Smoky Mountains Sunrise
Showing posts with label Multiculturalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Multiculturalism. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Happens Today at a Liberal Arts College?

By John Leo

Today the National Association of Scholars is releasing the results of its long, in-depth study of Bowdoin College, "What Does Bowdoin Teach? How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students."

Among the findings: Bowdoin, in a retreat from its past, stresses global citizenship (with declining emphasis and on and concern for the United States). Multi-culturalism, diversity and emphasis on race and gender pervade the curriculum and campus life. Openness and critical thinking are officially preached, but many campus core tenets cannot be challenged in the face of the college's prevailing orthodoxy, and those who might challenge (conservatives) are virtually gone from the campus--only 4 or 5 of the 186 faculty could be listed as conservative, and 100 percent of faculty donations in the 2012 presidential  election went to Barack Obama.

The study of Bowdoin was triggered by happenstance--a golf game that included Wall Streeter Thomas Klingenstein and Bowdoin president Barry Mills. As a result of the disturbing conversation at that game, Klingenstein decided to fund the NAS study of the college. 

Here are excerpts from the preface to the report:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sarkozy Acknowledges Multiculturalism Has Failed

The Battle of Tours, October 10, 732
It is good that European leaders are finally acknowledging that they have a civilization to defend  -  a civilization that has been overrun and is dying, but one which can still be saved and renewed, if only they would recognize what Pope Benedict has called the "unrenounceable Christian roots of its culture."

The crisis, at least now acknowledged by the German Chancellor, the British Prime Minister, and the French President, was foreseen by Enoch Powell in 1968.  He was denounced as a racist, and that brilliant political leader was shunned for the rest of his life.  His "rivers of blood" are now all too real in London, Paris, Madrid, and throughout the continent.

Another prophetic voice was also raised in 1968, that of Pope Paul VI.  In his encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he spoke of "God's loving design" for "the life and happiness of human beings," and warned of the dire consequences that result in a rejection of the natural law.  He, too, has been vindicated by the world around us.

Acknowledging the failure of a half-century of secular liberalism is a necessary first step toward rejecting a narcissistic culture  of contraception, abortion, and same-sex "marriage."  These will continue to create the vacuum into which the enemies of Christian culture will pour.  And they will lead to the certain death of European civilization in less than a half century unless hearts are changed and demographic trends are reversed.  

May we hear God speaking through His prophets and the "signs of the times" before it is too late.

From Agence France-Presse
French President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels. Photo: AP

French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared Thursday that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

"My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure," he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups.

"Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want... a society where communities coexist side by side.

"If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France," the right-wing president said.

"The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women... freedom for little girls to go to school," he said.

"We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him," Sarkozy said in the TFI channel show.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia's ex-prime minister John Howard and Spanish ex-premier Jose Maria Aznar have also recently said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants.

Merkel in October said efforts towards multiculturalism in Germany had "failed, totally."

The comment followed weeks of anguished debate sparked by the huge popularity of a book by a central banker saying that immigrants, in particular Muslims, were making Germany "more stupid."

Britain's Cameron last week pronounced his country's long-standing policy of multiculturalism a failure, calling for better integration of young Muslims to combat home-grown extremism.

He urged a "more active, muscular liberalism" where equal rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech and democracy are actively promoted to create a stronger national identity.

The prime minister, who took power in May 2010, argued that "under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream".

He said this had resulted in a lack of national identity in Britain which had made some young Muslims turn to extremist ideology.

Sarkozy said in his television interview Thursday that "our Muslim compatriots must be able to practise their religion, as any citizen can," but he noted "we in France do not want people to pray in an ostentatious way in the street."

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen late last year came under fire for comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation.

Marine Le Pen said there were "ten to fifteen" places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when these were full.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Youth for Western Civilization Group at Vanderbilt Stirs Furor

Founders of the local branch of Youth for Western Civilization Devin Saucier, left, and Trevor Williams at the Parthenon in Nashville. SANFORD MYERS / THE TENNESSEAN

From The Tennessean

By Jennifer Brooks

Meet the Youth for Western Civilization.

Its members, 13 strong and counting on the campus of Vanderbilt University, are out to "promote the survival of Western civilization and pride in Western heritage."

The club has sprung up at seven colleges around the country in the past few months, sounding a warning cry against "radical multiculturalism," "mass immigration" and the "leftist occupation" of America's college campuses.

To its critics, it's the new face of intolerance on America's college campuses.

At a YWC-sponsored event at Vanderbilt last week, protesters outnumbered club members by a margin of 10-to-1. The Southern Poverty Law Center has the group's national founders on a watch list, suspected of ties to white nationalist groups.

Vanderbilt sophomores Trevor Williams and Devin Saucier, who founded the local chapter last fall, say it's their critics who are intolerant.

A matter of perception

"We're not racists," Saucier said Friday, sitting on the steps of Nashville's concrete Parthenon, a monument to the kind of Western heritage he believes is vanishing from college textbooks today — squeezed out by lessons on non-Western cultures and non-Western heritage.

In other circles, Youth for Western Civilization is being hailed as a bold new right-wing youth movement, out to light a fire under fellow conservatives and wrench the national debate back to the topic of immigration.

