The Ongoing Woke Self-Destruction of Higher Education
Reportage and analysis on various woke insanities in colleges and universities (with highlights from the one at which I work) from the last few years
[Part of display at the Bucknell library on “social justice activism”]
For the benefit of newer subscribers (and welcome btw!), should any of you want to see some other things I’ve written on the dismal situation of higher education in the age of Wokeism, here are a few select links.
First, a few things that can be found elsewhere on this Substack account:
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What’s The Point of Tenure?: “If the DIE regime is not prevented from securing still more power, tenure will become irrelevant, a relic of the former academic ethic that remains in name only. It will no longer matter for those who are its intended beneficiaries, and it will instead serve to protect the ideologues of the new academic ethic. The result will be that the universities will become still more ideologically and intellectually homogenous than they already are…”
On Graduation: “Instead of the goals at the head of this paragraph, colleges today typically offer you a vision of ‘the examined life’ that is nothing more than a commitment to permanent social revolution. It does not prepare you for important things. Indeed, it can have the effect of immunizing you against many of the qualities you need to make a good life. You cannot achieve spiritual calm or establish deep and lasting relationships with family if everything you find in the world that makes you unhappy is a cause for revolution…”
In Defense of Boring Lectures: “That last remark, about the balance of learning in exchanges of students and teachers, is something I have heard and seen written at Bucknell dozens of times over the years. A version of it once graced the entrance to our library: We are all teachers here. It is hard for me to express how wrong I think that sentiment is. Not even wrong. Just hopelessly confused about the whole nature of the interaction…”
[A Bucknell “teach-in” course. These give students academic credit for engaging in woke activism on campus—note that this one insinuates it might perhaps be a good thing if students had control over the courses they were offered and the admissions process…]
And some things on other sites:
Jonestown University: “In the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict, Bucknell University, the liberal arts school where I work, lost no time in issuing a statement. We were told that America remained a terrifying place for its black citizens, and that George Floyd’s death demonstrated “the fear and anger that Black Americans experience as part of each day.” Chauvin’s trial, we were informed, was evidence of “how far we have to go.” Our campus was exhorted to “model inclusivity” and “take action.” We were instructed to “let a family member know that it’s never OK to stereotype people.” The goal of becoming “an anti-racist and equitable community” demands “continuous and permanent work.”…”
Much longer version of this piece at the National Association of Scholars page.
What’s In Store For Your Sons: “I have been a professor at Bucknell University for twenty years, and alas, I find myself singing that tune with new lyrics: “Mammas don’t let your (male) babies grow up to attend a woke liberal arts college.” It is my considered view that a parent with the best interests of a male child at heart should be intensely concerned about what he is likely to experience at a school like the one in which I work…”
Woke Totemism: “I have seen many instances of this phenomenon at my university. At one diversity training session, a white male colleague wept as he “confessed” his privilege publicly. Another colleague, nominated to stand for a committee position against a nonwhite female colleague, wrote a note to the faculty detailing his privilege and describing his journey to wokeness. He withdrew from the contest and asked his colleagues to join him in voting for his opponent…”
The BlackLivesMattering of Higher Ed: “From my vantage point as an academic sociologist, I have seen the disturbing process of what we might call the BlackLivesMattering of American higher education from quite close up, as my discipline is one of the main sites of the creation and propagation of the absurdly fantastic ideas responsible for this development…”
The Origins of the Cruel Ritual of Diversity Training: “In the typical scenario, students, staff, and faculty submit themselves to the mercies of hectoring lectures and demeaning demonstrations that purport to reveal white privilege and the oppressive conditions faced by “underrepresented populations” in their institutions. Former Smith College staffer Jodi Shaw’s account of how, as part of such training, she was humiliatingly reduced to her racial identity and reprimanded for her role in the oppression of non-white co-workers is but the most recent high-profile example being discussed and debated…”
[Flyer for a “Scholars Speak Up” event that was part of a protest of my invitation of Heather Mac Donald to Bucknell in 2019, organizers and participants including members of the faculty and administration, at which, among other rigorous scholarly activities, students were invited to “make your own kindness rock to spread joy and encouragement around campus.”]
