At one time, higher education meant following “the Love-song of Dido” and listening to the “tale of Troy divine.” Teaching involved “nothing new, no time-saving devices — simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life” in the same curriculum “that was taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium.” Such endeavors were to be reserved for the “Talented Tenth,” who in turn would be entrusted with “lifting … [their] duller brethren.”
In 1987, on the campus of Stanford, Jesse Jackson vocalized the view of most of those running our universities today, by leading the chant, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go.”
Rejecting a notion of a “talented tenth” and echoing Bill Clinton, Barack Obama repeated his campaign point during the first presidential debate: We have “to make sure that college is affordable for every young person in America.”
And during the second, “townhall” debate, Obama went off topic to reiterate his concern for the “people who have the grades and the drive to go to college, but can’t.” Continuing his biographical narrative as son of a Kenyan goat herder and a mother so poor she had to accept food stamps, Obama hinted at his own intellectual merit when he expressed gratitude for “scholarships.”
Obama has been given a pass as an intellectual, as “professorial,” yet has been unwilling to release his school records or senior thesis at Columbia that would prove the merit upon which his scholarships were based. It is now well known that he got through Harvard law school with some help by Khalid Al-Mansour. Other associations include Rashid Khalidi, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia.
Obama’s years at Harvard, 1988-1991, were the years of the building up of the culture wars, a time when the sixties radicals, ensconced in positions of tenure or deanship, devoted their efforts to a subversion of traditional Western standards of excellence, truth, logic, and respect. The notions expressed in my opening quotations provided fodder for a wholesale debunking. Affirmative action in admissions and hiring extended to an affirmative action of methodologies and subjects — of a non-Western origin. Consequently, the quest for truth was replaced by the analysis of — and quest for — power. Obama, like his colleagues, taught at least one such course, Race, Racism, and the Law at the University of Chicago.
Yet, the quotations, with references to the Greek classics and the medieval scholastic mode of study, are from the first black man to earn his Ph.D. from Obama’s alma mater, Harvard. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois makes his impassioned argument for the acceptance of qualified blacks into the academy with his own experience: “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not. Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, where smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls.” In the realm of ideas, race does not matter. The ability to engage in the rarefied conversation proves that the black man is not the “tertium quid,” “between men and cattle,” “a clownish, simple creature” that the racists at the turn of the century would cast him as.
The slave Frederick Douglass too understood the power of advanced literacy; in his autobiography he recounts bribing poor and hungry white boys with food from his master’s house in exchange for reading lessons.
Yet, those who purport to advocate for minorities and the traditionally excluded rally for the elimination of what Du Bois saw as so precious. An Obama associate and founding member of the terrorist group the Weathermen, Bill Ayers, as professor of education, does this in one of his several books on education, Teaching toward Freedom, where he writes, “Teaching toward freedom begins with embracing what Liz Kirby, a young Chicago high school teacher, posits as a radically new three R’s: Respect, Relevance, and Revolution.”
Ayers continues next, “Reading, writing, and arithmetic still matter, of course, but the new three R’s take us deeper — each is undertaken based on respect for students, powered by relevance and connectedness to their lived lives, moving toward revolution, transformation, change for them and their world.”
Of course, reading, writing, and arithmetic will be taught. The revolution will need techies and propagandists.
The graduates can read and write — barely. “Success centers” on college campuses spell out for the “at-risk” students such basics as, “Read the assigned material.” These students on financial aid are steeped in the victimhood ideology — the “relevance” and “lived lives” — that dominates current pedagogy. Many see no need to do the assignments or bring textbooks to class. Douglass and Du Bois, who fought for their place at the intellectual colloquy, would see their descendants sullenly slumped in chairs, attired in shirts that bear ever larger visages of their savior, Barack Obama. Their jaded white counterparts at elite universities, too, sport the image of him whom they have been taught to embrace.
A few of my colleagues in history have been exposing the skewed history curriculum. Such indoctrination extends to literary studies. The Castro-hugging Alice Walker is ubiquitous. When Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk is anthologized, editors are careful to include not the passages like the one I quoted, but an emotionally charged short story about the suffering of blacks at the turn of the century. Sections from the slave narrative of Olaudah Equiano are chosen too for their revelations of cruelty towards slaves, while those that mention that African chiefs were the ones to sell their own captured enemy are excised — as are Equiano’s stories about the kindnesses of some white men, his conversion to Christianity, and his erudition and admiration of Milton (a dead white man).
Nor is Ralph Ellison’s point about “Invisible Man’s” recognition of how Marxists saw him — as a pawn for their revolution — likely to be discussed.
Obama during the second debate repeated his call for youth service and doubling the Peace Corps. We’ve seen the videos on YouTube of children singing hymns to Obama and in paramilitary formation shouting out Obama affirmations.
I report from the trenches. These disenfranchised, wearing the uniform of Obama, roam the halls of our colleges. Some are well-meaning but have not been exposed to any alternative. Others, already victimized by their home circumstances, are seething with the resentment stoked by their teachers, who ultimately see them as “clownish, simple creatures” — there to finish the job Ayers and the Weathermen set out to do in the 1960s.