Universities Abandon Reason for a False Idea of ‘Empowerment’
Aaron Alexander Zubia
WSJ, Aug. 14, 2020The California State University system recently announced that all undergraduate students will be required to take a course in ethnic studies or social justice. The goal, according to Chancellor Timothy White, is to “empower” students “to meet this moment in our nation’s history, giving them the knowledge, broad perspectives and skills needed to solve society’s most pressing problems.”This is another sign of the politicization of universities. It should come as no surprise. For many years, universities have instrumentalized learning. They have made higher education more about acquiring the right credentials than acquiring knowledge. Universities now mostly view education as a means by which to advance a form of social justice that accords with a particular political viewpoint.For decades the humanities have tilted progressive. According to “Passing on the Right,” a 2016 book by political scientists Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn, only 10% of social-science faculty members identify as conservative. The percentage is even lower in the humanities. Course listings reflect this political disparity.
Now Cal State is requiring students to take courses that have as their very purpose the furthering of a political agenda. Other universities are taking public political stances and mandating employee training on matters of social justice, so that a progressive political perspective has become, as Brown University economist Glenn Loury aptly described it, “company policy.”
The practice of instrumentalizing knowledge-seeking as a means of giving students marketable skills has long been commonplace. Now universities are doing the same to advance approved political philosophies. Like Cal State, countless universities plan to push students from every major toward the “right” solutions, as determined by critical race theory, to alter fundamentally our social and political institutions.
This instrumentalization of the humanities subordinates the pursuit of truth to the achievement of preordained social outcomes. It impedes free inquiry, which in turn diminishes the power of judgment that a liberal-arts education is supposed to create.
In one sense, an instrumental approach to learning is an inescapable feature of our universities. Some subjects are inherently practical. Institutions of higher learning provide the means by which physicians, accountants and engineers can learn applicable knowledge for the betterment of society. In this sense universities are highly useful.
But a university that focuses on utility alone, without consideration of the value of pursuing truth for its own sake, will form students who are like-minded automatons rather than creative and independent thinkers. The complete instrumentalization of learning inevitably stifles free inquiry and tends toward politicization. Then, it tends toward indoctrination. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Ibram X. Kendi, Prophet of Anti-racism
National Review, July 23, 2020
It is a measure of how deeply our culture is fragmented that some of the best-read people in the country have never heard of Ibram X. Kendi. Most Wall Street Journal readers would probably have to Google him. But Kendi now has four books at or near the top of the best-seller lists, including Stamped from the Beginning, which is a history of American racism that won the National Book Award in 2016, and two books on racism for younger readers. Racism is Kendi’s thing. His newest, How to Be an Antiracist, reappeared at the top of the New York Times nonfiction best-seller list this summer after having spent several months on the list last fall and winter. For many of the protesters who poured onto America’s streets in June in the wake of the videotaped killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the book has been a conceptual road map. As the first fires were being lit in Minnesota, Boston University announced it would offer Kendi, 38, the most prestigious tenured chair at its disposal, making him only the second holder of the Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities. The chair has been vacant since the death of the novelist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel four years ago. BU will also host the Center for Antiracist Research, which Kendi founded at American University.
The “antiracism” of which Kendi is the most trusted exponent is not just a new name for an old precept. It is the political doctrine behind the street demonstrations, “cancelings,” Twitter attacks, boycotts, statue topplings, and self-denunciations that have come together in a national movement. Anti-racists assume that the American system of politics, economics, and policing has been corrupted by racial prejudice, that such prejudice explains the entire difference in socioeconomic status between blacks and others, that the status quo must be fought and beaten, and that anyone not actively engaged in this system-changing work is a collaborator with racism, and therefore himself a legitimate target for attack.
Under anti-racism, the private sphere becomes a battlefront. In Denver, ACLU organizers push people to “raise kids who ‘see color.’” The English department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has instituted quotas to increase its BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) hiring until all its senior positions are 15 percent minority. In California, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors introduced a Caution against Racially Exploitative Non-emergencies (CAREN) Act that would make it easier to prosecute those whose calls to 911 appear motivated by racial prejudice.
The anti-racism movement may sometimes be misguided: While the Floyd killing was affecting, for instance, there is still no evidence that it was an instance of racism. And the movement may be smaller than it looks, drawing primarily on those within the universe of activist foundations (such as the ACLU), the Bernie Sanders campaign (whose members fill the ranks of Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ), and university ethnic-studies departments. Still, social media have broadened the networks from which each of these groups can recruit, and the anti-racism movement has grown to the point where Ibram X. Kendi can be said, for better or for worse, to be changing the country. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
How to Fight the Enemies of Academic Freedom
Quillette, Aug. 10, 2020
According to a 2019 Cato Institute study, 75 percent of immigrants who are American citizens are very proud to be American compared to only 69 percent of native-born Americans. Based on my own experience, I expect the discrepancy to be much greater if you compare the sentiments of all immigrants to those of American-born elites, especially the young.
I escaped communist Romania in 1975 and came to the US to pursue my dream—attracted to the United States, as millions of other immigrants have been, by its reputation as a country that values freedom and rewards hard work and talent. I came with nothing but a strong desire to become a research mathematician, yet have been able to succeed far beyond my expectations. This is the result partly of my own efforts and whatever talent I may have, but a larger part of the credit is due to the sheer good fortune of being able to pursue my career in the US within an academic system which has been, at least until today, the freest, most competitive, and fairest in the world. By “fair” I mean the remarkable ability of this system to reward talent and hard work, with absolutely no regard for ethnicity, religion, race, sex, age, or any other considerations.