The group had its coming-out party at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., in February.

"There are four policies on campuses that have led to the subversion of Western values," Williams said, ticking them off one by one.

"Mass immigration without regards to assimilation. Illegal immigration. Affirmative action. And multicultural ideology."

Almost every large wave of immigration in American history has sparked a backlash. The Chinese, the Germans, the Italians and now Hispanic immigrants have stirred fears that a wave of newcomers will overwhelm the national culture, breed crime and weaken the nation.

In the mid-18th century, the Know-Nothings railed against the hordes of Irish immigrants, who sent their children to separate schools and held allegiance to a foreign pope.

Reminded of the legends about "No Irish Need Apply" signs that used to hang in shop windows, Williams thought about it for a moment, then said, "They probably had the right idea … at least, until (the Irish) assimilated."

Talk disturbs some

No one has accused the local chapter of YWC of being a hate group, but its talk of assimilation and the preservation of Western culture above all others gives many people pause.

"It's totally fine for them to talk," said Southern Poverty Law Center spokeswoman Heidi Beirich, whose organization tracks hate group activity around the country.

But the language the group is using, she said, "To us, it's racism, pure and simple."

Many recognized hate groups, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Council of Conservative Citizens, begin their mission statements with a rallying cry to preserve this country's Western heritage.

"When I hear a statement like that, I have to wonder — is it a euphemism for white civilization?," said Frank Dobson Jr., director of the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center at Vanderbilt.

"A lot of groups use language that's veiled, but still the intent is clear."

Immigration lecture

Last week, the YWC sponsored an evening lecture on immigration by former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan, who shares the group's views on immigration and assimilation. The event attracted more than 100 protesters, all organized over the course of a single weekend by Vanderbilt junior Erica Santiago.

"All week long, I've been seeing the signs they put up against immigration," said Santiago, standing in a long line of protesters formed at the entrances to the lecture hall last Monday night, holding up pro-immigration and pro-diversity signs.

"We came here to show our disapproval. To show people that this is the face of Vandy," she said.

The message Santiago gets from this group is that immigration weakens America, and she finds that concept unacceptable.

"My mother came from Colombia. You want to take my entire existence away."

To become a recognized student organization on campus, groups must show that there is no existing campus group with similar goals and that others on campus are interested in joining their proposed organization.

Youth for Western Civilization met those criteria, filled out all the necessary paperwork and lined up a faculty adviser, said Courtney Salters, director of student governance in Vanderbilt's Office of Student Organizations.

Vanderbilt was aware of the unsavory rumors swirling around the group, she said, but found no evidence that YWC was involved in harassment or hate speech on campus.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a warning last month that the national founders of Youth for Western Civilization, Marcus Epstein and Kevin DeAnna, have posted to white supremacist Web sites in the past.

Youth for Western Civilization say DeAnna is the sole founder of the group. And DeAnna denies that he or Epstein has racist leanings. He blames the allegations on a "crude, tribalistic instinct that's opposed to us."

Williams and Saucier started out in the College Republicans club at Vanderbilt. The group met once or twice a year, they said, and everyone wore suits and talked about getting ahead in the party and maybe, at some point, going out and canvassing for John McCain.

Frustrated, they started looking for a group with fire in its belly. A group that could go toe-to-toe with the liberal activists on campus.

Broad agenda

The YWC's agenda spans the political and cultural spectrum. It picketed a campus production of The Vagina Monologues, branding it pornography, and invited Bay Buchanan to lecture on immigration and assimilation.

At the moment, Williams is planning a YWC-sponsored lecture series on opera and its importance in Western culture.

March was Multicultural Awareness Month at Vanderbilt, but "there wasn't a single event about Western culture," Saucier said. "Our contributions have been heavily overshadowed. We're kind of that [forgotten] voice."

But for all its opposition to multiculturalism on campus, Youth for Western Civilization welcomes it in its own ranks.

On Saturday, Saucier and Williams called in with the news that they'd recruited their 13th member — Neelam Khan. She's a Memphis-born Muslim of Pakistani descent, and YWC won her over at the Bay Buchanan speech.

"I absolutely loved it," she said. "I found I really agreed with everything they said. I felt so comfortable with them, and we agree on so many topics."

She sees nothing at odds between her Eastern heritage and her membership in a group that believes Western culture should predominate in this country.

"I love my culture, I love my heritage, but having lived here all my live, I identify more as an American," she said.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Anglicans Give Christmas a Multicultural Makeover

The Church of England has backed plans to turn Christmas into a more multicultural event.

From The Telegraph
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones

It may have become traditional for angels, three wise men and the baby Jesus to play a starring role in the festive season.

But now Hindu snowmen, a Chinese dragon and a Jewish temple are also to be included in an attempt to make the celebrations more inclusive of Britain's diverse communities.

Westminster Abbey will unveil life-size snowmen that Anglican clergy hope will help to improve relations and dialogue between other faiths.

Dressed in turbans, with bindi dots on their foreheads, they are intended to demonstrate that Christmas should not be exclusively for Christians.

The Rev Jane Hedges, a canon at the abbey, said that it was important to encourage people from other faiths to join in the celebrations.

