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Putting the ‘PC’ in Providence College

June 15th, 2014 - 10:40 am

My friend touches on the larger point in his response to Dr. Morgan:

[I]nstead of educating undergraduate students who arrive in college with little (if any) knowledge of the foundations of Western Civilization, the courses will not waste any time in teaching them but will jump straight into “unearthing” its “problematic foundations.”  Even before students are able to acquire a modicum of familiarity with the works that provided those foundations, they are prompted to criticize them. And it is a very specific kind of criticism that is imposed on those classics and on those unknowing students: the contemporary ideologies of feminism and racism. Instead of enabling students to understand, for instance, how Cathedral schools from the 9th through the 11th century paved the way for the great philosophical achievements of Scholasticism in the 13th century, or the great culture that gave us Gothic Cathedrals, the Summas, medieval polyphony and the great literature of the 13th and 14th centuries, they will be summoned to identify, in those works, what comfortable 21st century academics of a certain inclination have placed on top of their agenda, namely sex and race. Instead of letting the works speak for themselves so that the students can learn from them, those works will be submitted to the ideological cookie-cutter of racism and sexism, stripping them of their essence as classics and leaving only the ugly, imaginary charge with which they were condemned before being read.

In a very puerile if telling metaphor, Ms. Illuzzi declares that the explicit goal of the courses is to “remove those pieces,” as if Western Civilization were a big jig-saw puzzle with faulty parts. And then she wants to “rebuild and reshape” the foundations of Western Civilization. We certainly cannot accuse her of having small goals. But rebuilding and reshaping are activities pursued in the realm of political action, not college education, at least not in a college that intends to remain Catholic and Dominican.

What is significant about this episode is not Providence College or Dr. Illuzzi. They are merely symptoms, instances of an epidemic affecting American higher education tout court.  The disease has many facets. Morally and politically, it involves a stunning loss of confidence in the achievements of the West. We send our children to a liberal arts college for a few reasons, one of which is the grubby practical matter of getting a credential: you give us $250,000, we give you a piece of paper that is (for most) a sine qua non for tenure in the middle class. At least, it has been a conditio sine qua non for the keys to that economic and social promised land. Whether it will continue to afford such entry is very much up for grabs. That, indeed, is one reason Glenn Reynolds’s prediction of a “higher education bubble” is so pertinent.

We also value a liberal arts education, or at least we say we value it, because of the liberating promise implicit in the name: by leading us out of our private selves (that “leading out” is the true meaning of education), a liberal arts education frees us to confront the most thoughtful alternatives to the question “How should I live my life?”

Dr. Morgan was exercised that my friend should have written to criticize his colleague and the Western civilization program at Providence College. I think his missive was a public service. For it not only calls attention to the poverty of what passes as a program in Western civilization at many colleges today, it also prompts us to ask anew a question most parents are too timid to press: To whom is a college faculty accountable? To the extent that it holds itself accountable to its pedagogic duties, it is accountable to itself. To the extent that it repudiates those duties, it is accountable to the society in which it functions and from which it enjoys its freedoms, privileges, and perquisites. Faculties take it amiss when critics appeal over their heads to alumni, trustees, or parents. But ultimately teachers still stand in loco parentis, if not on everyday moral issues (except regarding racism, sexism, “homophobia,” and the like: they are plenty moralistic about all that) then at least with respect to the content of the education they provide. Many parents are alarmed, rightly so, at the spectacle of their children going off to college one year and coming back the next having jettisoned every moral, religious, social, and political scruple that they had been brought up to believe. Why should parents fund the moral de-civilization of their children at the hands of tenured antinomians? Why should alumni generously support an alma mater whose political and educational principles nourish a worldview that is not simply different from but diametrically opposed to the one they endorse? Why should trustees preside over an institution whose faculty systematically repudiates the pedagogical mission they, as trustees, have committed themselves to uphold? These are questions that should be asked early and asked often. I’m glad that my friend attempted to start such a conversation at Providence College, though given the president’s decision to out-source a response, I suspect it will fall on deaf ears.

