower depths of genre and "popular fiction".
The comedian and sometime novelist David Baddiel was the most outspoken critic of the old order, denouncing the tide of "vulgarly obvious" heavyweight doorstoppers that the judges had been deluged with by publishers. "There were far too many books with an obvious gravitas - heavyweight books that are written with the clear agenda of 'this is going to win a major prize'. It's like a formula. They attempt to grab big themes, and have a vulgar obvious seriousness, yes, even a kind of pompous pretentiousness about them."
And, in what was almost a communal cry for mercy, the judges appealed to publishers, who can submit two books a year from each imprint, to send them some funny books for a change.
Excellent. But I am left wondering exactly how this fatwa will take shape. Should pretentious books be burned? Or shot? Or stoned to death? Will they have to go into hiding? And, most importantly, will Salmon Rushdie sue the Guardian for the rank insensitivity of their wording? Surely a writer whose Satanic Verses (shortlisted for the 1988 Booker Prize) caused the Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against him stands to win some money here. The hate speech is pure and simple, if symbolic: as "fatwa" becomes the term for eliminating pompous fiction, so every pompous, portentous, and pretentious book becomes a metaphorical Rushdie. Such multicultural callousness has got to be worth something.
Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan made Christopher
Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan made Christopher Hitchens' new Why Orwell Matters into a best-seller. When Sullivan announced early Tuesday morning that Hitch's book would be the next selection in his online book club, the book was ranked 1,074 on Amazon.com's list. Within fifteen hours of Sullivan's announcement, Why Orwell Matters was sitting pretty at #3 (alas, Sullivan's Spears-like power to create trends overnight does not extend to the U.K., where Hitchens' book hovers at a respectable ranking of 2,157). Here is the blurb that did the work:
I've just finished reading Christopher Hitchens' lively, witty and oddly moving defense of the life and work of George Orwell: "Why Orwell Matters." If you've read all of Orwell (and I'm getting close) or have barely read him at all, the book is both a wonderful introduction to the man's work and a stimulating overview of all the issues he raises. Orwell's ability to confound both right and left, his tenacious honesty, his pellucid prose, his power of moral reasoning, his ability to distinguish between an argument and a feeling - all these come through loud and clear in this little book. Buy it and read it and then join Hitch and me for a weeklong conversation at the end of the month about what Orwell means, and why his example still shines, perhaps more brightly than ever, in an era of war and ideological conflict. Buying the book through this site also helps support us financially, so enrich your mind and support this blog by getting the book today.
If you have watched what's been happening recently on campuses with anything resembling an unjaundiced eye, you'll know that Orwell matters very much indeed--not least because so very many teachers, administrators, and students have forgotten, or never learned, what Orwell has to teach us. I'll be at Sullivan's virtual reading group at the end of the month--and hope you will be too.
The Washington Post's Jay Matthews
The Washington Post's Jay Matthews is soliciting stories about bad teachers (or, as he carefully frames it, teachers with "bad reputations") for future articles on the decline in American education. Sounds great--though it reminds me of the stink college professors recently made when Campus Watch did something similar as part of its new watchdog operation. As many outraged academics made ever so clear when Campus Watch invited students to write in about how their professors teach about the Middle East, to be criticized is to be chilled; to be watched is to be spied upon; to be tracked over time is to be stalked. Is there a quantitative--or qualitative--difference between "bad" teaching (which Matthews leaves largely undefined) and "biased" teaching? The people at Campus Watch thought not--but they got shot down by the teachers themselves, who threw an absurdly self-serving tantrum for the benefit of a media that was all-too glad to report it as news. Not all bad teaching is biased teaching--but biased teaching is always bad teaching, as the detailed student evaluations recorded at NoIndoctrination.org readily show. Though Matthews studiously avoids mentioning teacherly attitudes in his preliminary descriptions of bad teaching--preferring to focus on teachers who were unable to communicate concepts or who were verbally abusive or who sought popularity at the expense of rigor--my bet is that Matthews will get quite a few responses from people whose worst teachers were the ones with closed minds and inflexibly rigid opinions. I'm looking forward to seeing how--and whether--he addresses this all-too common form of pedagogical malpractice.
October 7, 2002
Stanley Kurtz argues that in
Stanley Kurtz argues that in the hopelessly corrupt British A-levels we can see the ugly pseudo-egalitarian future of the SAT:
For years, the British college-entrance achievement test, known as the "A-level," has been subject to creeping grade inflation. Twenty years ago, 68 percent of the pupils who took A-levels passed the test. Today that figure is greater than 94 percent. Twenty years ago, only seven percent of students taking A-levels got an "A." Today more than 20 percent receive A's.
As a result of this grade inflation, the better British universities are finding it difficult to choose their students. This has forced schools like Oxford and Cambridge to interview nearly every applicant personally ó a task that is severely cutting into the research time of British professors. Recently, as a result, a few colleges decided to require aptitude tests based on the American SAT.
Last month, in the midst of the yearly debate over what to do about the accelerating grade inflation crisis of the A-levels, an extraordinary scandal broke. It seems that the head of the exam board at Oxford and Cambridge conspired with the government's own exam watchdog commission to tamper with the results of the A-levels. You might think he artificially inflated exam grades in response to political pressure, but in this case, the crime was the reverse.
Precisely because years of political pressure have turned A-level grade inflation into an open national scandal, the head of the Oxford and Cambridge exam board actually intervened to mark down the scores of the best students in Britain. His fear was that A-level grade inflation this year had gotten so out of hand that honest reporting of the actual national grades would have provoked another round of public outrage at retreating standards. To avoid that, Dr. Ron McLone, with the full knowledge of the government's own exam watchdog commission, secretly lowered the scores of the very best students in Britain, depriving them of a chance to gain positions at Britain's best schools.
The irony: now the British are consulting with the College Board to see about designing an SAT-like aptitude test--at the very moment the College Board has caved in to political pressure to convert the SAT into an eminently problematic achievement test, a la the A-levels.
The Annals of Improbable Research
The Annals of Improbable Research awarded its annual Ig Nobel Peace Prizes last week. The 2002 winners include Karl Kruszelnicki of The University of Sydney, for performing a comprehensive survey of human belly button lint -- who gets it, when, what color, and how much; Arnd Leike of the University of Munich, for demonstrating that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of Exponential Decay; Chris McManus of University College London, for his excruciatingly balanced report, "Scrotal Asymmetry in Man and in Ancient Sculpture"; and Vicki L. Silvers of the University of Nevada-Reno and David S. Kreiner of Central Missouri State University, for their colorful report "The Effects of Pre-Existing Inappropriate Highlighting on Reading Comprehension."
A Georgia school district has
A Georgia school district has decreed that evolution is just a theory and should not therefore be given priority in the schools. The ruling came down after 2000 county residents signed a petition demanding that stickers stating that evolution is theory and not a fact be placed on the covers of all biology books.
Here is the Cobb County School District's policy on Theories of Origin:
As stated in Policy IA, Philosophy, it is the educational philosophy of the Cobb County School District to provide a broad based curriculum; therefore, the Cobb County School District believes that discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species. This subject remains an area of intense interest, research, and discussion among scholars. As a result, the study of this subject shall be handled in accordance with this policy and with objectivity and good judgment on the part of teachers, taking into account the age and maturity level of their students.