A Visit to the Woke Bookstore: “I then headed to the teen and children’s sections to see what the bookstore staff was promoting for the younger readers. An informal analysis of the faces on those books showed at least 1/3 of them as distinctively black. For reference, the white percentage of the population in the little town (population around 6,000) in which the bookstore sits is somewhere above 90%, and the faculty at the university are only slightly less white, around 85%. Blacks make up under 2% of the town’s population. The student body at the university is marginally more diverse, at 75% white and perhaps 3.5% black…”
Dear Outraged College Student: “I just read your op-ed in the student newspaper. I can see from it that you are distressed. A speaker with whom you disagree has been invited to come give a talk at the school you attend. You feel it is an outrage against decency, justice, and diversity that this speaker was invited, and you are angry…”
Debunking the Debunker: “And nonsense it is. This is not only a misguided ideological position. It is fantastically, laughably incompatible with reality. The fact that elite educational and media circles are trying to foist this breathtaking, malevolent stupidity on the rest of us reflects how poorly they think of us…”
A Memo from Privilege University’s Diversity Office: “The leadership team here at PU’s Diversity/Inclusion/Equity (DIE) Office is pleased that so many of you have adopted the practice of land acknowledgment in your email signatures, as demonstrated by the following model statement from a colleague:
Dr. Margaret “Marge” N. Alisación, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Transformative Anti-Racist Latinx Andean Aboriginal Studies…”
Ivory Towers Only Come in Blue: “If college professors were ever committed to the pursuit of objective knowledge and truth, they long ago gave that up in favor of a ferocious commitment to ideological partisanship in the interest of the destruction of historical America. The Trump presidency fulfilled few of its promised policy goals, but it at least provided abundant opportunities for us to see the left professoriate in its true, disturbing colors…”
King’s Woke Usurpers: “The January commemoration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr., which started as a day, has now become a full week on most campuses, and may soon colonize the entire month of January. Colleges and universities, including the one at which I am employed, Bucknell University, are gearing up for this year’s activities. One trendline is clear to those who have been paying attention: every year, by any reasonable measure, the political and moral tenor of the activities that take place ostensibly to commemorate the legacy of the slain activist and preacher becomes more and more radical…”
[Some of the “art” on display at the Bucknell Samek Art Museum during an exhibition titled “Guerrilla Girls: Art of Behaving Badly”]
Multiculturalism is Ethnocentrism: “Every year I teach a freshman seminar on American society at the little liberal arts university where I am employed. And every year, we spend time discussing the 9/11 attacks. Many of these students were not yet born on September 11, 2001. They know few facts about that day’s events. But they know some other things. When I ask students in the class to describe the single most important lesson learned from 9/11, invariably someone will suggest that it has to do with the extremity of anti-Muslim bias in America. That student will allude to the appalling frequency of hate crimes against American Muslims in the aftermath of the attack. At least some other students will agree, and none of them ever challenges the claim…”
The New Jim Crow? Not Even Close: “Do the math: 460,000 out of the 47 million blacks in the U.S. yields less than 1% of all blacks in the country who are under the control of the "caste system" Alexander describes. More than 99% of blacks are not under the control of this insidious "system" that Alexander presents as equivalent to Jim Crow…”
The Difficulties of Teaching about Divorce in an Anecdotal World: “But the difficulty of instilling in students openness to evidence is that too many of their teachers embrace the view that relativist, subjectivist, and ultimately personal experiential knowledge is the only kind available to us—or at least that it trumps other kinds of knowledge. A freshman in college who thinks only anecdotally is expected. But what should we make of people with social science PhDs who are teaching in universities, yet seem just as incapable of this kind of reasoning as their first-year students?…”
Bucknell to Host Antifa Leader Who Promotes Political Violence: “At the campus where I teach, this week we are seeing an example of this insidious creep toward the left’s open embrace of violence against those who advocate for conservative ideas. The Humanities Center at Bucknell University has invited Mark Bray to speak on September 10, 2019, the day before the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. It is the inaugural event in a year-long series the Humanities Center has put together on the theme “Confronting Fascism.”…”
What Academic Antifa Wants: “An important step in challenging this drift in the direction of "academic Antifa" is simply to report, accurately and in detail, on what these people say, write, and believe. Virulent ideas should be exposed to clean air and bright light. Among other positive effects, this allows the people who are largely paying the salaries of individuals like Mark Bray and his professorial supporters at Dartmouth and elsewhere, that is, the parents of college students and donors to institutions of higher education, to see precisely how their money is being spent…”
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I would say that I always enjoy what you write but for the fact that much of it is so accurately depressing and putting a heart on it seems weird. Thank you as always for your work in the trenches. Some of the above I have read before, some of it I will work my way through. I did just finish the piece on sending sons to liberal arts colleges. Yes. The only two schools my son applied to were Bucknell and Rensselaer Poly Tech. There are no words for my relief that he went to the latter. A couple of random Friday fragments (and do try to continue your Monday ones!): 1) in high school, the girl he was dating forbade him to compliment her appearance because it objectified her. He told me this after they broke up. I implored him to forget about that and to know that most women (in a relationship) more than welcome being told how nice they look and that his future wife will definitely not appreciate never being told. 2) I am growing butternut squash. Did you know that there are seemingly identical male and female blossoms on every plant, in a ratio that appears to be about 8:1, and (surprise!) only the female blossoms produce a gourd? I inspect my blossoms most mornings and ponder the immutability of gender. If I were a worrier, I would worry a LOT about what is being done to young men in the current culture and the erosion of masculine values. And, clarification for anyone else bothering to read this: I have no "women should know their place" mindset. Amongst other things, I am the executive director for my husband's business, also run my own career, kept my own name, and have never felt any man has treated me as less then equal (although I would probably be oblivious because it never occurs to me to look for it). And I know how to shoot....
I have always loved being a woman and I have always really loved men. Vive la différence!
(And one further disclaimer: in our work we happily hire anyone who is good at what they do, which has included employing people of all colors, homosexuals, and people who have changed genders. But we don't discriminate against white males, which we have, in fact, been outright asked to do.)