Tag Archives: politically correct

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, But…

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or its title, but how about from an extended interview with the authors?

On November 2, Inside Higher Ed carried such an interview with the three authors of a new book entitled Occupying the Academy. The authors, Christine Clark (a professor of multicultural education at UNLV), Kenneth Fasching-Varner (a professor of elementary education at LSU), and Mark Brimhall-Vargas (associate director of the Office of Diversity Education and Compliance at the University of Maryland), want people to know, as their subtitle puts it, just how important diversity work is in higher education.

Reading through the interview, we never find out exactly what “diversity work” is. Once the admissions people have done their best to engineer a student body that has the right quotas of students of certain ancestries, what more is there to do for the “diversity workers” to do? I have ordered the book and will read it to find out, but I think that the honest answer is that they pretend to keep busy by obsessing over student differences. Diversity work entails a constant search for issues of “insensitivity” that can be used to pry money out of administrators.

That money is very important to these diversiphiles becomes clear in the interview. Diversity offices, we read, “face problems that are largely invisible and hard to understand. They are often starved of resources or are constantly made to scramble for declining resources. This climate of instability makes it hard so that the workers dedicated to equity and diversity are always unsure of whether they will be around.”

Apparently it does not occur to those diversity workers that almost every part of every university now has to scramble for resources and that if they don’t get all the funding they want, it could be because departments that actually do some educating are regarded as more important.

An idea as to the inflated sense of self-importance of these diversity workers comes from Professor Clark’s statement that following Obama’s election, she expected that “our work would get easier, become more respected, be more well-funded, and be able to penetrate further in more substantive ways into the fabric of the academy.” You can probably guess why those dreams didn’t come true – racism.

Furthermore, we learn that diversity workers, displaying the victim mentality that Bruce Bawer brilliantly describes in his book The Victims’ Revolution, believe that they are “under assault.”

Now, I doubt very much that there has ever been a single assault – much less a battery – against any diversity worker. The alleged assault consists of not having a “guarantee that they will have access to the places where meaningful change can happen.” What that means is that the guilt-ridden academic officials who get mau-maued into creating “diversity offices” don’t actually take them seriously, so they can’t “have a real chance at changing the campus composition and climate.” Don’t the diversity workers understand that they’re nothing more than politically correct ornamentation on campus? It’s as if the guards at Buckingham Palace complained that they don’t get to play any role in preparing the defense of the nation.

Again, I will read Occupying the Academy when I get it. If the authors make a persuasive case that all of this “diversity work” is something other than a sheer waste of money, I will be glad to say so.

FIRE Singes the Censors

unlearningliberty.jpeg

How time flies. In 1987, a new breed of speech and harassment codes and student indoctrination were unleashed on college campuses across the land. Thus, what Allan Kors
and Harvey Silverglate famously labeled the “shadow university”–the university
dedicated to censorship and politically correct paternalism–is
now at least 25 years old.

The public recognized the consequences
of the new censorship early on. Noteworthy authors began writing articles and books
about the mounting suppression of free speech, academic freedom, and due
process on campus, culminating in the in-depth chronicling of the dark state of
higher education in The Shadow University
in 1998. 
By the end of the 1990s, however, many observers predicted that the repression would eventually run out of steam as the
passions driving political correctness waned with age. And in many respects,
political correctness often did appear to mellow out. More skeptical
observers claimed that it was not disappearing, but metastasizing. Who
was right?

Greg Lukianoff adresses this question in his outstanding new book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate (Encounter Books).  Lukianoff is the president of the Philadelphia based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, popularly known by its telling acronym, FIRE. Unlearning Liberty is based on cases with which FIRE has dealt over the years.