The purpose of this policy is to foster critical thinking among students, to allow academic freedom consistent with legal requirements, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity of opinion, and to ensure a posture of neutrality toward religion. It is the intent of the Cobb County Board of Education that this policy not be interpreted to restrict the teaching of evolution; to promote or require the teaching of creationism; or to discriminate for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, religion in general, or non-religion.
Thus does creationism find its pedagogical justification in the postmodern critique of truth. Do we still need to argue about whether postmodern relativism is a tool of fundamentalist thought?
"There's nothing political about American
"There's nothing political about American literature," says Laura Bush, who has held three literary symposia--one on Twain, one on the Harlem Renaissance, and one on women writers of the West--at the White House over the past year. As so often happens when it covers the arts, the New York Times is unintentionally hilarious on the subject of Mrs. Bush's apparent literacy and possible taste. It describes the shock left-wing writers and scholars have experienced upon receiving invitations to come to the White House to speak ("Justin Kaplan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of Mark Twain who says Mr. Bush has a 'troglodytic' approach to social and economic problems, was so surprised by his invitation from the White House to a symposium on Twain that he told the aide in the first lady's office he would have to get back to her"). And it describes the even greater shock of those same scholars upon discovering that Mrs. Bush isn't just bumbling about in American culture like a Texas longhorn in a china shop. Here's the best part:
Participants have also been surprised by the choice of authors, who are always selected by Mrs. Bush. When Patricia Nelson Limerick, a leading historian of the American West and the author of the influential revisionist history "The Legacy of Conquest," was asked to speak about the Western writers Willa Cather, Edna Ferber and Laura Ingalls Wilder in September, she had to read Ferber's "Giant" for the first time ó and came away stunned.
"It is quite a penetrating, mocking portrait of Texas rich people, and particularly of people making their money in oil," Ms. Limerick said, adding that she at first could not imagine that the first lady, with her roots in Texas, would have selected such a book for White House discussion. But when Mrs. Bush spoke in her opening remarks at that symposium of Ferber's shock at "the swaggering arrogance of men in 10-gallon hats," Ms. Limerick knew that Mrs. Bush was no stranger to the themes of "Giant."
"I did Mrs. Bush a terrible disservice thinking that maybe she didn't know, that she thought these were all little houses on the prairie," Ms. Limerick said.
The Times thinks it is reporting a remarkable event: a rare sighting in the Republican stratosphere, a sort of cultural UFO (Unheard-of Female Object), a Republican--and a Texan!--who reads!! And who is capable of insight! Possibly even self-awareness! Possibly--just possibly--self-satire! Gawd. We academics all know that the only reason nice Southern women like Laura Bush become raging reactionaries married to oil-slick imperialist "troglodytes" like Dubya is that they are ignorant, uncultured rednecks who don't know any better. They are mystified and unenlightened, traitors to their sex who have been hoodwinked by the misogynist ideology of the right. And we all know that when it comes to culture--true culture, the high culture of arts and letters, the culture only left-wing intellectuals can properly appreciate (or hate)--Republicans, particularly rich Texan ones, are as dumb and stunted as they come. And yet, it seems that Laura Bush may actually have a brain, and may even be able to use it for non-partisan, non-conniving ends. What a story! And so it makes the New York Times. Trouble is, that's not the real story. The real story is the self-aggrandizing narrowmindedness of an intellectual left--I include the NYT under that heading--that can be as shocked as this when it encounters a reality that does not fit its nasty little myths.
October 6, 2002
The New Criterion weighs in
The New Criterion weighs in on recent surveys revealing the American professoriate's astoundingly uniform political leanings:
What do these surveys tell us? For one thing, as American Enterprise notes, they tell us that although ìcolleges like to characterize themselves as wide-open places Ö where all ideals and principles may be pursued freely,î in reality ìyou will find a much wideróand freerócross-section of human reasoning and conviction in the aisles of any grocery store or city bus.î But there is more. It is not simply that our colleges and universities have institutionalized a sort of Orwellian parody of diversity. There is also the issue of educational responsibility. That is to say, the rejection of conservatism on campus is not only a political gestureóthough it is certainly that. It is also an intellectual rebellion and, we would argue, a violation of pedagogical trust. The political philosopher Hannah Arendt was certainly no conservative when it came to politics. But she understood that any education worthy of the name had to be conservative. ìConservatism,î she wrote in 1958, ìin the sense of conservation, is of the essence of the educational activity, whose task is always to cherish and protect something.î Today, manyóperhaps mostóof those who are entrusted by society with cherishing and protecting our cultural heritage are in fact the despoilers of that heritage.
The wildly skewed political complexion of college faculties is grounds for concern. Among other things, it shows what a travesty the touted ideal of diversity is on many campuses. But there is more at stake than a spurious ideal of diversity. In a deeper sense, the political commitments of the American professoriate are the coefficient of a radical rejection: the rejection of those allegiances to the pastóto ìcherish and protect somethingîówithout which education is no more than ideological indoctrination. In other words, what we are facing is not merely a failure, but an active repudiation, of education as traditionally conceived.
Yup. Education is an inherently conservative endeavor. It seems so obvious as to be tautological. And yet the vast majority of academics I know would roll their eyes at such a characterization and call it the self-serving rationale of right-wing reactionaries who are waxing bitter at not having a bigger place in the progressive American academy.
It's not that conservatives should be doing the educating, but that all educators, no matter what their politics, should recognize their role as preservers of culture and transmitters of knowledge. But it's hard to do that when you've deconstructed everything, and when you have decided that Western culture as we know it is essentially a tool of oppression. You can't teach content when you think that way. You quite literally cannot supply students with anything meaningful. Instead you devote yourself to eroding the tradition you have inherited, and that makes your work possible. And then you blame the greedy capitalist system for your students' lack of interest in the history you have hollowed out. It's the right--I mean left--thing to do.
Writing in the Washington Times
Writing in the Washington Times today, Balint Vazsonyi questions the use of the term "capitalism" to describe modern, free-market economies, arguing that the term persists more because of its rhetorical power than for its use value as a socioeconomic descriptor. Connoting an oppressed proletariat virtually enslaved by a dominant class that owns and controls the means of production, "capitalism" gives a ready-made, knee-jerk agenda to rabble-rousing Marxist groups such as the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, which rants against capitalism on its various Web sites and organizes anti-capitalist marches and protests in American cities. Nobody questions the logic at play in such movements, Vazsonyi points out, because nobody has adequately redefined capitalism after Marx -- in fact anti-capitalist activists have a vested interest in not redefining capitalism. Although liberal economies themselves have evolved and changed quite dramatically over the past century and a half, those opposed to them still essentually rehearse arguments developed in the context of Victorian factories and early urban slums. Arguing for an understanding of capitalism as a historically and socially delimited phenomenon (and arguing that the economy of the United States was never truly "capitalist" in the Marxian sense), Vazsonyi proposes the more apt descriptive terms "free markets" or "free enterprise" to denote the economic systems that presently previl throughout most of the contemporary Western world. However, the lingering power of the word "capitalism" becomes evident when he asks rhetorically "Can you see an outfit called 'Anti-Free Market Convergence' organizing demonstrations in Washington?". Marxist activists need to preserve "capitalism" as the object of their opposition because they cannot afford, after all, to be seen explicitly opposing freedom ("anti-free" would look rather odd on an activist's placard). What looks like a quibble over terminology actually reflects deeply rooted politial differences: libertarians realize that opposing free markets and opposing freedom itself are really quite complementary; the Left, au contraire, proceeds in the deluded belief that opposition to markets will bring about greater freedoms for all. (To which I say: Read Hayek. Now.)