"We've done this as it creates a good opportunity for Christians to meet and hear about the stories of people of other faiths," she said.

"Christmas is an opportunity for everyone to stop and think and is a great opportunity for the different faiths to talk to one another.

"Wherever you're coming from there should be something to celebrate at Christmas."

She pointed out that for Muslims they can appreciate the story of Christ's birth because it is included in the Koran, adding that the Hindu snowmen were not an attempt to dumb down.

"Strictly speaking, the message of Christmas is about the birth of Christ, but it has a much broader message of peace and goodwill."

Meanwhile in the diocese of Liverpool, a nativity is being staged that features a Chinese dragon and lantern procession.

It has been backed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, who is taking part in the event via a big screen.

The nativity, which is being performed in Scouse, marks the end of Liverpool's year as the capital of culture.

Annie Spiers, who co-ordinated the event, said that the nativity aimed to give "a fresh slant" to a familiar story.

However, some traditionalists warned that making Christmas multicultural and multi-faith threatened to undermine the Christian message.

Alison Ruoff, a General Synod member, said: "Christmas is a time for everyone, but the Church needs to be confident in its message, which is that Christ came to save people of all faiths and none."

She added: "Why are they putting such a ridiculous spin on Christmas? It's a nonsense and makes me really quite cross."

The Rev Rod Thomas, chair of Reform – a leading evangelical group, also expressed concern.

"People want Christians to celebrate Christmas without compromise," he said.

"It's only by doing this that people of other faiths respect what we stand for, not by attempting to introduce something that is sub-Christian.

"This all seems very bizarre."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Geert Wilders: 'Our Culture Is Better'

Like Churchill before him, Geert Wilders is a prophet whose message is not yet heard by those with most at stake -- his fellow Europeans. He rightly sees a Western culture that is superior to that which threatens to overwhelm it, but it is a culture that has lost all vitality because it has lost touch with the Christian roots from which it rose. Indeed, the multiculturalist elites that are guiding Europe on its suicidal course cannot even admit the possibility that Western culture is superior to that of Islam and Sharia Law. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Europe's courageous, lone voice.

By his own description, Geert Wilders is not a typical Dutch politician. "We are a country of consensus," he tells me on a recent Saturday morning at his midtown Manhattan hotel. "I hate consensus. I like confrontation. I am not a consensus politician. . . . This is something that is really very un-Dutch."

Yet the 45-year-old Mr. Wilders says he is the most famous politician in the Netherlands: "Everybody knows me. . . . There is no other politician -- not even the prime minister -- who is as well-known. . . . People hate me, or they love me. There's nothing in between. There is no gray area."

To his admirers, Mr. Wilders is a champion of Western values on a continent that has lost confidence in them. To his detractors, he is an anti-Islamic provocateur. Both sides have a point.

In March, Mr. Wilders released a short film called "Fitna," a harsh treatment of Islam that begins by interspersing inflammatory Quran passages with newspaper and TV clips depicting threats and acts of violent jihad. The second half of the film, titled "The Netherlands Under the Spell of Islam," warns that Holland's growing Muslim population -- which more than doubled between 1990 and 2004, to 944,000, some 5.8% of the populace -- poses a threat to the country's traditional liberal values. Under the heading, "The Netherlands in the future?!" it shows brutal images from Muslim countries: men being hanged for homosexuality, a beheaded woman, another woman apparently undergoing genital mutilation.

Making such a film, Mr. Wilders knew, was a dangerous act. In November 2004, Theo van Gogh was assassinated on an Amsterdam street in retaliation for directing a film called "Submission" about Islam's treatment of women. The killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, left a letter on van Gogh's body threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the film's writer and narrator.

Ms. Hirsi Ali, born in Somalia, had renounced Islam and been elected to the Dutch Parliament, where she was an ally of Mr. Wilders. Both belonged to the center-right People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, known by the Dutch acronym VVD. Both took a hard line on what they saw as an overly accommodationist policy toward the Netherlands' Muslim minority. They argued that radical imams "should be stripped of their nationality," that their mosques should be closed, and that "we should be strong in defending the rights of women," Mr. Wilders tells me.

This made them dissenters within the VVD. "We got into trouble every week," Mr. Wilders recalls. "We were like children going to their parents if they did something wrong, because every week they hassled us. . . . We really didn't care what anybody said. If the factional leadership said, 'Well, you cannot go to this TV program,' for us it was an incentive to go, not not to go. So we were a little bit of two mavericks, rebels if you like."

Mr. Wilders finally quit the party over its support for opening negotiations to admit Turkey into the European Union. That was in September 2004. "Two months later, Theo van Gogh was killed, and the whole world changed," says Mr. Wilders. He and Ms. Hirsi Ali both went into hiding; he still travels with bodyguards. After a VVD rival threatened to strip Ms. Hirsi Ali's citizenship over misstatements on her 1992 asylum application, she left Parliament and took a fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Mr. Wilders stayed on and formed the Party for Freedom, or PVV. In 2006 it became Parliament's fifth-largest party, with nine seats in the 150-member lower chamber.

Having his own party liberates Mr. Wilders to speak his mind. As he sees it, the West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. "We believe that -- 'we' means the political elite -- that all cultures are equal," he says. "I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You're not a xenophobe, you're not a racist, you're not a crazy guy if you say, 'My culture is better than yours.' A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better."