Continue reading FIRE Singes the Censors

Those Mealy-Mouthed Statements from Our Cairo Embassy

Near
the beginning of Bruce Bawer’s strong new book, The Victims’ Revolution, he talks about the anti-American attitudes
that are nearly mandatory on campuses today and how they radiate throughout our
culture. Those attitudes, inculcated by so many professors, range from
apologetic and guilt-ridden to outright contemptuous and reflexively supportive
of our enemies. The incredibly abject comments from U.S. officials on the
murder of the US ambassador to Libya and the assaults on our embassies in Libya
and Egypt are fairly mild, but still stunning, examples of these attitudes in
action.

What
did the US Embassy in Cairo have to say about the murder of four Americans by
mob violence? It tweeted “U.S. Embassy condemns religious incitement,”
referring to the homemade and obscure anti-Muhammad movie the mob thought
was worth killing for. Nineteen minutes later the embassy thoughtfully added
that it condemns the attack of the mob as well, perhaps because it dawned
on them that self-hatred wasn’t playing well at home. Those early tweets were
deleted, but the official statement from Cairo was just as bad: “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the
universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
     

These
same attitudes infected the mainstream media as well. The New York Times buried the mob violence and killings at the bottom of Page 4, not
mentioning that an ambassador was killed and assuring any readers who got that
far that anti-American feelings are confined to “pockets” in the Middle east.
On the First Page, however, was a big story that Mitt Romney was not opposed to
the Vietnam war as a college student in 1966. Likewise, o
n Morning Joe the all-lefties panels focused exclusively on Mitt
Romney’s statement, the point of which I 
couldn’t quite figure out from the indignant discussion. Romney’s campaign said: “It’s
disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks
on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the
attacks.” I’m not sure Romney should have jumped in at that point. However, the
statement is clearly sensible and accurate, particularly since the Obama
statement was almost as mealy-mouthed as those from the tragically inept
embassy in
Cairo.

Aki Peritz, a former U.S. intelligence analyst,
had the best comment: “Upon reflection, a future press release might
state, ‘We condemn the morons who overran part of our Embassy earlier today.”
Yes, whatever their hurt feelings are.

 

A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

Weissberg essay.jpegAs one who has spent
nearly four decades in the academy, let me confirm what outsiders often
suspect: the left has almost a complete headlock on the publication of serious
(peer reviewed) research in journals and scholarly books. It is not that
heretical ideas are forever buried. They can be expressed in popular magazines,
op-eds and, think tank publications and especially, on blogs. Nevertheless, and
this is critical, these off-campus writings do not count for tenure or
promotion. A successful academic career at a top school requires publishing in
disciplinary outlets and with scant exception these outlets filter out those
who reject the PC orthodoxies.

Continue reading A Modest Proposal to Promote Intellectual Diversity

Why Campus Mascots and Nicknames Are Under Attack

sky diver.jpgThe University of North Dakota sports teams have been known as the “Sioux” or the “Fighting Sioux” for more than 80 years. But this week the university’s hockey team played and lost in the NCAA playoffs wearing uniforms that said simply “North Dakota.” The reason: Last November, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed legislation permitting the university to retire its “Fighting Sioux” nickname so its hockey team could play schools that had boycotted teams with offensive mascots. This was a triumph for the NCAA in its years-long war against “hostile and abusive” nicknames and logos.

Quarrels over the dropping of long-cherished “offensive” nicknames often
generate immense acrimony. I personally observed this battle in my 28
years at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Arguments over
the Fighting Illini and Chief Illiniwek were fierce, even contributing
to the firing of uber-PC campus Chancellor Nancy Cantor.

Continue reading Why Campus Mascots and Nicknames Are Under Attack

Quarantining the PC Pathology

ant.jpgLet’s face it, our noble efforts to detoxify today’s PC-infected university have largely failed and the future looks bleak. This is not to say that the problem is incurable–though it is–but it calls for a solution different from the current approach.  Here’s how.

Begin by recognizing that all our proposed cures impose heavy burdens on foes. For example, demanding an ideologically balanced faculty means fewer positions for PC zealots to fill. Asking them to abandon anti-Americanism requires revising lectures and reading assignment, no small task for those working 24/7 for social justice. And the assignment may be beyond their intellectual abilities. Why should tenured radicals surrender life-time employment to prevent professorial abuses? In a nutshell, our side insists on painful reform from within, all of which have zero benefits to the PC crowd. Victory requires measures that appear as net benefits, not bitter medicine.