Modern humanities departments give Marxist activism its pseudo-intellectual rationale, and the rhetorical power of anti-capitalist rhetoric flourishes unabated in today's English, women's studies, and sociology departments, where faculty and students alike positively trip over one another to display their socialist credentials (the graduate student teaching "Gender, Desire, Power: Rethinking the Novel" during the week is likely to be found protesting capitalist oppression on the weekend). Note, however, the clear disconnect between humanities academics' theoretical pontifications on socioeconomic issues (cue much reverential invocation of continental philosophy and literary theory) and anything approaching credible thinking on modern economic policy. On this point, see Penn English alum Asparagirl's description of a recent debate between Brink Lindsey, director of the Cato Insitute's Center for Trade Policy Studies and author of Against the Dead Hand: The Uncertain Struggle for Global Capitalism, and Michael Hardt, associate professor of comparative literature at Duke and co-author of the anti-globalization tract Empire. Hardt has made quite a splash on the academic scene of late: The Guardian notes that "eminent professors describe Empire as 'nothing less than a re-writing of the communist manifesto for our time' and the first 'great new theoretical synthesis of the new millennium'"; influential publications such as the The New York Times, Time, and The Nation have heaped praise upon the volume, too. "Does it have the staying power and broad appeal necessary to become the next master theory?" Emily Eakin asked in the New York Times. "It is too soon to say. But for the moment, Empire is filling a void in the humanities." Meanwhile, Lindsey's book has largely been ignored in the mainstream media, and no self-respecting English professor would be caught dead reading it, let alone assigning it to a class. Despite this, Asparagirl's description of the Lindsey/Hardt face-to-face debate is telling: "[Lindsey] seemed to have thought through his positions quite clearly and had a multitude of examples to bring up to illustrate his points", she writes; by contrast, "Michael Hardt seemed very unsure of himself, almost intimidated to be there.... It was hard to believe that he is a professor, as he seemed to not be able to clearly articulate much of the thesis of his own book." This is what happens when clear, sharp, perceptive economic thinking faces off against the jargony puffery of modern Marxist theory: the former is convincing and logical; the latter is pompous, porous claptrap. Fortunately everyone but humanities academics can see this to be true.
October 5, 2002
Erin posted last week detailing
Erin posted last week detailing the anti-Semitic background of New Jersey's poet laureate Amiri Baraka, who recently shocked a poetry festival with a little ditty blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks. Michelle Malkin has more on Baraka today in an article entitled "Feeding the mouth that castigates us." Citing choice Baraka quotes ("I don't see anything wrong with hating white people") and giving samples of his verse ("Poetry must see as its central task / building a Marxist LeninistÝCommunist Party in the USA / So that even in our verse / we wageÝideological struggle / over political line"), Malkin goes on to chronicle how the U.S. government has been funding and lauding Baraka's "poetic" activities for years. The lines just quoted were subsidized by the National Endowment for the Arts. Naturally, there's more:
The federal stamp of approval helped propel Mr. Baraka into the literary stratosphere over the years, and enabled him to secure various teaching positions at the New School for Social Research in New York, the University of Buffalo, San Francisco State University, Yale University, George Washington University, and the State University of New York in Stony Brook. His writings have been used in public high school classrooms and in Black Studies courses in colleges across the country.
His anti-white, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish and anti-Western verses of vitriol have won Mr. Baraka a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Mr. Baraka is a favorite of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the left-wing charity established in the name of a Rockefeller daughter. He was recently inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. ÝIn July 2002, Mr. Baraka received his most recent gift from American taxpayers: a $10,000 stipend from the state of New Jersey to serve as its "poet laureate" for two years.
Whites and Asians have been
Whites and Asians have been banned from the African and African Descendants World Conference on Racism, currently convening in Barbados. Several delegates explained the rationale in language that reflects the inclusive and peaceful spirit of the conference:
Ý"I think not to have dealt with it [the presence of white and Asians] would have harmed the conference because our people have been traumatized by racism .... We have been traumatized by white people and when we come to a meeting to talk about how we've been traumatized, sometimes their presence is upsetting."
"How can they heal when the perpetrators are there?"
Ý"We told [organizers] emphatically that we don't want to be sitting down with no Europeans or Asians and they assured us that this is an African and African-only event and that is why we came here."
The first two quotes are from Americans. The third is British.
The American romance with entrepreneurial
The American romance with entrepreneurial victimhood reached a new low yesterday when an L.A. jury awarded a 64-year-old woman $28 billion in punitive damages. The charge? Smoking gave her lung cancer. The defendant? Why, the Philip Morris Company, of course. The plaintiff, who began smoking at 17, has already won almost a million dollars in compensatory damages, thus proving that committing slow, voluntary suicide by cigarette is now a highly lucrative career option for those with a litigious turn of mind.
Until yesterday, the largest judgment against a tobacco company was $3 billion, which was awarded in June 2001 to another lifelong smoker with lung cancer. It was reduced to $100 million on appeal. Yesterday's award, which represented 38% of Philip Morris' 2001 earnings, caused a bit of an earthquake on the New York Stock Exchange--as Philip Morris' stock value dropped by nearly 10%, the Dow itself lost 189 points.
The good news is that the jury has announced this judgment fulfills Big Tobacco's reparative obligations. According to The Washington Times, "Jurors interviewed after the trial said they calculated the $28 billion in punitive damages by multiplying $1 million times the 28,000 persons in the United States who die each year from lung cancer linked to smoking." As one jurist explained, "Those are the people who never had a chance to come to the trial." I would hope that defense lawyers would cite this rhetoric the next time someone tries to convince the courts that the tobacco industry is to blame for his own decision to poison himself.
Jane Havsy, a sports reporter
Jane Havsy, a sports reporter for the Daily Record, graduated from Penn in 1996. Writing in response to my post about feminism last night, in which I noted that only one quarter of American women now willingly call themselves "feminists," Jane describes how Penn women who refuse the orthodox mantle endure ideological bullying in the women's studies classroom: "I never did consider myself a feminist," she writes, "but I remember everyone in the lone women's studies class I took at Penn insisting that I had to be. Why? Because I'm a sports reporter." Assuming that a woman would only enter the male bastion of sports journalism to promote feminist principles, these women's studies students "insisted" that Jane identify her career decision with a self-consciously ideological stance. However, "I did not choose my career to fulfill someone else's agenda," Jane writes, "and I never did take another women's studies class." Women's studies programs proudly tally the number of women who enroll in their courses; I wonder if they ever take stock of how many women they alienate and disgust. I suspect not.