He acknowledges that "the majority of Muslims in Europe and America are not terrorists or violent people." But he says "it really doesn't matter that much, because if you don't define your own culture as the best, dominant one, and you allow through immigration people from those countries to come in, at the end of the day you will lose your own identity and your own culture, and your society will change. And our freedom will change -- all the freedoms we have will change."

The murder of van Gogh lends credence to this warning, as does the Muhammad cartoon controversy of 2005 in Denmark. As for "Fitna," it has not occasioned a violent response, but its foes have made efforts to suppress it. A Dutch Muslim organization went to court seeking to enjoin its release on the ground that, in Mr. Wilders's words, "it's not in the interest of Dutch security." The plaintiffs also charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and inciting hatred. Mr. Wilders thought the argument frivolous, but decided to pre-empt it: "The day before the verdict, I broadcasted ['Fitna'] . . . not because I was not confident in the outcome, but I thought: I'm not taking any chance, I'm doing it. And it was legal, because there was not a verdict yet." The judge held that the national-security claim was moot and ruled in Mr. Wilders's favor on the issues of blasphemy and incitement.

Dutch television stations had balked at broadcasting the film, and satellite companies refused to carry it even for a fee. So Mr. Wilders released it online. The British video site soon pulled the film, citing "threats to our staff of a very serious nature," but put it back online a few days later. ("Fitna" is still available on LiveLeak, as well as on other sites such as YouTube and Google Video.)

An organization called The Netherlands Shows Its Colors filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Wilders for "inciting hatred." In June, Dutch prosecutors declined to pursue the charge, saying in a statement: "That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable." The group is appealing the prosecutors' decision.

In July, a Jordanian prosecutor, acting on a complaint from a pressure group there, charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and other crimes. The Netherlands has no extradition treaty with Jordan, but Mr. Wilders worries -- and the head of the group that filed the complaint has boasted -- that the indictment could restrict his ability to travel. Mr. Wilders says he does not visit a foreign country without receiving an assurance that he will not be arrested and extradited.

"The principle is not me -- it's not about Geert Wilders," he says. "If you look at the press and the rest of the political elite in the Netherlands, nobody cares. Nobody gives a damn. This is the worst thing, maybe. . . . A nondemocratic country cannot use the international or domestic legal system to silence you. . . . If this starts, we can get rid of all parliaments, and we should close down every newspaper, and we should shut up and all pray to Mecca five times a day."

It is difficult to fault Mr. Wilders's impassioned defense of free speech. And although the efforts to silence him via legal harassment have proved far from successful, he rightly points out that they could have a chilling effect, deterring others from speaking out.

Mr. Wilders's views on Islam, though, are problematic. Since 9/11, American political leaders have struggled with the question of how to describe the ideology of the enemy without making enemies of the world's billion or so Muslims. The various terms they have tried -- "Islamic extremism," "Islamism," "Islamofascism" -- have fallen short of both clarity and melioration. Melioration is not Mr. Wilders's highest priority, and to him the truth couldn't be clearer: The problem is Islam itself. "I see Islam more as an ideology than as a religion," he explains.

His own view of Islam is a fundamentalist one: "According to the Quran, there are no moderate Muslims. It's not Geert Wilders who's saying that, it's the Quran . . . saying that. It's many imams in the world who decide that. It's the people themselves who speak about it and talk about the terrible things -- the genital mutilation, the honor killings. This is all not Geert Wilders, but those imams themselves who say this is the best way of Islam."

Yet he insists that his antagonism toward Islam reflects no antipathy toward Muslims: "I make a distinction between the ideology . . . and the people. . . . There are people who call themselves Muslims and don't subscribe to the full part of the Quran. And those people, of course, we should invest [in], we should talk to." He says he would end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands but work to assimilate those already there.

His idea of how to do so, however, seems unlikely to win many converts: "You have to give up this stupid, fascist book" -- the Quran. "This is what you have to do. You have to give up that book."

Mr. Wilders is right to call for a vigilant defense of liberal principles. A society has a right, indeed a duty, to require that religious minorities comply with secular rules of civilized behavior. But to demand that they renounce their religious identity and holy books is itself an affront to liberal principles.

Mr. Taranto, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, writes the Best of the Web Today column for

Monday, November 24, 2008

We Need Roots

If I had to choose one article that would sum up the theme and purpose I intend for my blog, it would undoubtedly be the following article by R. R. Reno, features editor of First Things, and a professor of theology at Creighton University. It is a profound article on the meaning of culture, patriotism, national loyalty, social capital, and man's restless quest for roots that was aptly summed up in Saint Augustine's observation:
Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.

We Need Roots
From First Things
By R. R. Reno

G.K. Chesterton was a sucker for romantic gestures. Lines of soldiers with swords crossed, flags rippling in the wind, cathedral bells tolling: These sorts of scenes moved him, as did visions of lovers pledging themselves to each other in the dusky darkness of a summer evening, monks prostrate on cold, stone, chapel floors as they take their vows, and the quiet, invincible resolution of solitary soldiers who face impossible odds. Life is better—richer, deeper, thicker—for our loyalties and loves.

