Among the variety of other topics that it explores, my book, The American Offensive: Dispatches from the Front, discusses at length the intellectual and moral corruption that pervades much of the humanities and liberal arts in the contemporary academy.
The examples of the corruption are legion. Recently, at San Francisco State University, a white student, Cory Goldstein, was accosted, harangued, and assaulted by a black woman—a university employee—for…wearing dreadlocks.
Evidently, Goldstein “micro-aggressed” against this woman specifically and blacks generally, for he is guilty of “cultural appropriation,” of appropriating a hair style that is distinctive of “black culture.”
“Micro-aggressions,” “cultural appropriation”—these are just some of the terms of the esoteric insider-speak to which college students are daily exposed courtesy of their professors.
To repeat, college students are taught to view their experiences in terms of the template of grievance imposed upon them by their instructors.
In a sane world, a world within which people hadn’t forgotten that the university is an institution whose raison d’etre has been the promotion of Western civilization, the ideological abuses to which the academic world has been subjected would constitute nothing less than an epic scandal.
In a sane world, taxpayers wouldn’t part with one red cent to subsidize this perversion of the university’s historic mission.
But we’re not living in a sane world.
Recently, Charles Murray—long-time scholar and co-author of The Bell Curve, a study of IQ and its practical implications that was published over 20 years ago—was invited to speak at Virginia Tech University. When, however, certain students got wind of this information, they demanded that the university disinvite him.
Black and white leftist student activists issued a statement in which they charge Murray with being a “social Darwinist” and an agent of “hate” and “prejudice:”
“At the time when rising racism, misogyny and anti-intellectualism have moved to the forefront of our national consciousness,” the statement reads, “there is no better place than a college campus from which to focus our efforts against the voices of prejudice and hate [.]”
Murray’s “social Darwinist take on intelligence, ability and morality—and his assertion of the inherent inferiority of non-whites and women—do nothing but promote a white supremacist agenda, cast in the guise of ‘scientific discourse.’”
Containing as it does all of the vapid, but emotionally-charged and politically effective, buzzwords—“racism,” “misogyny,” “prejudice,” “hate,” “social Darwinist,” “white supremacist”—this statement, besides being poorly written, is a classic textbook example of precisely the sort of “anti-intellectualism” of which it convicts Murray.
Yet it is no less insubstantial and ideologically-driven than the statement issued by the faculty of the Africana Studies Program. The latter accused Murray of being “engaged in a mission to use discredited pseudoscience to perpetuate the subordination of people of African descent, Latino/as, Native American Indians, the poor, women and the disabled.”
Murray’s thoughts served to promote a narrative that promised to “visit violence upon marginalized populations—recalling the history of forced sterilization, unjust institutionalization and incarceration, and denial of basic human rights.”
Comparison of these two statements, one by students, the other by faculty, is telling in that it underscores what critics of the contemporary university have been saying for far too long:
While there is indeed much learning that occurs in our institutions of higher learning, far too little of it is higher learning.
Students, that is, are learning from their professors how to become leftist ideologues.
They’re learning that “the personal is political” and, as such, both that every aspect of life is politicized and that it must be politicized in the image of their ideology.
Unfortunately, though, they are not learning how to think.
And if the statement by the faculty of the Africana Studies Program is any indication, students aren’t learning how to think because at least some of the faculty isn’t up to the task of teaching them.
The faculty statement at Virginia Tech is indistinguishable from that of the students insofar as it consists of such stock terms in vogue as “subordination” and “marginalized populations.” Moreover, like that of their student counterparts, faculty too lambast Murray’s work as “pseudoscience”—even though, like their students, you can bet dollars to donuts that none of them have ever so much as thought to read any of Murray’s scholarship, much less have they read The Bell Curve.
In an institution devoted to education, instead of political activism, neither faculty nor students would think to regurgitate fallacy-ridden canned statements and uninformed ad hominem attacks against scholars with whom they disagree. Rather, at an institution of higher learning, both faculty and students would know a thing or two about how to make cogent arguments to substantiate their views, and they would welcome opportunities to genuinely listen to and critically engage the exponents of those positions that they question.
But demonizing one’s opponents with a little abusive language jammed in between bumper sticker slogans is so much easier than conversing with them. It’s easier in that it requires less time, less knowledge, and a whole lot less courage: There’s no better way to immunize one’s own beliefs against criticism.
As I and others have been contending, the corruption of academia is systemic. It isn’t just the faculty and student statements at Virginia Tech that reveal this. The administration as well issued a statement that illustrates the groupthink.
Tim Sands, the president of the school, released an “open letter” to the school community. To his credit, he refused to rescind the invitation to Murray. Yet he referred to Murray’s work (particularly in The Bell Curve) as “largely discredited” and “a flawed socioeconomic theory that has been used by some to justify fascism, racism and eugenics.”
“Largely discredited” [read: pseudoscience]; “flawed…theory;” “fascism,” “racism,” “eugenics”: This could’ve easily been written any of Virginia Tech’s student activists.
Murray replied, claiming that President Sands was “unfamiliar either with the actual content of The Bell Curve” or “with the state of knowledge in psychometrics.”
My guess is that, like his students and faculty, Sands was unfamiliar with both.