This is the second part
This is the second part of my blog series on the summer reading programs that many schools make a required component of freshman orientation. The first part commenced a case study of the summer reading program at UNC-Chapel Hill, home of last summer's infamous Approaching the Qur'an incident.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched its Summer Reading Program in the fall of 1999. Billing the program as "designed to stimulate conversation inside and outside the classroom about social issues facing all of us today as we enter the new millennium," UNC kicked off its campaign to add "intellectual uplift" to freshman orientation with Alex Kotlowitz's There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America, a book about two black boys growing up in the tough Chicago projects. Kotlowitz's book, UNC assured its incoming freshmen, would allow them "to see how real, good people, in a terrible environment, are affected by social problems and social policies at ground level." As such, this "unforgettable book" chosen by a faceless but apparently very sensitive "committee of faculty, staff, and students" would "help first-year students at UNC-CH to get outside of themselves, to stretch themselves, and to begin the type of public conversation central to an informed and socially-conscious citizenry."
The language here is that of politicized morality. It is the righteous boilerplate of the campus left, dressed up to be accessible to a class of freshmen the folks at UNC clearly believe are in dire need of sensitization. Casting first-year students as self-involved, privileged little twits--as people who need "to get outside themselves, to stretch themselves," and who moreover need "help" doing it--the program's hackneyed quasi-therapeutic mission statement drips with sappy contempt for the unenlightened youth it proposes to convert to more acceptable styles of thought. It also, by extension, drips with sappy contempt for the parents of those unenlightened youth.
UNC's Summer Reading Program thus uses a seemingly innocuous assignment--to read a book over the summer and come to campus prepared to discuss it--as a crash course in elementary social consciousness. It need hardly be said that the social consciousness it plans to teach is that of bleeding heart liberalism. That comes through loud and clear when the book is presented as a chance "to see how real, good people, in a terrible environment, are affected by social problems and social policies at ground level." This is left-wing victimology for dummies. If the UNC web site were a person, it would talk r-e-a-l s-l-o-w and REAL LOUD at this point. You just have to do stuff like that when you are dealing with people who are stupid, or deaf, or have different political views.
But despite UNC's apparent belief that their message is Really Hard, you don't have to be a rocket scientist--or even a Marxist theorist--to see where they are going with this Reading Program of theirs. Though the front page of the Reading Program web site studiously avoids mention of race, it nonetheless strongly evokes it in the image of exotically named boys (Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers) growing up in the Chicago projects. Deeper into the site, the chosen book's focus on race is openly and proudly touted. On the page devoted to Kotlowitz's biography, for instance, UNC showcases what the New York Times wrote about another of Kotlowitz's books: "Of all the many books written about race in America in the past couple of years, none has been quite like The Other Side of the River...." The same page notes that the assigned book was made into a movie of the week starring Oprah Winfrey. Likewise, the site offers a timeline that is entirely devoted to the history of black migration to the northern U.S. There are also bibliographies, collections of links, and even music clips, all dedicated to African American history. UNC's inaugural summer reading program sought specifically to raise social consciousness about race.
UNC was even more obvious about this the next year. The chosen text for the 2000 Carolina Summer Reading Program was Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic, a national bestseller about the lasting effect of the Civil War on U.S. culture. Seeing the book as a kind of pop cultural political Bible, the UNC web site introduces the book in tones of rank pedagogical piety:
Tony Horwitz raises issues important for all of us who will call the South home for the next several years. The book, chosen by a group of Carolina students and faculty, provokes readers to consider the centrality of the Civil War for Southern culture and identity, the importance of race in shaping our worldviews, and the enduring significance of regional differences. The writing is witty and lucid. The New York Times Book Review said the volume is "the freshest book about divisiveness in America. . . a splendid commemoration of the war and its Legacy." The committee felt this book provides a wonderful opportunity for readers to ponder and discuss their views of war, race, and region in U.S. history and contemporary culture.
So powerful is the "intellectual uplift" provided by Horwitz's book that UNC's administrators simply cannot, in good conscience, allow any of the freshman flock to miss it. Instead, they simply compel students to participate in their contrived attempt to stage frank and open discussions--among strangers!--about the extremely personal, highly volatile issue of race: "On Monday, August 21st, from 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m., students are required to contribute to small group discussions led by selected faculty and staff. This is an opportunity for you to connect with members of Carolina's learning community and to share a common academic experience with your new peers" (original emphasis). Love those mandatory opportunities. Someone must have misread the memo: the goal is to forge community, not force it.
But forcing community by forcefeeding belief seems to be the mission of the Carolina Summer Reading Program. More on how this works soon.
October 4, 2002
Taking as her starting point
Taking as her starting point the Feminist Majority Foundation's recent effort to revive Ms. magazine, Catherine Seipp has written a fascinating Reason article about modern feminism's degeneration into irrelevance and absurdity. Tracing the disconnect between American women and the feminist establishment on issues including reproduction, childbirth, education, 9/11, and the war on terrorism, Seipp's article compellingly explains why only twenty-five percent of women now willingly describe themselves to pollsters as "feminists."
For some related reading, also from Reason, see Cathy Young's "Feminism's Slide Since September 11". Her conclusion is particularly striking: "However much we would like to see women's liberation as a natural right, it is the achievement of a complex, advanced civilization. Recent events remind us that this civilization is fragile and that its enemies are hostile to freedom for anyone -- but especially women. Feminists, perhaps more than anyone else, should realize that the West is worth defending. Perhaps if they did realize it, they wouldn't be so irrelevant."
Bowling Green State is holding
Bowling Green State is holding a conference on slave reparations. Entitled "Moral Legacy of Slavery: Repairing Injustice," the conference doesn't even try to offer a balanced presentation of perspectives on the issue. As controversial as reparations is, it doesn't look like there will be much controversy at all at Bowling Green come October 18. The conference web site provides abstracts for each talk. Each talk is in favor of reparations. There will be no debate. The conference is not about exchanging ideas, but about confirming consensus. Citing the "unfinished business" of slavery's moral legacy, the conference speakers each dedicate themselves to framing some aspect of the case for reparations. Some offer moral, philosophical, and pseudo-legal analyses; others come right out and offer plans for implementing reparations. I quote from the abstract of Gerald Horne, a History professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
According to the latest polls, perhaps 75% of the U.S. population are not supportive of reparations. This paper will suggest that the prospects for attaining this goal in the face of such opposition will turn on the sentiments in a much larger community--the international community. By reference to history, this paper will argue that from the abolition of slavery to the erosion of Jim Crow in the 1950s, these progressive developments were driven substantially by pressure from the international community. By reference to the current international situation, this paper will suggest that substantial progress toward reparations can be made if there is an emphasis on mobilization--including lawsuits--in e.g. the European Union, China, Japan, Africa, etc.
I would say that the conference is a prime example of how scholarship has merged with advocacy in today's academy. Except that scholarship that is also advocacy ain't scholarship. It's propaganda.
