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Exiled: This Is What Social Justice Looks Like

A new book edited by Mary Grabar, the academician who blogs as "the Dissident Prof," targets the demonization of university conservatives.

by
Janice Fiamengo

Bio

April 15, 2013 - 12:24 am

“It is impossible for those outside of literature departments to understand how weird such departments have become. You can see the evidence from without, but only within can you drink deep of our Stalinism Lite.” –  Prof. Scott Herring, in Exiled.

Investigations of academia by David Horowitz, Bruce Bawer, and the California Association of Scholars have all pinpointed the massive shift to the left — and the corresponding decline in scholarly rigor and balance — that has occurred in the professoriate at North American universities. More such studies are needed, for the takeover of higher education has in many cases been almost entirely unimpeded and even unnoticed or denied — or made to seem natural and unintentional. Liberal academics, priding themselves on their tolerance, routinely downplay conservative concerns about bias, claiming that the leftist influence is exaggerated or has already passed its peak. Where leftist dominance is admitted, it is claimed to be the innocent result of career self-selection: liberals are, according to the common wisdom, more intellectually curious and creative than conservatives, and therefore naturally drawn to the academic life, just as conservatives — rule-bound and money-obsessed — are naturally drawn to business, police work, or engineering. If leftists do dominate, so the story goes, their presence is benign.

A new book edited by Mary Grabar paints a much darker picture of academic life, showcasing the overt and covert ways that conservative intellectuals are marginalized or excluded. In a series of witty and engrossing narrative essays with the deliciously cheeky title Exiled: Stories from Conservative and Moderate Professors Who Have Been Ridiculed, Ostracized, Marginalized, Demonized, and Frozen Out, the collection provides first-hand accounts of what happens to those who flout the protocols of correct belief or pursue research outside the parameters of approved scholarship. They are indeed “exiled,” if not from academia itself — though some are — then at least from the company of the blessed in their departments and research communities. The pains of such exile range from personal shunning to insurmountable career roadblocks, but worst of all, perhaps, to the recognition that propaganda is being disguised as knowledge in thousands of university classrooms.

The animating spirit behind this collection, Mary Grabar, is an academic and writer, contributor to various conservative journals and electronic forums (including PJ Media.com), and the bold, always-interesting creator of Dissident Prof Press and website. Her blog covers everything from the agenda of the Common Core public school curriculum to the conservative message in The Killing Fields and much else; she writes in an impassioned and no-nonsense style.  Horrified by attempts to destroy the traditional literary canon and to remake English studies as an anti-Western (and anti-intellectual) project, she has become an indefatigable critic of progressivism in all its guises. Her introductory and concluding comments in Exiled, in which she denounces the takeover of the academy by thuggish ideologues and pinpoints their sloppy logic and faulty assumptions, are characteristically bracing and informative. The essays she has gathered form a compulsively readable collection illuminating how the leftist bias in academia manifests itself and why it matters.

Forms of academic heresy are manifold. As humorously detailed in the chapter of Exiled titled, “The Most Sacred Part of Them: Professors Behaving Badly,” M.D. Allen entered the outer darkness quite unintentionally. A new professor of literature eager to find his professional feet, he thought he was affirming his progressive credentials when he presented a paper on two English women travel writers at an annual literary conference; because he failed, however, to adopt the mandatory tone and approach to the subject, he was deemed not only inadequate but “offensive” and morally obtuse. From that point on, as he discovered, his attempts to dissent civilly from the tendentious drift of his discipline were met with the kind of open hostility and contempt reserved for the irredeemably odious. Allen ends by reflecting astutely on the forms of (frustrated) religious zeal that leftist persecution embodies. Martin Slann, in “Losing Friends and Dining Alone,” knew full well what he was getting into when he began to disagree publicly with “the doctrine of moral parity” that leftists have instituted for discussion of Islam amongst political scientists. His conference presentations on the moral bankruptcy of the United Nations and the incompatibility between Islam and political democracy produced outraged reaction from audience members and desertion by once-friendly colleagues. The realization that some academics are bigots has not, he avers, bothered him as much as the knowledge that “these same people are teaching hundreds of students each year to embrace a grotesque combination of Islam, Marxism, and contempt for democratic values.” Slann finds compensatory satisfaction in updating a textbook of his own that identifies the totalitarian elements of Islam.