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"One of America’s tragic errors is that too many of her best minds believe—as they did in the past—that the solution is to turn anti-intellectual and rely on some cracker-barrel sort of folksy wisdom. The exact opposite is true. What we need most urgently is to recognize the enormous power and the crucial importance of the intellectual professions. A culture cannot exist without a constant stream of ideas and the alert, independent minds who originate them; it cannot exist without a philosophy of life, without those who formulate it and express it. A country without intellectuals is like a body without a head. And that is precisely the position of America today."

"The professional intellectual is the field agent of the army whose commander-in-chief is the philosopher. The intellectual carries the application of philosophical principles to every field of human endeavor. He sets a society’s course by transmitting ideas from the “ivory tower” of the philosopher to the university professor—to the writer—to the artist—to the newspaperman—to the politician—to the movie maker—to the night-club singer—to the man in the street..."

"What we need today is to erect a corresponding philosophical structure, without which the material greatness cannot survive. A skyscraper cannot stand on crackerbarrels, nor on wall mottoes, nor on full-page ads, nor on prayers, nor on meta-language. The new wilderness to reclaim is philosophy, now all but deserted, with the weeds of prehistoric doctrines rising again to swallow the ruins..."

All quotes from: “For the New Intellectual," by Ayn Rand
http://www.naturalthinker.net/trl/texts/Rand,Ayn/FortheNewIntellectual.htm

"America’s founding ideal was the principle of individual rights. Nothing more—and nothing less. The rest—everything that America achieved, everything she became, everything “noble and just,” and heroic, and great, and unprecedented in human history—was the logical consequence of fidelity to that one principle..." (“A Preview,” The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 24, 5)

"From the early nineteenth century on, American intellectuals—with very rare exceptions—were the humbly obedient followers of European philosophy, which had entered its age of decadence. Accepting its fundamentals, they were unable to deal with or even to grasp the nature of this country" (Ibid).

"The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—...as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history..." (“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 93; Ayn Rand)

"It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers...." (“Theory and Practice,”
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 138; Ayn Rand).

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/america.html

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
>what do students get of Western Civilization for their $44,193.00 per annum?

I hope they get elocution lessons in saying "and would you like fries with that?" and "is that tall, grande or venti?".
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
“global citizen.”

Once globular, you're always on a roll. There's that.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (30)
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“To whom is a college faculty accountable? To the extent that it holds itself accountable to its pedagogic duties, it is accountable to itself. To the extent that it repudiates those duties, it is accountable to the society in which it functions and from which it enjoys its freedoms, privileges, and perquisites.”

Schools teach culture, whether basic facts, applied facts or the theories and processes that produce knowledge, wisdom and beauty. When cultures undergo civil wars, as is the case for all the western democracies, groups such as academic faculties which are not in contractual relationships with the students are in a position to proselytize on behalf of their beliefs. Hence, asserting that these faculties are accountable to society is only true to the extent that agents can be found to apply societal pressure. Who are these agents and what kind of pressure can they apply?

Assuming most parents are not equipped or prepared to set up groups like the tea parties to battle the faculties, the task falls to other groups. Nonprofit groups such FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) can bring lawsuits for certain infractions. Another route is to complain to accreditation bodies that the courses do not reflect the college’s charter or stated goals. If public monies partially fund the college, that money arguably has to be used in accordance with the law and founding documents like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Courses and programs that discriminate can be cited as reasons to cut off the funds.

