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At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Some Things You Should Know About Academia

posted by Jack Kerwick

My interest was piqued recently when I encountered at Townhall.com the title of Kurt Schlicter’s article: “Let’s Help Academia Destroy Itself.”  The author, a self-described conservative, levels a visceral assault against the university.  

Schlicter offers an essentially two prong attack against academia.  The first we can call “the tick argument.”  Academia, he says, is like “a liberal tick” in that it divests society of its “blood” while producing nothing in return.  The second argument centers on the politicization of higher education.  Schlicter calls academia “the College-Progressive Complex,” for it is “a reservoir of leftism” that American taxpayers are forced to subsidize while it insures a bottomless supply of liberal, and largely underemployed, Democratic voters.    

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While Schlicter oversimplifies some things, as an academic who also happens to be a conservative, I know as well as anyone that, sadly, there is also much truth in what he says. In fact, in some respects, he actually understates the extent to which leftist ideology saturates the contemporary academy.

Not only is “the disinterested pursuit of truth” an ideal that leftist academics have long abandoned.  This is an ideal that they regularly mock.  Moreover, it is more frequently than not treated as a Eurocentric social construction by which white men have traditionally bludgeoned into submission women, non-whites, homosexuals, non-Christians, and the environment.

To those outside of the academy, this may sound like hyperbole.  I assure you, it is not.  One of my professors from graduate school actually referred to the Western philosophical tradition as “thuggish” for its assumption that truth was real and discoverable.  Think about this: with one proverbial stroke of the pen, he dismisses most of the West’s brightest lights, from the ancient Greeks through the Christian medievalists to the moderns, as a bunch of bullying thugs.

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Yet this is not an anomaly.  World famous philosophers, like Jacques Derrida, make it their task in life to “deconstruct” Western civilization so as to convict it of “logocentrism”—its faith in reason to access reality. 

However, even when the academic is not a self-sworn post-modernist, the contempt for his or her civilization is expressed in other ways.  Indeed, what one can’t fail to discover upon spending any bit of time in today’s university is that contempt for Western civilization has assumed the standing of a creed. 

All that has been said and thought in the West is routinely brought before the tribunal of what one commentator once aptly called “the holy trinity” of race, sex, and class.  Actually, it is even worse than this, for it isn’t just racism, sexism, and classism for which academia condemns the West. The latter is also guilty of “speciesim,” bias against non-humans; “ableism,” bias against the handicapped or “differently-abled;” and “ageism,” bias against those of a specific age group.

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Many commentators on the right regularly charge leftists generally, and leftist academics in particular, with endorsing “moral relativism.”  It should be clear by now that this charge is misplaced. 

Of course it is correct that there is no short supply of leftist academics who disavow “absolutism.” And there are many who claim to be relativists. 

But I have never met or even heard of an academic who really is a relativist.  The leftists who dominate the academy, whether they style themselves “relativists” or not, are like jihadists or crusaders when it comes to their creed.  As far as they are concerned, either others convert to their cause or risk a kind of social—and/or professional—death:  ostracism and demonization.  Leftist academics are absolutists in the worst sense of this word.

Before deciding as to whether they want to pledge to a university their precious time and treasure, aspiring college students and/or their guardians need to know what life in academia is really like. 

 

 

 

 

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GOP Unmentionables

posted by Jack Kerwick

Yesterday, while on Fox News Sunday, Mitt Romney ascribed his defeat in November to his campaign’s failure to take “our message to minorities, to Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans.”

Doubtless, this is the conventional wisdom among Republicans.

As I write this, I am listening to Bill Bennett’s morning talk show.  The host is speaking with City Journal’s Heather MacDonald, discussing the electoral prospects of the Republican Party.

MacDonald, to her credit, is quite sensible.  Unlike many of her fellow partisans, she is well aware that it is primarily the promise of ever larger government—and little else—that lures the vast majority of blacks and Hispanics to vote for the party of Barack Obama.  And, unlike her fellow Republicans, MacDonald seems to recognize the notion that her party will be able to transform legions of Hispanics and blacks into good little Republicans for the fantasy that it is.

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Yet conspicuously absent from this discussion of the GOP’s woes is any mention of a painful fact that is conspicuously absent from all such discussions:

Millions of Americans who have always voted Republican refused to do so during the last two national elections. 

In other words, the losses that the GOP has suffered cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to their abysmal showing among non-whites.

In fact, I would go even further on this score.  Blacks have been voting overwhelmingly for Democrats for decades and decades, even as their percentage of the nation’s population has remained relatively stable.  So, this is nothing new.  Neither is it news that Hispanics vote predominantly for Democrats.  It is true that Hispanics constitute a larger portion of the country’s population now than at any time during the past, but even this demographic change isn’t nearly the seismic shift that it is often made out to be.  Hispanics are only about 15% ofAmerica.