My solution arrived one day in a casual conversation with a fellow political scientist. He recounted that when his university initially proposed a separate Department of Women’s Studies, the faculty objected.  Resistance was futile, however, and the separate department came to pass. There was, however, a silver lining in the defeat–with all the department’s strident feminists exported to an autonomous homeland, intellectual life suddenly improved dramatically. No more silly quarrels about inserting gender into international relations, no more struggles over subtly-hidden, invisible sexism and so on. Civility and reason reigned.

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More Groupthink Perils

In his seminal article analyzing the “groupthink” that pervades the modern academy, my colleague Mark Bauerlein described the effects of the Common Assumption (“that all the strangers in the room at professional gatherings are liberals”), creating an academy in which “members may speak their minds without worrying about justifying basic beliefs or curbing emotions.” Alas, the Common Assumption has its “argumentative hazards”: “academics with too much confidence in their audience utter debatable propositions as received wisdom . . . a lone dissenter disrupts the process and, merely by posing a question, can show just how cheap such a pat consensus actually is.”
Two recent events involving Penn professor Tom Sugrue illustrate the perils of the Common Assumption; and, more broadly, the manner in which groupthink (unintentionally) limits the ability of “mainstream” academics to influence public discourse. Sugrue’s website lists multiple, prestigious fellowships. His first book, Origins of the Urban Crisis, justifiably won numerous awards; it’s one of the three or four best books currently in print on 20th century American political culture.
Sugrue, in short, is hardly an academic crank, or a caricature of a “tenured radical.” He’s a serious scholar, producing first-class work on important topics.

Continue reading More Groupthink Perils

The Safe and Secure Professoriate

Here is what Andrew Hacker, co-author of Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids and What We Can Do About It , says about tenure in a recent interview in Atlantic Monthly:

Here’s what happens. Academics typically don’t get tenured until the age of 40. This means that from their years as graduate students and then assistant professors, from age 25 through 38 or 39, they have to toe the line. They have to do things in the accepted way that their elders and superiors require. They can’t be controversial and all the rest. So tenure is, in fact, the enemy of spontaneity, the enemy of intellectual freedom. We’ve seen this again and again. And even people who get tenure really don’t change. They keep on following the disciplinary mode they’ve been trained to follow.
What bothers us, too, is that over 300,000 professors have it. That’s a tremendous number. What that means is these people never leave. There’s hardly any turnover in the senior ranks—not just at Harvard, Yale, and Stanford but at small colleges in Kentucky, everywhere. You go to a campus and over two thirds of the faculty have been there at least 25 years. They begin to stagnate. In many ways, they become infantilized, embroiled in ideological issues like faculty parking.

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The Sad Transformation of the American University

This is the slightly edited introduction to the author’s new collection of essays, Decline and Revival in Higher Education ( Transaction Publishers ). Dr. London is president of the Hudson Institute, one of the founders of the National Association of Scholars, and the former John M. Olin Professor of the Humanities at New York University.
book_reg_B84A0192-DB43-AEA5-19F4316BB9740083.jpgWhen I entered Columbia College in 1956, the college had a deep commitment to liberal opinion. Father and son Van Doren (Mark and Charles), the recently appointed Dan Bell, my adviser named Sam Huntington, the legendary Lionel Trilling, and a brilliant lecturer named Amitai Etzioni graced the campus and, more or less, leaned left at the time, albeit over the years several had their political orientation change. Yet there was one constant: These professors eschewed orthodoxies, notwithstanding the fact that in a poll of faculty members Adlai Stevenson won the 1956 presidential sweepstakes hands down.
Different views were welcome. Controversy was invited. “Political correctness” had not yet entered the academic vocabulary, nor had it insinuated itself into debate and chastened nonconformists. I was intoxicated by the sheer variety of thought. For me this smorgasbord of ideas had delectable morsels at each setting. It was at some moment in my senior year that I became enchanted with the idea of an academic career.