I share this Chestertonian sensibility, which is why the new music from the English folk band, Show of Hands, gives me goose bumps.

Listen to the band’s bitter lament, “Country Life.” The accompanying video on YouTube features harsh black and white images that match the cutting lyrics.

Read the rest of this entry >>

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Riot Ends Britain's Largest Annual Street Festival

One Sunlit Uplands reader in London has strongly criticized a post from last month as misrepresenting twenty-first century Britain. That particular post and the accompanying video laments how unchecked immigration, multiculturalism and political correctness are destroying traditional British culture.

The following video shows how Caribbean street gangs ended the Notting Hill Carnival, Britain's largest street festival, this past week. For more than two hours street thugs battled police, throwing broken bottles and other debris at police and bystanders.

Prior to the Carnival, police foiled a plot for even greater mayhem. According to the Daily Mail, "members of south London gangs were arming themselves for the bank holiday event this month with an arsenal of weapons including a handgun, CS gas canisters and stun guns."

According to NowPublic:

Those detained included 10 people who had warrants outstanding for their arrests.

Some 37 were taken into custody for drug offences, six for possessing offensive weapons and eight for assault.

Seven pit bull type dogs were also seized by officers under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Chief Insp Jo Edwards of the Metropolitan Police said the number of arrests was "slightly higher than normal."

Last year 82 arrests were made on the Sunday.

Officers were given extra powers to stop and search potential criminals in a bid to crack down on violence that has marred the street festival in recent years.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is Britain Dying?

Hat Tip to Gates of Vienna and Beer N Sandwiches for the following video showing the suicidal depravity of the multiculturalism and political correctness that are destroying Great Britain and other western nations. In Britain we see a nation that has lost the moorings of its Christian heritage, and forgotten its own rich history and the patrimony it has shared with the world.

Having had a maternal grandfather who was English, and having spent many beautiful summer days on the North Sea coast of Norfolk, it is shocking how quickly this disease of self-loathing and self-destruction has permeated British life. One would like to think that a new government would be enough to change the course of things. Unfortunately, the problem is not merely one of policy, but of spirit. Let us pray that God in His mercy will change hearts and save a nation that has given the world so much.

An eleventh century Archbishop of Canterbury offered a sure path for the people of his time and ours. In The Proslogian St. Anselm wrote:
I will seek you by desiring you, and desire you in seeking you.
I will find you by loving you, and love you in finding you.
I praise and give thanks to you that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, love you,
But so darkened is your image in me by the smoke of my sins,
that it is useless unless you restore it.
I do not seek, O Lord, to search out your depths, but only in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves.
I do not seek to understand so that I may believe, but believe that I may understand.
For this I know to be true: that unless I first believe I shall not understand.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What Was A Liberal Education?

From The New Criterion
By Roger Kimball

The real difficulty in modern education lies in the fact that, despite all the fashionable talk about a new conservatism, even that minimum of conservation and the conserving attitude without which education is simply not possible is in our time extraordinarily hard to achieve.
—Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Education”

To be deceived about the truth of things and so to be in ignorance and error and to harbor untruth in the soul is a thing no one would consent to.
—Socrates, in The Republic

Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”
—The Dodo, in Alice in Wonderland

When I ponder the recent itinerary of education in this country—not just college education, but the whole shebang—I often think of that old advertisement for a brand of cigarettes designed to appeal especially to women: “You’ve come a long way, baby!” How right they were. But a distance traveled is not necessarily progress logged. It was not so long ago that Cardinal Newman’s enumeration of the goals of a liberal arts education in The Idea of a University could have been taken as a motto by the American academic establishment. Newman spoke of “a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life” as being the chief “objects of a University” education. Quite normal in the 1850s. But today? Or consider the observation made by the philosopher John Searle in the 1990s that “the idea that the curriculum should be converted to any partisan purposes is a perversion of the ideal of the university. The objective of converting the curriculum into an instrument of social transformation (leftist, rightist, centrist, or whatever) is the very opposite of higher education.” Until the day before yesterday, Searle’s warning was regarded as common sense. Now it is uncommon, and highly provocative, wisdom.

I am not suggesting that in the past our educational institutions always lived up to the ideal that Newman enunciated, or that they always avoided the perversion against which Professor Searle warned. But they aspired to. Indeed, until at least the early 1960s there was robust agreement about the intellectual and moral goals of a liberal arts education even if those goals seemed difficult to achieve. There was, for example, a shared commitment to the ideal of disinterested scholarship devoted to the preservation and transmission of knowledge—which meant the preservation and transmission of a civilization—pursued in a community free from ideological intimidation. If we inevitably fell short of the ideal, the ideal nevertheless continued to command respect and to exert a guiding influence.

The essays that follow provide a series of pathologist’s reports on contemporary liberal arts education in an age when traditional ideas about the civilizing nature and goals of education no longer enjoy widespread allegiance. It would be difficult to overstate the resulting intellectual and moral carnage. Everything about Newman’s description—from its lucid diction and lofty tone to its praise of the dispassionate cultivation of the intellect—is an object of derision in the academy today. Likewise, Professor Searle’s insistence that the curriculum not be reduced to a tool for partisan propaganda, “leftist, rightist, centrist, or whatever,” is now widely derided as hopelessly na├»ve or insidiously reactionary.