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The point is this: even with black and Hispanic votes against them, Republicans were winning national elections handily until very recently.  The problem is not that the GOP has failed to expand its base with new non-white voters.  The problem is that its base has contracted.  And it has contracted because it has lost the support of millions of whites who had voted for them until the elections of 2008 and 2012.   

The omission of this tidbit from conversations over the future of the GOP is glaring. 

Republican politicians and commentators will eagerly flagellate themselves for failing to “do more” in the way of minority “outreach.” But they are most unwilling to acknowledge that the ranks of their party are populated mostly by whites.  And they are that much less willing to speak of an outreach program to this demographic.

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The irrationalities of political correctness explain this to some extent. For a fuller explanation, though, we must turn elsewhere.

For Republicans to admit that they have hemorrhaged millions of white voters is for them to admit the reasons for this.  However, this is one task in which they would prefer not to engage, for when it comes right down to it, the reason for why legions of conservatives and libertarians abstained from voting for their party in ’08 and ’12 can be summed up in two words: Big Government.

Far from reducing the size and scope of the federal government, Republican reign under George W. Bush resulted in its expansion.  Both domestically and, especially, internationally, the national government grew at a rate and to a size that it had never been before. Those scores of Republican voters who once turned to the GOP to protect the constitutional liberties for which their ancestors fought and died became disenchanted.  They felt betrayed.

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And so they refused to be treated as suckers again.

There is another point here that shouldn’t be missed. 

Former Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul was treated as persona non grata by the establishment of his party.  The latter paid a hefty price for this.  Paul is the one national Republican figure who walked the GOP talk of “limited government.” He also commanded a significant, and intensely devoted, following.  No one—not Sarah Palin, not Barack Obama—could energize a crowd like Ron Paul.  Moreover, many of his followers were young voters. 

Many, and maybe most, of these millions of Paul supporters were among those who sat the last election out.

If the Republicans want to be victorious once more, then they should spend more time looking within their party, and less time looking beyond it.       

 

 

 

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The Real Color of Slavery

posted by Jack Kerwick

The president of Emory University, James W. Wagner, has been censured by faculty members.  He may even be forced to resign.   

In his school’s magazine, Wagner, you see, cited “the three-fifths compromise over slavery” as illustrative of the art of political comprise.   

In response to the backlash, Wagner issued the obligatory mea culpa and deplored the “clumsiness and insensitivity” of his piece. 

There was a time when the average American elementary school student could be expected to know that of which our current academics remain invincibly ignorant: the three-fifths compromise was intended to retard the expansion of slavery, to weaken the power of the slave states.    

Yet this is historical fact.  Along with reason, logic, and truth itself, fact is routinely treated by my colleagues in the academy as an ideological “weapon” with which white men have been bludgeoning the entire planet into submission for millennia.  Still, there is more than one way to expose a position for the species of folly that it is.

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The Emory faculty and their president believe that the latter was both clumsy and insensitive for mentioning slavery in a way that could give offense to the sensibilities of those who continue to suffer from slavery’s legacy (or something like this). The faculty thinks that such is the gravity of Wagner’s transgression that he just might deserve to lose his job.   But if this is true, then most of our racial activists, and, particularly, our academics who write on slavery for their livelihood, are clumsy and insensitive as well.  Maybe they deserve to lose their jobs.

The word “slave” derives from the word “Slav”—as in the Slavish people.  It grew out of the experience of being enslaved that untold numbers of the Slavish endured for centuries.  Interestingly, for all of our generation’s tireless talk over slavery, this little detail is seldom stated. 

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But while this omission may be interesting, it is not surprising.  The Slavish, of course, are white.  Current talk over slavery centers almost exclusively on American—i.e. black—slavery.   

However, is this not clumsy?  After all, by focusing solely upon blacks in bondage in America, don’t we present a wildly distorted vision of slavery?  Don’t we delude ourselves into thinking that, historically speaking, slavery has always equaled the enslavement of blacks by whites?  And isn’t it the case that this severely truncated account of slavery is deeply insensitive to those whites of Slavish descent (like my wife and son) whose ancestors were subjected to the hardships of slavery? 

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As if the failure of racial activists to mention any of this didn’t already convict them of “clumsiness” and “insensitivity,” at least two other considerations convict them all the more.

First, aside from the ubiquity of slavery throughout Europe prior to the rise of Christianity, the modern world witnessed the enslavement of millions of white Europeans—and not just the Slavish.  Moreover, they were enslaved by and large by Africans, North African Muslims.  Robert Davis is one brave scholar who relays this conveniently neglected chapter of history in his, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Paul Baepler is another. In White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives, Baepler covers this ground that few dare to tread.