Continue reading The Sad Transformation of the American University

The Politically Correct University and How to Fix It

With various co-authors, University of British Columbia Sociologist Neil Gross has made a cottage industry of downplaying charges that academia is politically correct. Seemingly, the left’s domination of social science and humanities departments is of no more concern than the fact, cited by Thomas Sowell, that in the 1990s, Cambodians ran 90 percent of California’s donut shops.
Gross’s studies appeal because they serve the psychological needs of professors. It is comforting to think that we smart folks just happen to surround ourselves with people who think just like we do. Gross assures us that there is nothing unseemly here. Collegiate single-mindedness is of course totally different from the groupthink that characterized the George W. Bush White House, to take a not quite random example.
In fairness, Gross and his colleagues have made some sound points over the years. For example, most academics do not think of themselves as political extremists but as centrists. Of course this is no surprise. People compare themselves to their peers, so liberal professors are indeed in the center or even the right compared to their colleagues on the far left. Some surveys indicate that a quarter of sociologists are self-proclaimed Marxists, meaning that there are quite literally more socialists in Harvard faculty lounges than in the Kremlin. It is not difficult to seem moderate or even conservative in such company.
Gross and others are correct to say that not all of the pronounced leftist tilt in the academy reflects discrimination. As Matthew Woessner and April Kelly Woessner point out in a chapter in my co-edited The Politically Correct University, conservatives value family life more than liberals; thus academically talented liberals are more willing to delay childbearing for the decade it takes to earn a doctorate, and more apt to leave their families and hometowns to attend PhD programs thousands of miles distant. Liberals may talk more about relationships, but conservatives seem less willing to jettison them for academic self-expression.
Yet to say that not all of the conservative under-representation reflects discrimination is very different from saying that none of it does. The Woessners also find that conservative undergraduates receive less mentoring from faculty. This too may explain why fewer conservatives apply to PhD programs, even though conservative and liberal undergraduates have identical GPAs. Similarly, a recent and much hyped Gross co-authored paper argues that conservatives eschew academic careers because of “typing,” the stereotype that professors are liberal. As Steve Balch points out, much of this reasoning is circular. How exactly is the stereotype that professors are supposed to be liberal any different from stereotypes that women are not supposed to study science or that African Americans are not supposed to be chief executives? Wouldn’t we find it offensive if a CEO explained an all white management team by saying that “African Americans don’t type themselves as executives?”
Academia is a merit system based on publication, but one that works better for some than others. In The Politically Correct University Stan Rothman and Bob Lichter present evidence that professors holding socially conservative views must publish more to get the same jobs, with ideology having about one-third of the statistical power of one’s publication record. Among professors who have published a book, 73% of Democrats but only 56% of Republicans hold high prestige academic posts. Both statistics and “lived experience” suggest that I am not the only conservative or libertarian professor denied a job or two. And it is no surprise that as the academic job market grew tight in the 1970s, ever more discriminating faculties became more ideologically homogeneous, hiring clones rather than peers.

Continue reading The Politically Correct University and How to Fix It

The Politically Correct University

AEI recently released a fine compendium volume The Politically Correct University, edited by Robert Maranto, Richard E. Redding, and Frederick M. Hess, featuring an excellent slate of essays and contributors: here’s a sampling:
Do take a look; there’s much of worth here:

– “The American University: Yesterday, Today – and Tomorrow”
James Piereson
– “Linguistics from the Left: The Truth about Black English That the Academy Doesn’t Want
You to Know”
John McWhorter
– “Groupthink in Academia: Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid”
Daniel Klein & Charlotta Stern
– “Left Pipeline: Why Conservatives Don’t Get Doctorates”
Matthew Woessner & April Kelly-Woessner
– “The Vanishing Conservative – Is There a Glass Ceiling?”
Stanley Rothman & S. Robert Lichter
– “Campus Speech Codes: Absurd, Tenacious, and Everywhere”
Greg Lukianoff
– “Why Political Science Is Left But Not PC: Causes of Disunion and Diversity”
James Ceaser
– “Political Correctness in the Science Classroom”
Noretta Koertge
– “Reforming the Politically Correct University: The Role of Alumni and Trustees”
Anne Neal
– “Where We’ve Come From and Where We Should Go: The Route to Academic Pluralism”
Stephen Balch
– “To Reform the Politically Correct University, Reform the Liberal Arts”
John Agresto

The essays on the political make-up of the faculty are an excellent tonic for recent conversation that there’s nothing odd about the absence of conservatives in academia. To provide even greater incentive, here’s an excerpt from Jim Piereson’s essay:

..As the diversity thrust loses steam, liberals and far-left groups on the campus will not be at a loss for new causes to absorb their attention and energy. The next iteration of liberal reform in the universities is likley to involve further steps to detach these institutions from the American polity in which they are embedded. We have already noted that the intellectual foundations of the modern research university are somewhat at odds with the philosophy of natural rights that shaped our national instiutions. The logic of liberalism points in the direction of the internationalization of the American university. We can already see fragments of this emerging trend in the banning of ROTC and military recruiters from college campuses in order to disassociate universities from American national policies. The enrollment of international students will receive greater emphasis in the coming decades which will further reinforce the trend. Academic programs in American government or in American studies will be increasingly de-emphasized on the grounds that they are parochial, in much the same way as programs in Western Civilization were de-emphasized in the past…

The Conspiracy Against Faculty Friendship

It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.
– Epicurus (Greek Philosopher 341 BC-271 BC)

Though relatively tiny in number PC forces now exercise disproportionate influence across the university, even capturing entire departments. What makes this conquest especially noteworthy is the lack of resistance from academics, liberal and conservative, who know better and should have stood up and shouted, “Enough with this race/class/gender crap, we need people to teach Chinese or Japanese politics, not yet one more course about African Americans.” Going one step further, where is the vocal outrage when the PC contingent accuses a fellow professor of “hateful insensitivity” by assigning the Bell Curve or his “heretical” remarks on colonialism? Outside the university this bystander unresponsiveness even has a name—the Kitty Genovese phenomena, named after a repeatedly stabbed woman who lay unattended for hours in an apartment building courtyard while “oblivious” neighbors ignored her screams (she eventually died). But, why would life-time tenured professors go deaf when the ninnies beat up on a colleague who, to be hypothetical, dare hypothesized a biological factor in male/female mathematical distinction? Rallying to his defense is hardly as dangerous as, say, trying to stop a Mafia execution. Callous indifference to the plight of those singled out for PC attack is critical to understanding what bedevils today’s academy, and deserves an explanation.
The decline in friendship explains a lot—friends defend friends, even risk death, but without camaraderie, it is all too easy to run and “not notice.” Friendship’s role in helping others was made crystal clear following World War II when sociologist Morris Janowitz and others interviewed German POWs to assess their extraordinary unit combat cohesiveness. It turns out that small units like tank crews typically came from the same town and were kept together for the entire war. This bonding, plus the realization that cowardice would travel back home encouraged bravery—Hans would risks his life to save his friend, fellow Bad Homburger, Rolf, and this loyalty far outweighed abstract ideology. American units, by contrast, favored shifting personnel and mixed composition (recall WW II “buddy” movies where “Brooklyn” shared a foxhole with “Tex”). But with the war ending, and German units becoming hastily assembled hodge-podges, combat effectiveness collapsed and mass surrenders ensued. Hans would risk death for Rolf but not the newcomer Wolfgang from far distant Rostock.
Today’s universities are almost organized conspiracies against such cohesion. Affirmative action consciously rips it apart (recall how in 1984 friendship was sabotaged to atomize society on behalf of Big Brother). The diversity fetish guarantees departments filled with strangers having little in common. Hiring newcomers who “will fit in” has been replaced with “is he or she sufficiently different enough to satisfy the Diversity and Outreach Dean.” Departments grow to resemble modern grade- school earth science textbook role model pictures—no two young faces alike, a few disabled to boot, and numerous smiling representatives from “under-represented” groups hardly known for scientific achievement. Indeed, hiring a white male job candidate who will further cement social cohesion may require extra justification beyond “he is the best.” Too many white males implies unacceptable “good old boyism.”