The truth is that despite widespread concern about the fate of higher education, and despite many and various efforts to call attention to and remedy the situation, the situation is in many ways far graver today than it was in the 1970s and 1980s when exotic phenomena such as Afrocentrism, “Postcolonial Studies,” Queer Theory, Critical Legal Studies, and the attack on science by so-called humanists were just beginning to gather steam. And despite the rise of alternative voices here and there, those dominating the discussion at most institutions are committed to discrediting the traditional humanistic ideals of liberal education by injecting politics into the heart of the educational enterprise.

Consider the phenomena of “multiculturalism” and political correctness. (I use scare quotes because what generally travels under the name of “multiculturalism” is really a form of monocultural animus directed against the dominant culture.) The multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt as impotent as it is insatiable. Hence the sensitivity of the multiculturalist is an index not of moral refinement but of moral vacuousness. Multiculturalism is a paralyzing intoxicant; its thrill centers around the emotion of superior virtue; its hangover subsists on a diet of ignorance and blighted good intentions. As the essay by Alan Charles Kors shows, the crucial thing to understand about multiculturalism is that, notwithstanding its emancipationist rhetoric, “multiculturalism” is not about recognizing genuine cultural diversity or encouraging pluralism. It is about undermining the priority of Western liberal values in our educational system and in society at large. In essence, as the political scientist Samuel Huntington has pointed out, multicultur- alism is “anti-European civilization… . It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” The most ironic aspect of this whole spectacle is that what appears to its adherents as bravely anti-Western is in fact part of the West’s long tradition of self-scrutiny. Indeed, criticism of the West has been a prominent ingredient in the West’s self-understanding at least since Socrates invited his fellow Athenians to debate with him about the nature of the good life. No civilization in history has been as consistently self-critical as the West.

Anti-Americanism occupies such a prominent place on the agenda of the culture wars precisely because the traditional values of American identity—articulated by the Founders and grounded in a commitment to individual liberty and public virtue—are deeply at odds with the radical, de-civilizing tenets of the “multiculturalist” enterprise of political correctness. A profound ignorance of the milestones of American (or any other) culture is one predictable result. The statistics have become proverbial. Huntington quotes one poll from the 1990s showing that while 90 percent of Ivy League students could identify Rosa Parks, only 25 percent could identify the author of the words “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” (Yes, it’s the Gettysburg Address.) In a 1999 survey, 40 percent of seniors at fifty-five top colleges could not say within half a century when the Civil War was fought. Another study found that more high school students knew who Harriet Tubman was than knew that Washington commanded the American army in the Revolution or that Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.

Political correctness also fosters an atmosphere of intimidation and encourages slavish moral and intellectual conformity, attacking the very basis for the free exchange of ideas. Even worse, it encourages a kind of intellectual sentimentality that makes it difficult to acknowledge certain unpalatable realities—the reality, for example, that not all cultures, or indeed all individuals, are equal in terms of potential or accomplishment. It insinuates that “lie in the soul” Socrates warned about in The Republic. The consequence, as Charles Murray sets out in his essay below, is a species of educational “romanticism” that may be motivated by good intentions but has disastrous results.

It almost goes without saying that the tenured or soon-to-be-tenured radicals now controlling nearly all of the most prestigious humanities departments in this country reply that their critics have overstated the case. Really, they say, there is nothing amiss, nothing has happened that need concern parents, trustees, alumni, government, or private funding sources. On the issue of enforcing politically correct behavior on campus, for example, they will assure you that the whole thing has been overblown by “conservative” journalists who do not sufficiently admire Edward Said and cannot appreciate that the free exchange of ideas must sometimes be curtailed for the higher virtue of protecting the feelings of designated victim groups. And the curriculum, they will say, has not been politicized, it has merely been democratized: opened up to reflect the differing needs and standards of groups and ideas hitherto insufficiently represented in the academy.

The aim of such objections is not to enlighten or persuade but to intimidate and pre-empt criticism. The truth is that what we are facing today is nothing less than the destruction of the fundamental premises that underlie our conception both of liberal education and of a liberal democratic polity. Respect for rationality and the rights of the individual; a commitment to the ideals of disinterested criticism and color-blind justice; advancement according to merit, not according to sex, race, or ethnic origin: these quintessentially Western ideas are bedrocks of our political as well as our educational system. And they are precisely the ideas that are now under attack by bien pensants academics intoxicated by the coercive possibilities generated by their self-infatuating embrace of political correctness.

One of the most depressing features of the long-running epic saga called “educational reform” is how intractable the problems seem. A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay in these pages called “Retaking the University.” One thoughtful internet commentator responded with an alternative that I must have had somewhere in the back of my mind but had never articulated explicitly. This forthright chap began by recalling an article on military affairs that poked fun at yesterday’s conventional wisdom that high-tech gear would render tanks and old-fashioned armor obsolete. Whatever else the war in Iraq showed, he observed, such tried and true military hardware was anything but obsolete. The moral is: some armor is good, more armor is better. “It makes sense,” this fellow concluded, “to have some tanks handy.”