Not all these efforts will succeed. But, the chill produced by the attempts often has salutary effects. What won’t work is appealing to society as though it still held the beliefs prevalent in 1950.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why did we let this happen? What can we do about it?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
We let it happen when we let totalitarian leftists take over our colleges. The only remedy is to purge the leftists and put real academics in their place.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's going to be a problem, as leftism and academia are one and the same ever since we let the Philosophes and Enlightenment thinkers hijack the education system from the Christians. I know one step in Voltaire's plan to destroy Christianity, according to Timothy Dwight, was to firmly establish himself and his friends into the French Academie as well as suppress and make forgeries that are particularly damaging towards Christianity, not to mention selling it to the lowest common denominator to ensure maximum sales. Heck, it's not even an issue of leftism, so much as secularism and atheism taking over, especially when Voltaire was technically right wing, at least in comparison to Rousseau.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
"the more problematic foundations of Western Civilization (particularly the pieces rooted in sexism and racism"

Let's assume this true. Some questions to ask next are:

-Are there problematic foundations of other civilizations?

-Do they have sexism and racism?

-How soon if at all are you going to discuss the problematic foundation of other civilizations?

-If you front load criticism of Wester civ, will you do so of other civs?

Me thinks Dr.R Illuzzi is a cad in a more generic sense. Doesn't it show?!
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
The main problem is if you spend most of your time discussing the problems and failings of western civ, without actually learning the basics and the successes of western civ first, then you have never actually learned western civ. A math equivalent would be having an entire course on the differences introduced by non euclidean geometry, without having first mastered euclidean geometry.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's not just liberal arts colleges. High school students know that Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, but little else about the Founding Fathers. They have no idea who Betsy Ross was, but they know all about Sally Hemings.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmm. That book of hers is $80 and runs 232 pages. My last textbook I bought was about the same price and came with over 800 pages. Someone is being robbed here. Maybe it was me.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
While I entirely concur with your sentiment about the deformation and diminishment of what we call learning, where you cite Saul Bellow's, “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus?” check out Indaba, My Children by Credo Mutwa. A true classic...
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think I understand pretty clearly the assumptions and motivations of such people. Original sin, or the sin of Adam if you prefer, inexorably leads in this direction if not checked. Deeply despising God and wishing to create and define the cosmos in their own image is apparently a fruit too delectable to resist for these people. It nevertheless surprises me that so vast a number of people are so comfortable and willing to delight in their conversion to savagery, not to mention being so utterly blind to the consequences.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is easy to tell, most of the the PC crowd would never admit to being narcissistic.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
"the longest running frauds on the American spirit and pocketbook ever devised, the institution of liberal arts education in its contemproary deformation."

Glad to see you add the last four words. It would be a loss to the world to abandon Liberal Arts. But not in it's contemporary deformation. All is not lost though. You can still send your children to a few places where they will get a true Liberal Arts education - Hillsdale College being one of them. I sent my daughter there and it was the best money I ever spent.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's probably time to understand that "PC" is interchangeable with Third Wave Intersectional QUILTBAG feminism, and that in fact the latter term is much more applicable, since it is the main driver of PC today.

It is probably also wise to try and distinguish TIQF from the less narcissistic and more equal rights-oriented traditional feminism. Certainly TIQF have made no secret of their hatred of traditional feminists.

That brings us to the next part: hatred. TIQF operates much like anti-Semitism in that heterosexual ethnic European males are considered the height of all that is and has been wrong in the world. The Western straight white male is the obsessive never-shifting focus that is relentless stalked. Anything that is too white, too straight and too male is not only automatically granted the status of an institution, but an ideology, by innocent demographic alone. It's like Seinfeld's joke about 10 white guys in a room being a Klan rally. To TIQF, it is.

Were TIQF a more centrally organized group, it would be classified as a hate-group, as its supremacist and defamatory doctrines are no different in principle from those of white supremacists.

That's what you're up against, and when you consider that such women probably account for near statistical zero of all women in the U.S., the way they've mainstreamed their hate-speech and paranoia into mainstream America must be considered a remarkable achievement.

Of course their main ally there has been in cleverly couching their dogma in the three great anti-oppression movements of the 20th century: women's rights, civil rights and gay rights. Perfect camouflage.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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