Maurice and I have both
Maurice and I have both blogged today about Noam Chomsky's visit to Penn. The reactions to his venomous speech are starting to roll in. Check out the growing string of comments appended to the bottom of Ariel Benson's editorial on Chomsky and the divestment campaign. Here's a sample:
Going in with high expectations I was completely disappointed by Chomsky lecture. His opinions were outrageous, not substantiated and plain wrong. As Ariel Benson said, to call Israel an anti-Human rights country is beyond ludicrous. Thousands of Ethiopians were brought to Israel and provided with housing and food during "Mivtza Shlomo". A large part of the Palestinian population relies on the Israeli economy for food and employment. Divestiture of Israel would harm the Palestinian population just as much as it would harm Israel. There are many other aspects which portray Israel as a strong supporter of the human rights movement. Yes, It is true that occupation of the territories does not fall within Israel's normal human rights standards, but neither does walking down the street and having your heart blown to pieces. To blame Israel as a country abusing human rights due to it's strong stance against terror is equivalent to blaming the US for human rights violations in Afghanistan.
On a final note I would like to thank Ariel Benson for voicing a more accurate and just position concerning the effects of divestiture of Israel.
I have to say I'm proud to see Penn students standing up for their beliefs in a climate of hostility--toward Israel and toward Jews--that is patently pathological and even, at times, verges on the psychotic.
The Daily Pennsylvanian follows up
The Daily Pennsylvanian follows up on Noam Chomsky's visit to Penn with an editorial entitled "The Case Against Chomsky". Penn sophomore Ariel Benson tells the worshipful campus left some hard truths about the cunning linguist's "messages of discrimination and distortion":
Yesterday at Irvine Auditorium, Chomsky became the first person to sign a petition to call for the University divestment from Israel, following a speech in which he compared the United States to a totalitarian dictatorship.
But Chomskyís bizarre and extreme views should be no surprise. Several years ago, he wrote an approving introduction to a vile book by the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, in which Faurisson claimed that the Jews were responsible for World War II, denied that Anne Frank ever existed and argued that there were never any Nazi death camps in Europe.
There's much more.
The October issue of
The October issue of First Things features a pointed and timely article on the ugly demise of sociology. According to Boston University's Peter Berger, sociology has been crippled twice over: first, by a "methodological fetishism [that] has resulted in many sociologists using increasingly sophisticated methods to study increasingly trivial topics"; second, by allowing itself to become "an instrument of agitation and propaganda" for the Left. Calling sociology an "ideological amalgam ... of Marxist provenance," Berger notes that in ceding its intellectual prerogatives to political ones, sociology has totally abandoned the one thing that gives it disciplinary credibility: a belief that scientific methods can help us reason our way toward truth. As Berger explains, "The core scientific principle of objectivity has been ignored in practice and denied validity in theory." Subscribers only, alas.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this week on reforms designed to curb abuse of the .edu Internet domain. Although .edu should designate only accredited post-secondary educational establishments, one now finds commercial sites such as insurancefactory.edu, portal sites such as bucharest.edu, and even, in the case of intania.edu, "educational" sites devoted to pictures of bikini-clad girls. The latter site will surely irk campus progressives more than any other; after all, Cornell University historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Washington women's health advocate Jacquelyn Jackson teach us that the bikini oppresses women just as much as the burka.
Noam Chomsky spoke at Penn
Noam Chomsky spoke at Penn yesterday on the evils of U.S. foreign policy. The event was a publicity boost for Penn's growing Divestment Campaign, which is circulating a petition that Chomsky, a Penn alum, personally signed. The Daily Pennsylvanian's coverage of Chomsky's talk is an interesting example of journalistic dissociation. The student reporter was very careful always to couch Chomsky's claims as claims:
During the lecture, Chomsky gave a detailed account of U.S actions over the course of the past few decades. He said that these actions caused great harm to many countries in terms of social and political damage and resulted in the deaths of millions of people. He talked about U.S. actions in countries such as Nicaragua, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran and Egypt among others, and how the populations of these countries suffered, in his opinion, because of U.S involvement.
Chomsky gave an account, Chomsky said, Chomsky talked about. Chomsky also "accused":
He accused successive U.S. governments of having selective standards for themselves and the rest of the world and backed up his claims by giving numerous examples of what he called U.S. hypocrisy, and added that this was one of the biggest reasons for resentment against the U.S. throughout the world.
Accusing the U.S. and Israel of blocking a political solution to the Middle East conflict, Chomsky said that this was all part of a U.S-Israeli plan to make a new Middle East of their own liking ó one that would have subservient leaders and whose geographical boundaries could be changed at will.
Accusations are not statements of truth--a distinction this reporter, unlike so many others, seems to want to maintain. Kudos to the DP. Now if it just had a sex columnist.....
The new trend in student
The new trend in student newspapers: sex columnists.
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds is deeply displeased with the New York Times' belated and slanted coverage of the hallowed tradition of campus sex columny. Glenn has been following the phenomenon for quite some time now, and he speaks with authority on the subject. One question he has asked repeatedly: Why are all the campus sex columnists women? Our theory is that a man could not be a campus sex columnist in today's male-unfriendly campus culture. When women students write provocative, often self-revealing columns about sex, when they opine about desire and deliver precociously expert advice, they are celebrating sexuality and expressing their own liberation. They are titillating readers while at the same time making a feminist statement. They are loved by all (except certain campus conservatives, whose sensibilities do not count in the moral calculus of campus culture).
But if a male student were to write columns on, say, oral sexual technique (as Yale sex columnist Natalie Krinsky has famously done) he and his paper would be up on harassment charges so fast it would make our puritanical academic heads spin. There would be protests, possibly even stolen press runs. There would be sensitivity workshops and the paper would face defunding. Men, after all, do not have a sexuality that can stand up to public exposure. They are, after all, potential rapists, each and every one. Male sexuality is no laughing matter and should not be treated lightly--and playfully--in the inky pages of a student rag.
I amend my earlier call for the DP to get a sex columnist. Now I say it should get itself a male sex columnist. It would make an important statement. And it would make a great read. Healthy male sexuality is our new undiscovered--because forgotten--country.
October 3, 2002
With all the fuss about
With all the fuss about Campus Watch, another academic watchdog web site seems to have crept in beneath the campus thought police's trusty radar. NoIndoctrination.Org is a new site expressly devoted to cataloguing instances of bias on campus. Here's the site's mission statement, and here is the text from the front page:
Universities in a free society should be places where open minds can flourish and examine ideas from a variety of reasoned perspectives. In recent years, however, sociopolitical agendas often drive the discourse - supplanting, suppressing, and ultimately excluding alternative views. NoIndoctrination.org provides a forum to publicize students' reports about college and university courses and programs that in their opinion contain severe bias or amount to indoctrination.
If you believe you have experienced courses or orientation programs that advance one-sided social or political ideologies, denigrate alternative views, or create an intimidating atmosphere for expressing diverse opinions, please post your experiences here (and, if possible, send corroborating material). The information we gather will help us in our mission to promote open inquiry in academia.
When Campus Watch announced that it would be keeping dossiers on professors who have had a large role in the corruption of Middle East studies, and when it dared to encourage students to report any Middle East-related heinousness on their campuses, academics cried long and loud that their academic freedom was being chilled by a McCarthyite attempt to "spy" on them and to "stalk" them. Meanwhile, NoIndoctrination.org has been quietly logging extensive reports on professors who run courses that are, to the student reporter's mind, unconscionably biased and doctrinaire. It's a young site, and there isn't much on it yet. But what is there is pretty interesting.