All this, however, is now in question. American colleges and universities, as well as many other institutions, are under attack by an ideology that I cannot but describe as insidious. This ideology is built on a combination of “critical theory” (an offspring of Marxism); a weird type of moral-cultural relativism that generates its own opposite, namely, fierce moralistic dogmatism; deconstructionism; and intersectionality. The net result of this stew is to view people as irredeemably divided by race, sex, sexual preferences, etc. into grievance groups, all suffering under various forms of oppression. Having evolved from this noxious mixture of implausible but influential academic theories, the ideology has succeeded in taking over many departments in the humanities and social sciences and is now making inroads into the sciences. By an extraordinary stealth quality, it has continued to move, largely undetected until now, into society at large, producing the “Woke” phenomenon.
In the worldview of the Woke, America has never been that paragon of freedom, justice, and opportunities for all that attracted us immigrants, but rather a terribly unjust, racist, and corrupt society. Its foundation does not begin with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that we proud and patriotic immigrants venerate, but rather, as the New York Times tells us in its 1619 Project, with the date when the first slaves were brought to these shores. American history is no longer taught dialectically, as a constant struggle for improvements made possible by the magnificent founding principles and institutions of the republic, but, rather, statically as a mindless sequence of acts of oppression against various groups. In fact, the founding documents are themselves often deemed to be racist and sexist, as are the historic figures who wrote them. Woke ideology is thus destroying the very foundations on which the American democratic republic was built. By manipulating historical data and misinterpreting current events, it is sowing resentment and self-doubt. Worst of all, it divides us into groups (“oppressors” and “oppressed”) who are at war with each other, thus grievously undermining the national motto “e pluribus unum” and the very concept of American citizenship based on a shared commitment to universal values. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Whither the BDS Movement?
Algemeiner, Aug. 26, 2020
The normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates may be one of the biggest and final nails in the coffin of the anti semitic BDS movement. The truth is that the movement has been a failure from the outset, and while it continues to attract a lot of attention, it has proven to be far less successful than the Arab League boycott, which crumbled long ago.
Many people do not realize that the Arab League initiated its boycott in 1945 before Israel existed, demonstrating, like the newer boycott, it was fundamentally antisemitic rather than anti-Israel.
The original boycott had a minimal impact despite the blacklisting of hundreds of companies, including major US brands such as Ford, RCA, and Coca-Cola. It began to crumble, however, when the United States passed anti-boycott legislation in 1978, and it became toothless after Egypt signed its peace treaty with Israel.
The BDS movement is an outgrowth of the UN forum held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The “Durban Strategy” — called for “complete and total isolation of Israel … the imposition of mandatory and comprehensive sanctions and embargoes, [and] the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, aid, military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel.”
On the diplomatic front, Israel has relations with more countries today than it did in 2001. The leader of Sudan backed recognizing Israel in a historic shift. The decision of the UAE, most importantly, broke the longstanding taboo among Gulf states against normalizing ties before the Palestinian issue was resolved.
The Palestinians themselves have rejected the boycott. Prior to the pandemic, more than 100,000 of them had jobs inside Israel — and an estimated 10,000 worked in those “obstacles to peace” settlements.
Some Palestinian leaders still give lip service to the boycott. And to the extent they’ve tried to enforce it, only the Palestinians have suffered. This has been particularly obvious as the Palestinian Authority has denied Palestinians access to health care in Israel and rejected shipments of vital medical supplies to fight the coronavirus because they were flown on UAE planes that landed in Israel.
BDS also aimed to damage Israel’s economy, but, prior to the pandemic, the Israeli economy was healthy and the problems it did have were unrelated to any boycott. Meanwhile, Israel’s trade relations around the world continue to expand. Countries and companies continue to invest in the Jewish state. Airbnb rescinded its never implemented boycott of the West Bank, and tourism was at a record pace before the lockdown. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Trump Asks Treasury Department to Review Universities’ Tax Exemption Over ‘Radical Left Indoctrination’: Jeanine Santucci, USA Today, July 10, 2020 — President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday threatening funding for universities and schools he says are “indoctrinating” students, calling on the Treasury Department to review their tax-exempt statuses.
Democrats Adopt Platform at Convention Supporting Two-State Solution, Opposing BDS: JNS, Aug. 30, 2020 — Democratic National Committee members approved the party’s platform on Tuesday at the virtual Democratic National Convention.
Germany’s Battle Against the Delegitimization of Israel: Benjamin Weinthal, FDD, Aug. 21, 2020 — With overwhelming support, the German parliament, or Bundestag, passed a resolution last year declaring, “[T]he arguments and methods of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] Movement are anti-Semitic.” The resolution explained that the tactics of the BDS campaign “inevitably arouse associations with the Nazi slogan ‘Kauft nicht bei Juden!’” (emphasis added)1 – “Don’t buy from Jews!”
Should Universities Recommend (or Demand) Epithet Filtering on Students’ and Professors’ Internet Devices?: True News Hub, Aug. 29, 2020 — Some students, faculty, and administrators have argued that even hearing racial epithets quoted is traumatic or at least highly offensive to students, and that decent people therefore should not quote them.
Economics Professor Barred from Teaching Class Critical of Marxism to Student Body: Jennifer Kabbany, The College Fix, Aug. 5, 2020 — A longtime economics professor at Wright State University who has repeatedly requested permission to teach a class critical of Marxism has been rebuffed by his bosses and peers who appear unwilling to allow the topic to be taught to the general student population.