Paul Kengor, in “Anti-Anti-Communism and the Academy,” takes a less personal approach to his experience in political studies, turning the lens on anti-communist scholars Richard Pipes and Vladimir Brovkin, who encountered the determined disbelief of other researchers. Linking individual marginalization to widescale pedagogical bias, he demonstrates how liberal disdain for anti-communism — even amongst those who are not Marxist radicals themselves but nonetheless harbor a loathing for conservatives — has led to a whitewashing of Communist atrocities and socio-economic failure. The effects are, he points out, catastrophic for Americans, who as a result of biased teaching are “not only ignorant of communism but prone to support far-left economic policies or to elect people who have been mentored by communists, have links to communists, or subscribe to forms of socialism.” His analysis of the glaring omissions and inaccuracies in textbooks’ accounts of the Cold War, through which generations of young people have been taught to misunderstand the most decisive ideological battle of the twentieth century, makes for sobering reading.

The last three essays are by scholars who completed PhDs but did not find tenured positions in their disciplines; they write with varying degrees of equanimity or chagrin about the realizations and accommodations they reached. Scott Herring, in “Stalinism Lite,” recognized early on that he would never be able to toe the multiculturalist party line with students in his English classes. He ultimately gave up the liberal pretense, grateful to be able to teach writing to advanced science students in a University Writing Program. Brian Birdnow, in “‘C’ for Conservatism, the New Scarlet Letter,” recounts how all his worst fears about completing a doctorate in a liberal-dominated History discipline were confirmed by his professional struggles. His book manuscript on the Communist Party of Missouri was repeatedly refused publication by biased university presses, and he had the unpleasant experience of witnessing the takeover of his discipline by social historians, who edged him out of the job market and turned him into a “non-person.” In “The Creed of Political Correctness,” Jack Kerwick shows how he came to see that his cherished idea of the university as a forum for the free exchange of ideas was “a fiction of the first order,” in a discipline (Philosophy) obsessed with pious utterances about social power, and in which intellectual curiosity and civil debate are almost non-existent. The sense of loss — not only of career opportunities but of an ideal — is palpable in all three of these cogent and absorbing analyses.

Despite Herring’s claim that “reality” will ultimately trump “ideology,” there are few rays of light here. Far from dwindling in significance and power, leftists seem firmly in possession of the ivory tower. They have been remarkably successful in transforming once-substantial academic subjects into programs of indoctrination: students learn a turgid theoretical language enforcing a simplistic and misleading worldview in which a band of heroic victims — the transgendered, the racialized, the othered — struggle against their white male oppressors. Everything that has gone before in western culture, including its democratic institutions, civilized codes of conduct, and traditions of difficult freedom, are dismissed as remnants of a fascist past while a moratorium is strictly enforced on criticism of Islam or communism. Professors who are openly unorthodox in their teaching and research are rarely hired, and the few tenured heretics able to speak out are for the most part acutely aware of their isolation. Under such circumstances, there is small hope for immediate change: anger-fuelled individual resistance, resigned irony, or humorous refusal to conform — and the will to write about them — are perhaps the best responses we can hope for, and all are robustly on display in this marvelous collection.

Janice Fiamengo is a professor of English at the University of Ottawa, and author of The Woman’s Page: Journalism and Rhetoric in Early Canada (2008).

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Top Rated Comments   
The private schools can hire who they like and teach what they like, but we don't have to hire their product and most humanities graduates go on to work in either education or government. If they ever did, the Ivies certainly no longer produce the best and brightest; they produce indoctrinated hive members with good connections to other hive members and a knowledge of the spells and incantations of the hive. Any Republican executive who hired a graduate of one of the known liberal schools into any position of influence or power is out of his/her mind unless s/he has conclusive personal knowledge of the person's pedigree and bona fides. The worst example is Ivy League lawyers serving as AGs to Republican executives. Sorry, but I can't bring myself to trust a Dershowitz clone to guide me on the legal issues of my policies. If it becomes apparent that being a member of the Ivy hive will only get you a job in the failing Blue states and cities and that fancy salary you expect will be eaten by taxes, people will make more informed choices.

Then there are the state schools. We Republicans/conservatives control 30 of the 50 governorships and in 25 of the 50 we control both the governorship and the legislature. Why do we have liberals running our state university system? If we paid half as much attention to who sits on Boards of Regents (or whatever name is used for the governing body of the university) and state boards of education as we do to who wins city council races, the state schools wouldn't be the leftist vipers nests that they are today even in the Red states.