He then segued into my piece on the university, outlining some of the criticisms and recommendations I’d made. By and large, he agreed with the criticisms, but he found my recommendations much too tame. “Try as I might,” he wrote, “I just can’t see meaningful change of the academic monstrosity our universities have become issuing from faculties, parents, alumni, and trustees.” What was his alternative? In a word, “Tanks!” He called his plan Operation Academic Freedom. It has that virtue of forthright simplicity:

We round up every tank we can find that isn’t actually being used in Iraq or Afghanistan. Next, we conduct a nationwide Internet poll to determine which institutions need to be retaken first… .

The actual battle plan is pretty simple. We drive our tanks up to the front doors of the universities and start shooting. Timing is important. We’ll have to wait till 11 A.M. or so, or else there won’t be anyone in class. Ammunition is important. We’ll need lots and lots of it. The firing plan is to keep blasting until there’s nothing left but smoldering ruins. Then we go on to the next on the list. If the first target is Harvard, for example, we would move on from there to, say, Yale. So fuel will be important too. There’s going to be some long distance driving involved between engagements.

Well, perhaps we can call that Plan B, a handy expedient if other proposals don’t pan out. And there have, let’s face it, been plenty of other proposals. The task of reforming higher education has become a vibrant cottage industry, with think tanks, conferences, special programs, institutes, and initiatives cropping up like mushrooms after a rain. I think, for example, of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for the American University, The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, or Robert George’s Madison Center at Princeton University, which has become a model for many seeking institutional reform.

Naturally, many of these initiatives tend to run into stiff resistance. In his melancholy essay below, Robert Paquette tells the sorry tale of attempting to start an Alexander Hamilton Center, dedicated to “excellence in scholarship through the study of freedom, democracy, and capitalism,” at Hamilton College in upstate New York. An obstreperous and politicized faculty intimidated a pusillanimous administration and the center had to be started off campus without college affiliation.

I applaud all of these initiatives. But I wonder what lasting effect they will have on the intellectual and moral life of the university. They are important in any event because, even if they remain relegated to the sidelines of academic life, they demonstrate that real alternatives to reflexive academic left-wingery are possible. I suspect, however, that they will remain minority enterprises, a handful of gadflies buzzing about the left-lunging behemoth that is contemporary academia. Why? There are several reasons.

One reason is that the left-wing monoculture is simply too deeply entrenched for these initiatives, laudable and necessary though they are, to make much difference. For the last few years, I have heard several commentators from sundry ideological points of view predict that the reign of political correctness and programmatic leftism on campus had peaked and was now about to recede. I wish I could share that optimism. I see no evidence of it. Sure, students are quiescent. But indifference is not instauration, and besides faculties nearly everywhere form a self-perpetuating closed shop.

Something similar can be said about the fashion of “theory”—all that anemic sex-in-the-head politicized gibberish dressed up in reader-proof “philosophical” prose. It is true that names like Derrida or Foucault no longer produce the frisson of excitement they once did. That is not because their “ideas” are widely disputed but rather because they are by now completely absorbed into the tissues of academic life. (The same thing happened with Freud a couple decades ago.)

A few years ago, The American Enterprise magazine created a small stir when it published “The Shame of America’s One-Party Campuses,” providing some statistical evidence to bolster what everyone already knew: that American colleges and universities were overwhelmingly left-wing. You know the story: out of 30 English professors at college X, 29 are left-leaning Democrats and one is an Independent while in the economics department of college Y, 33 profs are left-leaning Democrats and 1 is, or at least occasionally talks to, a Republican. Well, that’s all old hat now. A few months ago, the Yale Daily News ran a story revealing that faculty and staff at Yale this election cycle have contributed 45 times more to Democratic candidates than to Republications. “Most people in my department,” said the one doctor known to have contributed to Guiliani’s presidential campaign, “are slightly to the left of Joseph Stalin.”

The key issue, I hasten to add, is not partisan politics but rather the subordinating of intellectual life generally to non-intellectual, i.e., political imperatives. “The greatest danger,” the philosopher Leszek Kolakowski wrote in “What are Universities For?,”

is the invasion of an intellectual fashion which wants to abolish cognitive criteria of knowledge and truth itself… . The humanities and social sciences have always succumbed to various fashions, and this seems inevitable. But this is probably the first time that we are dealing with a fashion, or rather fashions, according to which there are no generally valid intellectual criteria.

Indeed, it is this failure—the colonization of intellectual life by politics—that stands behind and fuels the degradation of liberal education. The issue is not so much—or not only—the presence of bad politics as the absence of non-politics in the intellectual life of the university.

I used to think that appealing over the heads of the faculty to trustees, parents, alumni, and other concerned groups could make a difference. I have become increasingly less sanguine about that strategy. For one thing, it is extremely difficult to generate a sense of emergency such that those groups will actually take action, let alone maintain the sense of emergency such that an outburst of indignation will develop into a call for action.

What’s more, those groups are increasingly impotent. Time was when a prospective hiccup in the annual fund would send shivers down the spine of an anxious college president. These days, many colleges and universities are so rich that they can afford to cock a snook at parents and alumni. Forget about Harvard and its $30 billion, or Princeton, or Yale, or Stanford, or the other super-rich schools. Even many small colleges are sitting on huge fortunes.