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Second, even the conventional story of American slavery is woefully inaccurate.  The first slaves in America were white.  I know of two books that do a meticulous job showing that both in route to America aboard British vessels, as well as once they arrived here, America’s first (white) slaves endured conditions just as horrific, and just as humiliating, as those suffered by blacks. The one is Don Jordan’s, White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain’s White Slaves in America.  The other is Michael Hoffman’s, They Were White and They Were Slaves: The Untold History of the Enslavement of Whites in Early America.

This episode at Emory University is just the latest reminder of the sham that is the politically correct orthodoxy regarding slavery and race in America.

originally published at World Net Daily 

 

 

 

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Media-Control, Not Gun-Control

posted by Jack Kerwick

To hear them tell it, the Second Amendment deniers in Washington and their accomplices in the media know about all there is to know when it comes to guns.   

Some guns—so-called “assault” rifles—we just don’t “need,” they constantly tell us.  It isn’t that the President and his fellow partisans wish to prevent American citizens from exercising their Second Amendment liberties.  They just wish to prevent us from obtaining those guns that no one needs in any event.

For the moment, we can put to one side the monumental presumptiveness involved in third parties instructing the citizens of a free society as to what they do and do not need.  It is more important that we grasp what this little lesson entails.

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When the Second Amendment deniers talk about “needs” in respect of guns, what they imply is that guns have a unique purpose: guns kill.  Since, say, no one “needs” a so-called “assault rifle” for hunting, it is commonly argued, no one “needs” an assault rifle, for the only purpose of such a weapon is to slaughter.

Interestingly, the very same people who insist upon making this argument from purpose when it comes to guns ridicule it when it comes to almost everything else.  Take the issue of sexual morality, for instance. For millennia, Christians (among others) have contended that sex is permissible only within the confines of marriage.  According to this reasoning, sex has two purposes.  Its chief purpose is reproductive.  Yet it is also intended to unite the spouses. Since only marriage—heterosexual marriage—can fulfill this twofold purpose, sex within any other context is immoral.

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This argument may or may not work.  The point, though, is that those on the left resolutely reject this argument from purpose while relying upon another such argument to restrict the Second Amendment.

But let’s play along.  Let’s assume that the left’s argument from purpose against the Second Amendment is sound. And now let’s apply it to the First Amendment.

A free people do indeed need a free press, for the latter fulfills the purpose of preventing government from becoming tyrannical.  Those in the press are supposed to be forever vigilant against any and all signs of government corruption and abuse.  They are “watchdogs.”  It is on this basis that they are forever poised to take refuge behind the First Amendment when criticisms come their way.

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However, what if our media figures fail to fulfill the purpose for which the First Amendment allots them free speech?  What if they not only suspend their skepticism toward all government office-holders, but actually begin to side with some of them?  And, worse, what if those politicians toward whom they’re partial are just those politicians who are anxious to expand the national government ever further?  That is, what if they promote those plans that threaten the liberties of the very Americans for whose sake they exist?

Sadly, these aren’t really hypothetical questions.  The blunt truth of the matter is that those in the “mainstream” media have failed to fulfill their purpose.  And they have failed abysmally.  Moreover, they have allied themselves with politicians, particularly, those politicians, like Barack Obama, who are all too eager to grow our Gargantuan Government even beyond its already monstrous size.

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Since these same media personalities seem to agree with Obama and his party that those gun rights that allegedly don’t advance the purpose of the Second Amendment the federal government can essentially revoke, then maybe they can be persuaded that those speech rights that don’t advance the First Amendment should be revoked as well? 

After all, the speech that comes from a free press is supposed to function as a check upon government.  Outside of politicians, no one needs speech from the media that frustrates this function by strengthening the hold of the government over the citizenry.  Thus, press-control, or media-control, may be necessary.

Maybe we should pressure government into assembling a bipartisan commission to preside over Congressional hearings in which the owners, managers, and even employees of various journalistic outfits are forced to answer tough questions about government-media collusion.  Those organizations deemed guilty of propagandizing on behalf of government will face stiff penalties, including and up to losing their licensing.

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Media personalities will be permitted to exercise their free speech rights. But this means that they will be allowed to operate in the media only if they are using speech in order to challenge government. 

To be clear, I am not seriously advocating any of this. My point, rather, is to point out the glaring hypocrisy of journalists and politicians who would never in a million years think to say the things about the First Amendment that they say about the Second.  

originally published in Front Page Magazine    

 

 

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