Here's a description of freshman orientation at UC San Diego:
During this day-long mandatory "freshperson" (yes, that was a term used) orientation for Warren College at UCSD in Sept. 2000, students were required to attend various sessions and activities. Only one of these was related to academics - the planning of our course schedules. The afternoon and evening were devoted to games, role-playing, and other "sensitivity" programs. Most notable was a session in which the organizer would name a "victim" group (e.g., those from low-income families, those who had been racially discriminated against, those who were or were good friends with homosexuals, etc.) and the students who fit that category would stand until the next group was called. This served only to intimidate and embarrass those not standing, especially since the activity must have lasted for 30 or so rounds and each group was kept standing for about a minute. The organizer then decided to talk some - about how those who had stood up had more to deal with than others, about how no one has the right to be concerned about privacy if he/she has a homosexual roommate, etc. Rather than merely telling us to be respectful towards other people, those running the orientation went beyond and made this an exercise in thought reform. It was not a very promising start to one's first year of college.
I'm collecting anecdotes about thought reform at freshman orientation. This story is depressingly familiar. So is the following account of a freshmen writing course, also at UCSD:
Although we did discuss both sides of the reading materials on controversial subjects, most of the time the TA seemed to make it quite clear what her view was. Many times she also did not hide her belief that we should hold the same views. There were only 15 people in the class, so intimidation was often easy to achieve. On one occasion, she polled us on our views on the use of racial preferences and quotas for university admissions. Those who opposed (myself and another) were then asked pointed and intimidating questions about our own stance. This was after the TA told us her own views. Then we had a "discussion" where she basically had the other students tell us why our ideas were wrong. At the end of the course, she showed us a video (not on the syllabus) on racism and after that we had another "discussion" where she made sweeping generalizations about racists (who are apparently always white) and their pervasion of all aspects of society.
The reader for the course consisted of 5 essays. The first was an essay which practically accused all whites as being racist. The next two essays were responses which essentially agreed with the first essay and added further arguments. The fourth was, however, a response (incidentally written by an African-American) challenging the original author in a civil and academic fashion. The fifth and final essay was a response by the original author to the author of the unfavorable response. It was essentially a personal attack that basically accused the man of being a traitor to his race. One of the essays also indicated that Asians are "proto-whites" (used as a degrading term) because they apparently do not experience racism from whites in the same way that other races do.
This course is required of all students in Warren College at UCSD. It is intended to be a course on writing, but the only time the TA taught us anything about writing was when many of the students complained that they wanted to learn how to write better.
Also a depressingly typical statement about what goes on in "freshman writing" courses across the country. Interestingly, the writing director at UCSD is Linda Brodkey, a composition specialist who left UT Austin after a failed, highly publicized attempt to politicize the freshman comp curriculum there. She found greener pastures, apparently, at UCSD.
NoIndoctrination.org is very far from the sleek, high profile site Daniel Pipes created in Campus Watch. From the look of it, it is very much a shoestring operation. But it's worth watching.
Parents of school kids in
Parents of school kids in Aspen, Colorado are protesting the addition of yoga to the curriculum. The idea was to teach kids to relax. But outraged parents say yoga teaches religion. According to one father, who is also the pastor at the local Baptist church, yoga's roots lie in Hinduism, and therefore teaching yoga in the schools violates the separation of church and state. But, as the American Yoga Association's web site points out, "The common belief that Yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries." So, it should be noted, does idiocy.
October 2, 2002
Newsweek's "My Turn" column is
Newsweek's "My Turn" column is devoted this week to the intolerance that is so often the real agenda of liberal tolerance-mongering. Written by a self-identified conservative Christian, it's both a damning testimonial to the sort of lockstep morality that passes these days for enlightened openness and a fine example of what real tolerance should look like. Thanks to Bob F. for the link.
Sean Hannity has this to
Mr. Pipes, you're doing, I think, American parents a favor because if you accu -- and I think it's got to be accurate. If you're accurately quoting the extreme left-wing agenda ... who blame America for the attacks and say, "Look at us," the blame-America-first crowd, I think parents can go to your Web site, and that can become a resource for them so that, when they're making decisions about whether or not to send their kids to ... college like the University of San Francisco, they'll have at least some knowledge of where these people that will be educating their children are coming from.
There's more. Pipes trounces Stephen Zunes, a University of San Francisco professor who made Campus Watch's now-defunct dossier page. Zunes begins with pieties about how the right is trying to stifle free speech and to regulate the marketplace of ideas. And he ends as a blithering idiot, spouting disconnected political jargon while Hannity cheers him on: "Come on," he cries as Zunes starts to devolve into radical cliche, "Here we go!" The catalyst for this meltdown? Zunes' inability to explain how it is that when he says 9/11 happened because of things the U.S. has done, he is not saying 9/11 was America's fault. More academics who think like Zunes should be made to explain themselves in the truly public forum of national television. On this issue, as on so many others, we could all do with a good, long look at what lies beneath the surface of academic jargon.
"Low self-esteem" is a rallying
"Low self-esteem" is a rallying cry to feminist and race-based activism in education these days; any report on the status of women and minorities on campus is likely to cite it liberally before demanding funds, resources, centers, programs, demographically correct faculty hires, support groups, cultural and historical "celebrations," etc., to redress the "problem." However, in today's Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan makes the perceptive comment that "the crutch of 'low self-esteem' may be the latest analytic tool to infantilize people and groups of people, by denying them full self-determination. It empowers the care-givers and social engineers, and disempowers those deemed to be low in self-love." The goal of campus activists, then, is less to create self-esteem in "historically oppressed groups" than to empower and perpetuate the multi-million-dollar emotional support industry that employs them.
In the fall issue of
In the fall issue of The National Interest, Martin Malia, emeritus professor of history at Berkeley, conducts a thoroughgoing moral, political, and historical comparison of the Communist and Nazi movements. While the totalitarian atrocities of Nazism have been thoroughly documented, Malia notes that much academic "research" into Communist ideology and history has been conducted by revisionist academics "ranging from cautious doves to outright fellow travelers." As a result, Communist historiography is "fragmentary, thin, and defective" and existing histories of Communism are "no more than fantasy chapters of an epic culminating in a socialism that turned out to be a mirage." Moreover, despite the collapse of Soviet Communism "the revisionists themselves are still in place, and the debris of their narrative still frames our historical discourse." Explicitly framing his work as a counterweight to that of apologist marxist ideologues, Malia pulls no punches, arguing that "bluntness is presently a therapeutic necessity." Unfortunately the journal's articles are not available online, although abstracts and excerpts may be found here.