In those states where the governor doesn't have appointment authority or the legislature confirmation authority, the legislature still must appropriate a significant portion of the university's budget. I was a bureaucrat long enough to know that when you have a 'crat by the budget, his heart and mind will follow. You'll get the usual howls about academic freedom and about how conservatives/Republicans are anti-intellectual but it won't last any longer than any other root canal and the people who voted for you won't care; they don't like lefty professors either. Doing the carpet dance in the offices of the governor and some finance committee chairs would do wonders for the ideological sensibilities of some university heads.

My state is a pathetic example. Republicans have controlled at least one and usually both bodies of the Legislature since the early '80s, we've had a Republican governor now for over a decade, and our state university is a viper's nest of lefties and provides a sinecure for practically every failed Democrat candidate and elected or appointed official of the last couple of decades. For Chrissakes, the head of the Juneau campus is the former head of the Democrat Party and the former Democrat commissioner of health and so-called services! People like that should be unemployable in any job that relies on public funds when Republicans are in power. Our university's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) is the primary "think tank" and analytical body on public policy issues in the State. I've lost track of who's running it now but until recently the head of it even though we'd had a Republican governor since '02 was the former Democrat Lt. Governor under Knowles and the failed Democrat nominee for Governor in '02. We have met the enemy and he is us!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was made aware that I would never complete my PhD as long as I remained true to my conservative beliefs.

I ignored these warnings, thinking I could fight my way through, but it took its toll on my health and reputation. Day after day, paper after paper, fighting for my beliefs against insurmountable odds was too much. PhD students are in many ways professorial apprentices, so unless they have a professor friendly to their views, no PhD student can pass without conforming to the norm. It was for these reasons that I eventually resigned. Looking at the job market for history professors, it looks like I saved myself a lot of trouble (and money).

This is a subject that I am very passionate about, though I seriously doubt it will ever change. Most academic conservatives I know no longer work in the universities, seeking work in slightly more-tolerant military colleges.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Looks like a good book. Honestly, if the average person knew what was going on in the humanities they would have a bonfire with these clowns and their books. They are far more cruel and narrow minded than the business people they demonise aren't they?

Was ruminating today that the very first creators were probably men (yes they were men) who wanted power in the tribe but had less athletic talents. They were no less violent and no more kind than the best of the hunters and possessed the same amount of desire to control. So they developed ways in which they could achieve power, through creative thought. It has taken until now, however, for them to fully gain control. Socialism and its many idiot offspring is a great tool, a tool academics are using to seize the estate.

These people have won the academy by convincing kids that they are all artists and hence special, one of a kind, lets break the mould. It is an easy product to sell.

We dont oppose we transgress and wow, what word, how naughty and sexy. I transgress. I am trangressive, monstrously trangressive. Mum, Dad I transgress. I am dark, mysterious, powerful, those jerks that went into business, they dont transgress, what losers! I'm gonna buy a ten buck t-shirt with Che's pic (wish he had been less handsome but again shows how shallow they are) and just let the world know that I trangress.

The right's only product is money, and you have to work real hard to get enough of that to feel as empowered as you doing by simply wearing a bullsh..t t-shirt, smoking a few cones of weed and spouting a couple of big cool words like egalitariansim, phallocentrcism, homo-eroticism and of course the T word. They key to this educational battle is to delude the students into believing they are special then retake control of the academy.



1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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So Disparate Impact doesnt apply to Conservatives....only benign differences with regards to favored groups. LOL!