Consider tiny Hamilton College again. When Hamilton tried to hire Susan Rosenberg, the former Weather Underground member whose 58-year sentence was commuted by Bill Clinton on his last day in office, I reported the fact in The Wall Street Journal. The story appeared on the day that Hamilton kicked off a capital campaign in New York. My article was highly critical, and it generated a lot of comment. Donations to Hamilton, I am told, simply dried up. But so what? The college sits on an endowment of some $700 million. That is more than half a billion dollars. So what if the Annual Fund is down a few million this year? Big deal. They can afford to hunker down and wait out the outcry.

Some observers believe that the university can not really be reformed until the current generation—the Sixties generation—retires. That’s another couple of decades, minimum. And don’t forget about the self-replicating engine that is tenure in which like begets like. Deep and lasting change in the university depends on deep and lasting change in the culture at large. Effecting that change is a tall order. Criticism, satire, and ridicule all have an important role to play, but the point is that such criticism, to be successful, depends upon possessing an alternative vision of the good.

Do we possess that alternative vision? I believe we do. We all know, well enough, what a good liberal education looks like, just as we all know, well enough, what makes for a healthy society. It really isn’t that complicated. It doesn’t take a lot of money or sophistication. What it does require is patience, candidness, and courage, moral virtues that are in short supply wherever political correctness reigns triumphant. In large part, those who want to retake the university must devote themselves to a waiting game, capitalizing in the meanwhile on whatever opportunities present themselves. That is Plan A. Of course, it may fail; there are no guarantees. But in that case we can always avail ourselves of the more dramatic Plan B outlined above.

Roger Kimball is co-Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Real Clear Politics

The United Kingdom, from common language and shared heritage, offers us our best window into what is happening in Europe. This is especially so when we try to come to grips -- if we have the courage to do so -- with the historically sudden irruption, and rapid spread, of Islam across Europe.

There are parallel developments in all the nations on the Continent: high immigration rates from Islamic countries, comparatively high birth rates among that immigrant population, and the radicalization of their young in Wahabi mosques financed by the oil wealth of Arabia. But for many English-speaking Canadians, it is the British experience that brings the phenomenon home.

The demographic issue is at the centre of much controversy. There can be little dispute over the statistical facts, which are quite dramatic, and as exhilarating from an Islamist point of view, as they are ominous for those who fear the loss of everything associated with western civilization. For, owing to the prior triumph of the leftist "multicultural" ideology, which holds that one "culture" is as good as another, and therefore it is wrong to preserve our own way of life, there is considerable opposition to discussing these facts.

We have seen this in Canada, where journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have been hauled before "human rights tribunals" -- kangaroo courts in which defendants are stripped of all the traditional protections of court law, and where judgments may be passed against them by people with no legal qualifications on the basis of whim and hearsay.

Mr. Steyn, in particular, stands accused of having openly discussed demographic questions. Mr. Levant stands accused of having published materials the mainstream media had been cowed into suppressing by the fear of Islamist violence.

In both cases, the journalists are being prosecuted by Muslims who advocate the imposition of Shariah law, but are using an apparatus that was designed by the Left for the persecution of those expressing right-wing views.

The British system works differently, and the media in Britain remain more robust than the media in Canada, and willing to report things that would be studiously ignored in a Canadian newsroom. On the other hand, by sheer force of numbers, and the intimidation value of several Islamist atrocities on London's streets, the "fear factor" in Britain is much higher, and the Labour government has proved much more responsive to Islamist demands.

The chief, and most consistent Islamist demand, is for the imposition of Shariah law, at least for Muslims, but ideally by the whole state. In fact, many Shariah courts are already operating informally in Britain, dealing mostly with routine civil questions of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and financial disputes, but sometimes with crime. For instance, a Shariah court in the London district of Woolwich was allowed recently -- apparently with the co-operation of police -- to pass judgment on unnamed Somali youths in a knifing incident. (The assailants were released in return for an apology to their victim.)

In various other ways, Shariah is being recognized, semi-formally. For instance, although bigamy remains nominally a crime in Britain, the Labour government has approved new social provisions by which extra welfare payments, council housing privileges, and tax benefits may be claimed by polygamous households, and the cash benefits to which the extra wives are now entitled may be paid directly into the account of their husband.

At a higher level, the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, publicly called this week for the recognition of "some form of" Shariah law for Muslims in Britain, and said it should be given equal status with parliamentary law. While Archbishop Williams has a long history of muddled pronouncements, and is widely observed to be emotionally unstable, the strength of his office is now engaged on the Islamist side.

Muslim groups such as the Ramadhan Foundation responded luke-warmly, welcoming the suggestion but criticizing the archbishop for having failed to punish his Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who is under police protection after recently suggesting that various Muslim districts in Britain had become "no-go areas" for people who are not Muslim. (The Anglican Archbishop of York is also under fire, for making remarks critical of radical Islam.)

The saddest part of this, is that so many "moderate" Muslims emigrated to Britain (as to Canada) expressly to escape from societies in which Shariah law is normative. And what they are learning now, is that, thanks to the triumph of multiculturalism in the West, "you can run but you can't hide."