New York's Bellevue Hospital has
New York's Bellevue Hospital has launched its own literary review. Not even the Times can keep a straight face about this. After quite properly noting that NYU spent $20,000 to finance the Bellevue Literary Review as part of a nationwide movement to enhance the quality of medical education by using "literature to teach doctors how to write better and clearer case histories and to empathize more with patients," the author thoroughly enjoys the irony of Bellevue's artistic aspirations:
But it seems fitting that Bellevue Hospital, where writers have been committed in the extremes of mental collapse and which is at the center of American cultural life, would have a literary magazine. Malcolm Lowry set part of his novel "Lunar Caustic" in Bellevue after being committed to its psychiatric ward for observation. Part of Billy Wilder's movie "The Lost Weekend," which starred Ray Milland as an alcoholic, takes place at the hospital.
And among the writers who spent time as patients there are Norman Mailer, after he stabbed his wife, Adele, in 1960; William Burroughs, after he cut off his fingertip and gave it to a boyfriend; and the poet Delmore Schwartz, after he attacked the art critic Hilton Kramer, who he thought was having an affair with his wife. The playwright Eugene O'Neill and the poet Gregory Corso also spent time at Bellevue in stages of nervous breakdowns. The novelist Walker Percy was an intern there but left medicine after contracting tuberculosis.
Now that the Bellevue doctors-in-training are being taught to present a patient's case history as "a mystery story, a narrative that unfolds full of surprises, exposing the vulnerability at the human core," does this mean that the inmates are running the asylum?
In response to lawsuits charging
In response to lawsuits charging that state legislatures routinely cheat children by spending too little on schools, a panel has been convened to investigate the real cost of educating a child. The report will center on New York, bastion of big spending and small results, and is expected to reverberate across the country. According to one of the panelists, "This is D-Day for education finance."
I've written a lot lately
I've written a lot lately about the phenomenon of separate freshman orientations for minority students, and I devoted special attention to Brown's remarkable Third World Transition Program (see especially this and this). Today, a Brown undergraduate who opposes the orientation as a type of "apartheid" weighs in at Front Page Magazine. He has apparently caused quite a flap at Brown--for the crime of publishing an article critical of TWTP in the student paper, he has been called, on the paper's public message board no less, "a prick trying to start controversy...the Horowitz-in-residence for Brown. There's one for every season and they usually find themselves living out a reflection of their own hatred."
Or, they find themselves living in the reflection of the hatred spread by separatist campus programs such as Brown's TWTP. This year, an Asian American student reports, "During TWTP, we participated in an exercise that had us 'split up' into our respective ethnicities, list some common misconceptions about our cultures and what we wanted other people to know about them. Although we all laid claim to different ethnic backgrounds, our experiences as minorities in the United States were all remarkably similar, each characterized by a trend of white oppression (whether overt or subtle). These experiences ranged from never completely feeling we belonged in this country to facing unfair racial stereotypes and bias." Bonding as victims of "white oppression" is a feelgood, nominally "therapeutic" means of making racism the basis for community formation (and I mean here not the racism that these students attribute to "white oppression" but the racism that characterizes their own actions at the workshop).
TWTP and programs like it want to look warm and fuzzy. But they are the furthest thing from it--as students who don't fully swallow its cultish tribalism quickly find out. Consider this anecdote about the goings on at TWTP several years ago, sent to me by a former Brown student:
During one of the week's exercises, students were asked to clap when a sentence described them. One sentence said something about homosexuality being sinful or immoral. One young black woman clapped, as she was an observant Muslim from Savannah, Georgia. Horrified at her beliefs, the organizers forced her to slow-dance with another woman while other participants shouted anti-gay slurs at her, "sensitizing" her to her "homophobia." She briefly left school after that week and seriously considered filing a sexual harrassment suit against Brown, but decided against it.
This was not an aberration. It was an exemplification of the emotional blackmail that lies at the heart of so much of the activity campuses devote to teaching "tolerance." "Celebrating diversity" is really a code word for enforcing conformity. If you clap when no one else is clapping, the only thing you get to celebrate is your own humiliation.
In August 1997, the University
In August 1997, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill published the findings of the Chancellor's Task Force on Intellectual Climate. It's an interesting report, not least for the frankness with which it handles UNC's failure to meet its own standards of excellence. It's unusual to see a university engage in honest self-critique; even more unusual to find the results of that critique published on line, for the world to see. But there it is.
What brought me to the report was my interest in the phenomenon of the Freshman Reading Project, that scholastic adjunct to freshman orientation that set off a firestorm at UNC last summer when three students sued the school for using a whitewashed translation of the Koran as the text of choice for the class of 2006. I wanted to know more about what the freshman reading project means at UNC--why they have one, when they got one, what they have assigned in previous years, and where they see the project going.
Last August, everybody and his politically correct dog was standing on a soapbox loudly pontificating about the rightness or wrongness of UNC's choice of text. It was a classic point-counterpoint between liberals and conservatives, each group shouting past the other in its attempt to silence the opposition (or, failing that, just to deafen it). As such, the debate suffered from the usual problems of debates about hot-button contemporary issues. It was totally centered on the present. It was highly rhetorical, but not at all historical. It was heated, but it had no depth. And as a result it devolved into the less-than-enlightening game of moral oneupmanship that too often passes for debate in the media, the right accusing the left of trying to indoctrinate students into their hate-America schtick, the left accusing the right of intolerance and general stupidity. So I didn't post on the UNC fiasco. But I did look a little deeper, and I found out some interesting things.
First, a little background. UNC's Freshman Reading Project was created as a direct result of the 1997 Chancellor's Report on Intellectual Climate. Noting that UNC's current freshman orientation "is strong on getting out needed information to students and making them feel comfortable in their new setting, but it is comparatively weak in inducing a taste for academic adventure and the play of ideas," the UNC task force recommended creating a summer reading program that would be tied to orientation. The Penn Reading Project and the Harvard-Radcliffe Summer Readings were cited as models (more on this in a future blog). The idea behind the reading project was that it would ease the transition to college life by getting students excited about learning. It was meant to provide "an intellectual uplift [to] the freshman orientation experience. The orientation program should begin to teach students to value an active intellectual life." Conceived as an "exercise [that] will encourage active learning among first-year students and offer a common intellectual experience as a starting point for student-to-student interactions," UNC's reading project was envisioned as the bridge between freshman orientation and the academic year.
Let's think a bit about the language here. The report mentions the need to "induce a taste for academic adventure," and assigns this task to orientation, which "should begin to teach students to value an active intellectual life." Inducing taste and teaching values: all the bases are covered here. We have, in the compressed space of a committee report, both an out-moded belles-lettristic appeal to "taste" and a trendy appeal to a therapeutic notion of education as that which allows us to "clarify our values" (eduspeak for getting people to embrace prescribed ideas as their own beliefs). No matter what you think education is for, a freshman reading project is for you. It's culture and self-cultivation all at once. It's all things to all people. It's also remedial. Conceived as a crash course in caring about learning, the freshman reading project as UNC imagined it can compensate for all that didn't happen in the caring-about-learning department during the first eighteen years of a college student's life. Remediation thus becomes an opportunity for re-education. UNC's freshman reading project was not only intended to ease the transition to college level classes; it was also meant to make students care about their classes in the right way, for the right reasons.
