The Ideological Corruption Of Scholarship
I heard from an academic friend yesterday who is extremely discouraged. I invited him to write about his experience for this blog, and I imagine he will. For now, I can tell you this. He is a young scholar working in a highly specialized branch of the humanities, one that requires an immense amount of learning. He proposed a paper for two separate forums within his discipline, and was turned down. He’s very, very good in his field, and is used to having his papers accepted, and winning accolades. This was unusual, but it is of course quite possible that his papers weren’t as good as the others.
What set him off, though, was his recognition that he probably wasn’t going to get accepted anyway, whatever the quality of his work, because the gatekeepers aren’t interested in the old-fashioned kind of scholarship that he does. Last year, the papers accepted in these two different forums were not about seriously scholarly topics, but about the kind of shallow takes on politically approved topics. My friend writes that this was “the final nail in the coffin” for him, the one that reveals that he has no place in the academy. He said he is glad to have learned this before becoming dependent on a university paycheck, but it grieves him to have devoted so much of his life to mastering his subject only to arrive at the end of his studies to find that his field has become as politicized as other humanities fields. He writes:
We’re in dangerous and uncharted waters, where the grievance studies industry has cross-pollinated the “more and more about less and less” phenomenon, yielding institutional incentives to reward extreme myopia as evidence of excellence.
It is not enough to be a disinterested scholar. (I’m old enough to remember when there was no other kind.) You have to be committed to the Party and its line. A reader the other day sent in a link to a form at the University of California San Diego in which applicants for faculty positions there must write, as part of their application, a lengthy statement discussing their views on diversity, and the work they have done to propagate it. Quote:
The Contributions to Diversity Statement should describe your past efforts, as well as future plans to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. It should also demonstrate an understanding of the barriers facing women and underrepresented minorities and of UC San Diego’s mission to meet the educational needs of our diverse student population. Some faculty candidates may not have substantial past activities. If such cases, we recommend focusing on future plans in your statement.
However, please note that a demonstrated record of past effort is given greater weight than articulating awareness of barriers or stating future plans. A more developed and substantial plan is expected for senior candidates.
Got that? It doesn’t matter how good your research is, or how high your ratings as a classroom instructor are. What matters is how you feel about the Revolution, and what things you have done, or plan to do, to serve the Party.
This is not a statement from a private university or a religious college, but from a major state university. Brilliant scholars who have no interest in working for the Party will be left out, and middling hacks who know how to advocate for the Party line within an ideologized system will advance.
By the way, it’s not simply a matter of ideologically capturing areas of scholarship. The SJWs are now marching through student affairs offices. Patricia Daugherty writes at The Federalist about the annual convention of ACPA, the American College Personnel Association: College Student Educators International. This is the professional organization for campus administrators who oversee student life. She recently retired from a long career in the field, and says she always looked forward to going to this convention. Times. Have. Changed. Check out her report:
When the pre-conference advertising trumpeted the “Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization” theme, I had a feeling things had changed mightily since I last attended a national meeting. We were provided “talking points” that included such statements as “Racism and colonization are real, present, enduring, intersectional, and systemic forms of oppression,” and “Advocacy and social change require us to work to dismantle racism and colonization in higher education.”
The conference website highlighted blog posts with such titles as “Racial Justice & Decolonization Can’t Happen Without Disrupting Monoracism,” “The Costs of Avoiding Discomfort: Addressing White Supremacy in Student Affairs,” and “White People Owning Our Whiteness & Resistance.”
Daugherty outlines more of the P.C. nuthatchery she encountered, but said that this is a signal of something more serious:
I write this not (only) to make fun of what I observed. I have many wonderful friends who still work in student affairs, and they’re good at their jobs. But I am sounding an alarm for average, everyday people who need to know more about what is feeding the campus discord and upheaval that we see so often in the news.
“Those liberal professors” share the blame for the sanctimonious silliness, but the administrators at this conference often have much more personal contact with students. They advise student government, supervise residence-hall staff, and oversee the student code of conduct and “free speech” policies. They include those who recently graduated from their master’s programs, regularly attend student affairs conferences, and soak up the social-justice messages.
When I came along in my student affairs master’s and doctoral programs, we were taught about psychology and normal maturational issues of 18- to-22-year-olds. We learned how to be objective counselors, supervise and develop groups, and teach leadership skills to young adults who would one day lead our communities and nation. We supported all of our students—black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, gay, straight, and international. We tried to create environments where everyone could succeed, and when conflicts arose, we helped students learn how to solve their problems.
Now, however, college students are surrounded by adults who live and breathe an extreme political ideology. No more judging people by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. No more encouraging everyone to come together around their commonalities rather than focusing on every possible difference. No more celebrating the gifts of all people. It was disheartening to see and hear so much stereotyping from people who pride themselves on their inclusiveness.
Here’s something from the ACPA Strategic Imperative For Racial Justice And Decolonization webpage — talking points that they advise members to use to frame their thinking about their jobs:
This type of dogmatism and tunnel vision is profoundly unhealthy for our students. Young people are more fragile now than they have ever been, and I’m afraid student affairs is playing a major role in the angst. The political self-absorption I saw promotes not emotional growth and resilience but rather distrust, anxiety, and victimhood. College students need mentors who are more concerned with their developing competence and strength than with which pronouns they use.
So: the militant left is destroying humanities scholarship, and working to dismantle university communities (by turning them into hotbeds of anxiety and mutual suspicion).
The backlash and/or the collapse can’t happen fast enough. What my discouraged scholar friend points out, though, is that the loss to actual scholarship from this is profound. Consider how little of lasting value came out of the non-STEM faculties at universities behind the Iron Curtain. Scholarship in those nations went into deep freeze for decades. No totalitarian government is forcing this on our professors and institutions of higher learning. They are choosing this themselves.
You really shouldn’t be so myopic as to think that what happens on campus stays on campus. These universities are training the leaders in politics, business, academia, and so forth, of tomorrow. The poisonous seeds planted here will bear bitter fruit later. For example, look at what George Washington University is doing this week in student life:
Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”
The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”
Hosted by the university’s Multicultural Student Services Center, the event will teach that Christians enjoy a privileged, easier life than their non-Christian counterparts, and that Christians possess “built-in advantages” today, according to its online description.
The workshop will also discuss how Christians receive “unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”
The “Christian Privilege” workshop is one of 15 “free training opportunities” offered through the center to “equip students and staff with the necessary skills to promote diversity and inclusion in the different environments,” according to its website.
Other workshops offered through the center focus on “heterosexual privilege,” “cisgender privilege,” “abled-bodied privilege,” “socio-economic privilege,” “unconscious bias,” and more.
These people are manufacturing hate. Whether they know it or not, they’re trying to turn the United States into the former Yugoslavia.