Continue reading The Conspiracy Against Faculty Friendship

The Noble Lies Of PC

“..the one aspect of American culture and society most in need of improvement and investment–education–has been greeted by deafening silence on the part of all candidates.”
Leon Botstein, president of Bard College in his “charge” to the Class of 2008. Leon forgets to mention that all of today’s presidential candidates, including also-rans, offer detailed prescriptions for fixing education and US spending on education has for decades out-paced inflation and even government health care spending. In other words, class of 2008, when it comes to saving the world, just make it up. Why bother with inconvenient truths.
Universities, it would seem, are committed to uncovering truth. Exceptions occasionally occur, and a small contingent insists that there is no such thing as objective truth, but for the most part, professors who make up data or plagiarize are usually caught and punished. Recall that Ward Churchill was fired for research misconduct and fraud, not his loathsome views, and even fellow travelers could not justify deception. Professors may exaggerate a bit, disregard awkward findings or even tilt research towards pre-conceived outcomes, but it would be professional suicide to insist that 2+2=5.
Unfortunately, a major exception exists, and this might be called the “Grand Noble Lie” whose purpose is not to deceive (the usual aim of a lie) but to reassure listeners so as to advance a career. Whereas conventional liars seek to cover their tracks (e.g., what is “is”), the effectiveness of the Grand Noble Lie depends on its blatant, plain-to-see falseness. It is insufficient to claim that 2+2=5 or for the timid 2=2=4.01; rather 2+2=100. This is an incredibly upside down world whereby those saying 2+2=100 may go on to glory while Professor Joe Average dreads being humiliated for citing a book he never read. That Grand Liars are more likely to be distinguished university presidents, or at least Deans, not under-the-gun junior faculty concocting data to get published, only makes the phenomena even more remarkable.

Continue reading The Noble Lies Of PC

Reforming The Politically Correct University

Here are links for the majority of papers from the American Enterprise Institute’s “Reforming The Politically Correct University” conference on November 14.

Do take a look; there’s much of worth here:

“The American University: Yesterday, Today – and Tomorrow”
James Piereson
“By the Numbers: The Ideological Profile of Professors”
Daniel Klein & Charlotta Stern
“Groupthink in Academia: Majoritarian Departmental Politics and the Professional Pyramid”
Daniel Klein & Charlotta Stern
“Left Pipeline: Why Conservatives Don’t Get Doctorates”
Matthew Woessner & April Kelly-Woessner
“The Vanishing Conservative – Is There a Glass Ceiling?”
Stanley Rothman & S. Robert Lichter
“Campus Speech Codes: Absurd, Tenacious, and Everywhere”
Greg Lukianoff
“The Negative Influence of Education Schools on K-12 Curriculum”
Sandra Stotsky
“When Is Diversity Not Diversity: A Brief History of the English Department”
Paul Cantor
“Linguistics from the Left: The Truth about Black English That the Academy Doesn’t Want
You to Know”

John McWhorter
“Why Political Science Is Left But Not PC: Causes of Disunion and Diversity”
James Ceaser
“Political Correctness in the Science Classroom”
Noretta Koertge
“Reforming the Politically Correct University: The Role of Alumni and Trustees”
Anne Neal
“Where We’ve Come From and Where We Should Go: The Route to Academic Pluralism”
Stephen Balch
“To Reform the Politically Correct University, Reform the Liberal Arts”
John Agresto