So what's the right way to care about learning? What does it mean to develop a "taste for academic adventure and the play of ideas"? How has UNC implemented its goal of "teaching students to value an active intellectual life"? What is the nature of the "intellectual uplift" provided by the reading project that has since become such an integral--and controversial--component of freshmen orientation at UNC? The key lies in the notion of "intellectual uplift," a phrase that, in replacing morality and spirituality--as in "moral uplift" or "spiritual uplift"--with intellectual activity appears to want to establish some kind of equivalence between the life of the mind and moral and spiritual concerns. "Intellectual uplift" is a phrase that wants intellectual experiences to coincide with moral and spiritual experiences; it wants them to be, on some level, the same thing.
Now, if Plato--or even Allan Bloom--were making the case for the "intellectual uplift" of the freshman reading project, I would not be worried. But when it's a bunch of nameless academic bureaucrats coining the term, I have trouble believing they are doing so for the sake of pure, unadulterated liberal education. I believe, instead, that something doesn't smell right about the rhetoric. And I test their rhetoric against the reality. Turns out that the folks at UNC have been as good as their word about making the intellectual moment of the freshman reading project into a moral occasion. Disturbingly so.
More to come.
October 1, 2002
Back in July, Mona Baker,
Back in July, Mona Baker, director of the Center for Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), dismissed academics Miriam Shlesinger and Gideon Toury from the boards of two academic journals she runs. Professor Baker acknowledges that she sacked Drs. Shlesinger and Toury because of their Israeli nationality, explaining simply to the London Telegraph "I deplore the Israeli state."
While this episode turned nary a scholarly head here in Britain, a group of American academics led by Harvard's Stephen Greenblatt condemned Baker's actions and encouraged European intellectuals to take a firm stand against anti-Semitic discrimination. For his troubles, Greenblatt received a wrathful e-mail from Professor Michael Sinnott, a UMIST professor of paper science and a colleague of Baker's. Although Sinnott sent his message in July, Greenblatt only recently made it available to the Telegraph, which published it on Sunday. Here are some excerpts:
"[Israel's] atrocities surpass those of Milosevic's Yugoslavia. Uniformed Israeli troops murder and mutilate Palestinian children, destroy homes and orchards, steal land and water and do their best to root out Palestinian culture and the Palestinians themselves."
"With the recent crop of atrocities the Zionist state is now fully living down to Zionism's historical and cultural origins as the mirror image of Nazism. Both ideologies arose in the same city, within 30 years of each other, and are both based on ideas of a superior/chosen people whose desires override the rights of the rest of us. Zionist atrociousness has been slower to develop, but victims learn from their victimisers, and, with the atrocities in Jenin, Israel is about where Germany was around the time of Kristallnacht."
"I was always amazed that the Israeli atrocities for which my tax dollars were paying were never reported in the American news media which were either controlled by Jews or browbeaten by them in the way you have just exemplified. When the bulk of the American population finds it has been duped by a real Zionist conspiracy ... all the traditional and supposedly long-discredited Jewish conspiracy theories will gain a new lease of life."
Sinnott's message is remarkable not for its opinions, which merely rehearse the fashionable anti-Semitic memes now circulating like a venereal disease within the pomo-Left, but for the virulent clarity with which it states them. This paper science professor became infamous on Sunday, then, not for his views per se, but because he made the egregious error of stating those views in plain, clear language that Telegraph readers could easily understand. But Sinnott is hardly to blame for his unfortunate clarity of expression. Working in the obscure field of paper science, conducting research into the "binding of linked cellulose binding domains to transformer papers," Sinnott obviously missed the opportunity to become intimate with the rhetorical mannerisms of critical and cultural theory, mannerisms that work to encode extremist opinions such as his in a language comprehensible only to initiates. Because one needs a Ph.D. in cryptanalysis to read Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, and their acadmemic kin, rhetorically slippery postmodernists can play the crafty game of obscurantisme terroriste, as outlined here in philosopher John R. Searle's Reason interview:
With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he's so obscure. Every time you say, "He says so and so," he always says, "You misunderstood me." But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that's not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, "What the hell do you mean by that?" And he said, "He writes so obscurely you can't tell what he's saying, that's the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, 'You didn't understand me; you're an idiot.' That's the terrorism part."
Sinnott flunked the obscurantisme test by emailing Greenblatt so bluntly. But if you read -- or, more correctly, if you know how to read -- the current issues of Duke University Press journals Social Text and South Atlantic Quarterly, you'll find concealed behind the mantle of "thoughtful" pomo-Left Newspeak a seething hatred of America, of the West, and of Israel that has much in common, in substance if not in form, with Sinnott's rant. Yet while Sinnott is torn apart in the media for his crude anti-Semitism, Duke's stable of pomo-Left academics are lauded for their perceptive insights and their thought-provoking critiques. Sinnott should be aware that just as clothes maketh the man, jargon maketh the intellectual.
In response to an outcry
In response to an outcry from offended professors, dissenting Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes has pulled the "dossier" section of Campus Watch, the Middle East Forum's new web site dedicated to tracking the how the academy manages--or mismanages--Middle Eastern and Islamic issues. Here is Pipes' official statement:
We launched the site to draw attention to the condition of Middle Eastern studies ... But rather than address the problems we raise, Middle East specialists ñ joined by their colleagues in other fields ñ have talked about nothing but the format of the site. We have made this change to show our goodwill. Now, we hope they will respond to the charges that we are raising: the intellectual failure of Middle East studies, the tendency toward political extremism, the intolerance of alternative viewpoints, the apologetics, and the abuse of power toward students.
Originally, the site contained a page devoted to "dossiers" on those individual professors that have had an especially large hand in corrupting the field of Middle East studies. It collected freely available online resources about these individuals, including samples of their own work. The page made it possible for the public to look closely at the work these individuals were doing, to assess the message they were sending, and to decide for themselves whether there is a problem, and if so, what that problem might be. But in its format--especially in its unfortunately resonant use of the term "dossier"--the page also made it possible for academics to cry McCarthyism and to complain loudly and self-righteously that their academic freedom was being chilled. Never mind that no one censored or silenced anyone; never mind that Campus Watch was launched in order to counter the hateful and often false ideas (about Israel, about Jews, about the West) that campuses are both actively propagating and quietly tolerating. The Left knew what note to strike, and it struck.
If I were Pipes, I would not look too hard for that "goodwill" he is hoping he created. And I would not expect that capitulating to moral blackmail would encourage my opposition to engage in an open, frank exchange of ideas. Pipes clearly didn't anticipate the virulence of the reaction he would get from the campus left, including letters from outraged professors asking, in a well-publicized show of solidarity, to be added to the dossier page. But he should be able to anticipate that allowing himself to be bullied into bowdlerizing his site is not the way to earn the respect--let alone the "goodwill"--of the campus thought police. Michigan professor Juan Cole (formerly featured on the dossier page) gave the Chronicle of Higher Education a hint (subscribers only) of what is to come: "The removal of the individual dossiers is merely a cosmetic change, since the same academics are still being spied on, only under the rubric of spying on their campuses instead. All the same hyperlinks are up concerning me, and the site continues to attempt to convey various false impressions about me." Calling the activity of Campus Watch "spying," and referring to the dossier page as "cyber-stalking," Cole is spreading something a lot less pleasant than good will.