Say it isnt so!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Kindle is coming! Dissident Prof is a one-woman operation and thanks further prodding by your comments it is being put on Kindle (hopefully barring technical glitches) as I type. Please subscribe at www.dissidentprof.com. It's where I make such announcements.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What an enjoyable column. I've read Mary Grabar's columns for years and I'm so glad she's publishing this compilation. I feel like I've been in the center of this issue sinceI re-entered higher education in the '90's after working in commercial industry for 20 years. Interestingly, I know Professor Allen, and I'm an avid reader of Clare Spark's blog, which I've found to be full of intellectual insight and challenge. To question how one might be an opponent of leftism but not fall in lockstep with contemporary conservative thought seems to me to display a troubling intellectual rigidity, which is quite different from intellectual rigor. Of course I have my own horror stories as a grad student and now tenured prof in the fine arts. I remember a grad seminar (my only non-A)in the school of ed in which I was instructed that my research paper was supposed to present a variety of equally undecideable propositions as a conclusion. (I did a BS in Philosophy before going to grad school in the fine art;, I was used to linearity in argumentation. Not to be found in the ed school, apparently). And I'm still a bit "under the radar" as I have a dependent family and while I have earned tenure, my very small "department" could easily be "eliminated." In my case, even tenure is no protection. And for those college grads in the sciences who are skeptical about all this, it is mostly found in the humanities and social sciences. It is on full display in English departments, and Sociology has long been co-opted. But I agree also with Clare Spark in that pendulums swing. Liberal/progressives have not always been in control of the academy, but they have been in control for some time now. And I am convinced that conservatives need to re-take the high ground because the contemporary academy is what filters into the culture 20 years later.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes, there needs to be a well funded and orchestrated drive to retake the institutions. Deliberate. Entryism, the whole 9 yards.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You are so right. Indeed, I had others like you with stories who could not contribute to the volume. Thanks for your support.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not available for Kindle? Come on guys get with it. I would love to read this book on my Kindle.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is coming! Please check back at www.dissidentprof.com. Sign up for my newsletter. I will announce it, and thanks for your interest.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the early 80's I took an upper division English Lit class, historically an excellent writer (and it came easily) I assumed I would do fine. Then when my first few assignments came back I was getting C's or lower. I couldn't even understand the commentary.

I consulted with my English Major roommate and he said that the problem with my papers (really short compilations) was that they didn't reflect the professors views! I was floored! It wasn't my style, my prose, my phrasing or most importantly my argument or logic. It was simply that I was supposed to parrot the professor!

I dropped the class and was honestly sickened by the experience. It not only made the class boring but was soul stealing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The price you pay for clear minded independent thought!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"liberals are, according to the common wisdom, more intellectually curious and creative than conservatives, and therefore naturally drawn to the academic life, just as conservatives — rule-bound and money-obsessed — are naturally drawn to business, police work, or engineering."

Actually, of course, there is far more scope for creativity in business and engineering than in most of the "nonprofit" bureaucracies to which leftists are typically drawn.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look at Thomas Sowell's research, those with LOWER scores and grades flow into those soft professions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What an apt description of a typical MSW program.

"students learn a turgid theoretical language enforcing a simplistic and misleading worldview in which a band of heroic victims — the transgendered, the racialized, the othered — struggle against their white male oppressors."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was pummeled in graduate school in history not for being a conservative, but for challenging multiculturalism as a covertly racist ideology. But the academic censorship was seeded long before the New Left marched through the universities: see http://clarespark.com/2009/08/29/managing-the-little-man-hitler-style-at-harvard/. This is about allies of the New Deal who appropriated Nazi methods of mind-management. Top down management started as long ago as 1919 as conservative reformers pushed the organic society. This tactic should not be ignored, but it is rarely if ever confronted.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am so very grateful that my son chose to receive his Master's in Philosophy at the second-oldest university in the world - Jagiellonian in Krakow, Poland. He received a phenomenal education at Copernicus' Alma Mater- an education the quality of which is no longer possible in the US.

I am staying current on the dearth of possible "quality" establishments in the US as my grandchildren approach college age. All 10 of them (so far) have been exclusively home-educated so clearly we will not be wasting our money on leftist indoctrination camps.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are some out there, smaller private schools.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have always loved science, and I'm now in medical school. But I was at my wife's graduation. We both went to the same small, Christian university. Being a small university, all of the undergraduates and graduate students all had the same ceremony. Under the I believe the Ed.D. program, were all papers essentially laying out racial disparities in education. I thought, "Do we have the art of teaching so mastered that only thing left to study is racial disparities?"

A few weeks ago, I visited my alma mater again because of a show my sister-in-law was in. I decided to pick up the student newspaper. It contained an op-ed from a education student calling for more central control and more federal spending in education. Is education such a dense field that they can't see the correlation that's been going on for half a century?

Nearly everytime I hear an educator talking about the challenges of teaching, it's nearly always true that a market in eduction would fix this job. Kids stuck in terrible schools? Bright kids are bored OR slower kids can't keep up? Well, the "correct" response in education seems to create a more monolithic, less responsive, and less tailored curriculum, instead of seeking to create more choices by way of a market.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
best gradution speaker I heard about was a few years ago when the speaker told the graduates ' you're not special'. Probably the first time these graduates had every heard that. The speaker told them that in the real world they will be just another graduate trying to get a job. The students should have gotten this message before college so they could pick a course of study that might pay their bills when they graduate.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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