By Mary Grabar
The many surveys backing up what those of us in the academy know only too well---that liberals vastly outnumber conservatives---are used to bolster the idealistic argument for "intellectual diversity."
But a viewing of an incident at the recent CPAC conference and a video of a philosophy professor further confirmed my beliefs that it is not intellectual diversity that is needed as much as intellectual anything, and that that need is much more urgent than often recognized. The New Left began its onslaught on Western civilization through violent demands in the 1960s for the inherently anti-intellectual "studies" that replaced the traditional disciplines, like philosophy. The New Leftists and their intellectual descendents in the academy have just about succeeded in their mission of destroying the foundation of Western civilization: and that is reasoned inquiry. We see the outcome every day, in the nonsensical pontifications of tenured professors and inchoate expressions of our young people---even those involved in conservative politics.
Take for example an incident at CPAC with a group of young adults denouncing white nationalist Jamie Kelso captured on tape. They remind me so much of the college students I teach. Their reactions of disgust as Kelso's aim becomes apparent indicate that their hearts are in the right place.
But what was disappointing was the inability to recognize and then refute Kelso's sophistic claims. One can see Kelso's strategy, how he appeals to the conservative valuation of the Western tradition by citing the accomplishments of those like Galileo, then confuses culture with biology, claiming that Galileo's accomplishments are due to race, and then flattering this group on their nice "genetic endowment." But this group seems to have only the standard liberal responses in their arsenal. A young lady says sarcastically to the camera---in linguistically updated Gloria Steinem fashion-- "like that's my job," to "procreate." The rest of the group also falls back on the lessons learned in school: that Indians were "here" before Europeans were, that this country was built on the backs of black slaves, that the Middle East produced some the "most advanced" science, and that "there is a collective guilt because of slavery." All these responses work against the conservative principles they hold: that Western culture is the best and that America is exceptional.
The thinking behind the classroom slogans and cliches repeated by this little group leads to all kinds of wrongheaded and destructive initiatives like preference programs and tribalism. Students, who are told they are "global citizens," are denied the global perspective that places the U.S. as leader in abolishing the practice of slavery that violated her own principles of equal rights. Even the official motto, e pluribus unum, that comes to mind, would have stopped Kelso in his tracks.
Nor are students taught about the philosophical ideas behind our country's founding, the emergence of the idea of one God (from whom rights emanate) from the new radical religion called Judaism, or the emergence of the democratic idea of equal human worth from the even more radical religion called Christianity. Later expressions, like the "categorical imperative" of universality for determining the justness of laws, by thinkers like Immanuel Kant, are given short shrift in philosophy classes these days.
In fact, New York University professor, Dale Jamieson, a scholar of the utilitarian infanticide and animal rights advocate Peter Singer, doesn't think it's even necessary to read Kant and other philosophers. He explains on Big Think that there is a "misunderstanding" of what philosophy is. Philosophy isn't "reading Immanuel Kant," Jamieson asserts. Rather it is about "thinking hard about the right thing to do in a situation" and approaching it in an open-minded way. It is a "process, not a body of knowledge to impart to someone" from books. Whatever one may think of him---and conservatives see him positively and negatively--Kant is a pivotal figure in Western thought. And so are others like Plato, Nietzsche, and Marx. That's why educated people have read them.
What better way to destroy a culture than to have those entrusted with preserving its intellectual tradition denying its value and thereby consigning it to oblivion? What better way to destroy reasoned inquiry than to deny students the resources they need, while flattering them with the idea that they can do philosophy through the sheer power of their own minds? No need to read Kant! Or Aristotle! Or Marx! Just think hard. Or empathetically as "philosopher" Martha Nussbaum insists. Or "deeply" as Weatherman cofounder, education professor Bill Ayers implores in his many books on education pedagogy.
Of course, as they are led down this merry path of intellectual delusion students will not be able to spot the Marxist ideology embedded and disguised in "multicultural" literature, "community service," and history lessons. Even in the most basic class on argumentation, freshman composition, they will be instructed on using non-offensive language, exploring feelings, and composing collaboratively, instead of studying Aristotle's rhetoric. As they are denied the training in reasoned argument, students are emotionally bullied into embracing "social justice," "global citizenship," and "sustainability."
What is the real world result? If students are at a loss on how to effectively rebut Kelso's argument, how can they rebut the appeals to emotion that Peter Singer makes and that Jamieson promotes? How can they resist the appeals regarding the suffering animal, infant, and even distraught parent that Singer makes?
It is a telling sign that self-identified conservative young people increasingly adopt libertarian views on social issues. We see rising support for gay marriage even as the percentage of self-identified conservatives remains consistent. I think this trend stems from a lack of understanding of the philosophical and theological tradition underpinning our laws and system of government. There is a lack of understanding of what "tolerance" really means. Young people are browbeaten into confusing it with acceptance: if one denies the gays the "right" to marry then he is a "hater." Thus, they succumb to the pressures of a Marxist-inspired initiative to destroy the bedrock of a free society: the nuclear family. I would argue that respecting the rights of gays does not mean that we need to overturn the very definitions of our institutions like marriage. But such a statement might get me drummed out of CPAC.
The shouting and the knee-jerk emotional responses are outcomes of Leftist initiatives. The very Leftists who have been calling for "civility" in discourse are the same ones who have been destroying the means by which to conduct civil debate. We can thank many professors at our most highly esteemed universities for bringing on this decay.
Those who argue for "intellectual diversity" need to recognize that the aim has never been to infuse new ideas into the academy, but to destroy ideas and real thinking. The aim is to reduce the debate to the level of a shouting match between a Bill O'Reilly and an Al Sharpton. But with nothing more than emotions to go on, people might just succumb to race mongers, whether they be Al Sharpton or Jamie Kelso.
Mary Grabar is an English instructor in Atlanta