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Ed Driscoll

Academics in a Hurry

May 26th, 2013 - 11:59 am

In the first half of the 20th century, the American Left frequently apologized for brutality of the Soviet Union as simply being “Liberals in a hurry.” (Which must have made many wonder what the New Deal would have resembled if it ever reached the end zone.) Apparently, the long-term project of Bill Ayers has been to transform how his former Weather Underground terrorist group is viewed amongst the current American Left as “merely progressives in a hurry,” Peter Collier writes in the latest edition of the Weekly Standard.

Robert Redford’s odious, but entirely predictable choice to lionize the Weathermen in his dotage led Collier, whose frequent writing partner, David Horowitz was associated with fellow radical chic travelers the Black Panthers in the late 196s and early ’70s, to explore “Progressives with Bombs:”

The group has profited greatly from the time-lapse atonement our culture offers free of charge to those who simply hang on. Weatherman has no doubt also benefited from the leftward drift of our political world over the last 40 years, especially the etymological waterboarding of the term “liberal” to make it describe the radicals who killed authentic liberalism in the ’60s and then inhabited its corpse and claimed that it had always been them anyhow.

But it is also true that this sect, which was about nothing if not the triumph of the will, has created its own redemptive myth. Forty years ago, it might have been expected that the central architect of Weather revisionism would have been Bernardine Dohrn, the sensual face of the group from the moment it became news; the queen bee who maintained internal power by adroitly dispensing her royal jelly among all the jostling males of the group; the group’s sayer of the unsayable, as in her infamous reaction to the Manson murders: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate their dinner in the same room with them, then they even stuck a fork into the pig Tate’s stomach. Wild!”

But today, while Bernardine is the lawyer, it’s her husband Bill Ayers who has successfully constructed, over time, the brief accepted by Redford and others that argues, all facts to the contrary, that Weatherman was not a terror group at all, but the last of the just.

Ayers was the first to understand that the universities, dominated in the 1980s by those who had failed to burn them down in the 1960s, could provide a rat line back to the real world. Weatherman had already pioneered the ideology about race, class, gender, and national evil that was finally taking over the academy, and when he surfaced in 1980 (unprosecuted because of irregularities in federal surveillance), he saw that someone like him could use that ideology as protective coloration when resuming the long march.

Briefly a teacher in a Summerhill-like school in his early radical years, Ayers enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College in 1984 and embraced the “critical pedagogy” that was just then taking over the formation of teachers. This movement, as Sol Stern has pointed out in City Journal, charges that public schools reinforce the “oppressive hegemony” of the capitalist order, creating a sinister ideological tape loop that can only be destroyed by a “transformative” curriculum of “social justice.” With gurus such as Brazilian Marxist Paolo Freire urging on a radicalism that “does not conceal but proclaims its own political character,” critical pedagogy slowly infiltrated leftist ideas into every aspect of classroom teaching, including science and math, and created a prime hitchhiking opportunity for someone like Ayers, who already spoke the lingo.

He got his Ed.D., peewee version of the Ph.D., which led to a teaching job at the University of Illinois, where he began to pursue his old ideas by other means. He began writing and became general editor of a series of teaching-for-social-justice texts (a couple of them bestsellers) that were regarded as cutting edge by his new colleagues. By the mid-1990s he had established himself as an “education reformer” whose academic credibility, combined with his family connections, helped root him in the rich political humus of Chicago’s bien-pensant left.

No wonder post-1960s academia, which was willing to toss a lifeline to Ayers and his colleagues, now seems like it’s collectively running on fumes. Or as James Taranto writes in “See You in the Funny Papers: A tribute to an anti-mentor:”

That, it seems to us, is the central story of our time. The left-liberal elite that attained cultural dominance between the 1960s and the 1980s–and that since 2008 has seen itself as being on the cusp of political dominance as well–is undergoing a crisis of authority, and its defenses are increasingly ferocious and unprincipled. Journalists lie or ignore important but politically uncongenial stories. Scientists suppress alternative hypotheses. Political organizations bully apolitical charities. The Internal Revenue Service persecutes dissenters. And campus censorship goes on still.

Not to mention other forms of academic Orwellianisms. At Power Line, Steve Hayward explores “When ‘Diversity’ = Hate.” Today the D-word “has become a term meaning the opposite of its dictionary meaning, and is a vehicle for racial division and resentment,” Hayward writes:

If you needed fresh evidence, check out this story out of Northwestern University, where a white student was rejected for a diversity appointment because “he is a white heterosexual male.”  The student’s name, incidentally, is Stephen Piotrkowski.  Just a hunch here, but he sounds like someone with immigrant roots that don’t trace back to the Anglosphere, and as such would represent what ought to be meant by “diversity” if it was meant seriously.  (Turns out his sister is gay, but that’s apparently not enough.)  But pigment is everything for the diversity-haters.

Finally, as Andrew Malcolm of Investor’s Business Daily tweets, Jay Leno has been goofing that “Obama tells Morehouse Coll grads their future is great. Unless, of course, they want jobs. Then, they are totally screwed.”

But how can that be? College kids in the 1960s and ’70s en masse, along withprogressives in a hurry” such as Ayers and their academic mentors all assured themselves that their goal was to “change the world” — and they succeeded. Surely, having hit the CTL-ALT-DLT keys on the society they inherited from their parents, they’ve succeeded at rebooting mankind into the best of all possible worlds.

Haven’t they?

Related: Via Maggie’s Farm, A black Bronx seventh grade Spanish language teacher “has filed a lawsuit claiming she was fired for using the word ‘negro’ in class. ‘Negro’ is the Spanish word for the color black.”

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