In olden days, higher education used to be a way to learn more about God. Then it became a way to learn more about life, and how to function on a high level in the real world.
Beginning in the 1960s, academia slowly morphed into a method of forcing a particular worldview upon students, a trend that’s only accelerating, as several recent articles highlight.
First up, a look at Kate Swift, “The Scourge of the Feminist Word Police,” who decided to create her own Newspeak Dictionary:
If you’ve ever felt a twinge of anxiety at hearing someone use “humankind” as a substitute for mankind, or if you’ve winced at the proliferation of the politically correct suffix “person” — as in “chairperson,” or “policeperson” — when the more traditional “man” would be perfectly suitable, chances are you’ve suffered from the corrupting linguistic legacy of feminist writer Kate Swift. Swift, who died last week at 87, was one of a squadron of feminist language police whose crusade to remake language to suit their political agendas has wreaked havoc on everyday English.
Feminists had tried to reform language long before Swift and her fellow word scolds arrived on the scene. In 1949, feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir charged that language was “inherited from a masculine society and contains many male prejudices.” She advised that “women have to steal the instrument” and “use it for their own good.”
Swift and her co-author, Casey Miller, attempted precisely such a heist in their influential 1981 book, The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing. The book had two main premises, both of them dubious. The first was that sexism and sexual discrimination were embedded in the English language. The second was that the language needed to be radically revised in order to change society’s attitudes and make it more inclusive.
Informed more by feminist ideology than linguistic scholarship, the book’s suggested recommendations ranged from the awkward to the downright absurd. For instance, judging the word “mankind” sexist, the authors recommended that it be replaced with “genkind.” Not content simply to ruin existing language, the authors also proposed feminist-friendly neologisms. Thus, “tey,” “ter” and “tem” were to become the sex-neutral surrogates for “he/she,” “his/her” and “him/her.”
Swift and Casey’s more eccentric suggestions failed to catch on, but their book proved a giant leap for genkind, unleashing a wave of feminist assaults on the English language. Picking up where The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing left off, a “feminist dictionary” soon announced in all seriousness that the word “brotherhood” could no longer be used to describe non-fraternal kinship because “it ignores generations of sisters.” Emboldened, feminists insisted that women must now be referred to as “wimmin,” and that history had to become “herstory.”
Had such linguistic absurdities remained confined to the pages of obscure feminist tracts, they would have been a merely an illiterate footnote to the history of modern English. But they became part of the cultural mainstream when the professional arbiters of language embraced the feminist reformation. And so the American Library Association adopted a resolution pledging to avoid supposedly sexist terminology, while the Linguistic Society of America established a Committee on the Status of Women in Linguistics for the same purpose. Universities turned feminist recommendations into campus policies, and the worlds of publishing and journalism followed suit, ruining language use for new generations of speakers and writers.
And introspect, in light of some of the more recent obsessions on campus, the Past really was Pronoun.
Henry Kissinger once said, “I formulated the rule that the intensity of academic politics and the bitterness of it is in inverse proportion to the importance of the subject their [sic] discussing. And I promise you at Harvard, they are passionately intense and the subjects are extremely unimportant.”
But teaching about actual warfare? Hey, if clip art can kill as virtually the entire Professional Left claimed to believe for a week or two in January, imagine what a whole book devoted to warfare can do. Which is why Walter Russell Mead notes that a certain key work of the last several centuries is slowly being relegated to back catalog status in academia:
Clausewitz’s unfinished masterpiece On War stands out as perhaps the greatest work of strategic thought human reflection has yet produced. Coming as it does in both the Yale and the Bard curricula after a series of other classics going back to Sun Tzu, Clausewitz’s treatment, even in its somewhat muddled state, stands out as the most comprehensive and clear cut statement on a host of vital topics connected to power and to war.
It belongs on that short list of classics that serious people should read and reread during their lives, but it is one of many classics that our culture neglects. Our somewhat PC and namby-pamby age generally puts works like On War somewhere back in the stacks hoping perhaps that if nobody thinks about war there won’t be any. There is also a certain feeling that a book this blunt and power focused should not be part of a liberal arts curriculum.
Funny, you’d think you’d have to teach about War, to teach about the Moral Equivalent of War. Which is already being taught in abundance on campus (though not under that name). But increasingly, students are only getting one side of the story:
Scholastic dared present factual information in an education curriculum about American energy production, called the United States of Energy. Because it didn’t go all in for the green agenda (it said nice things about coal, for instance) it didn’t mesh with the leftist worldview. Soon it became vilified and came under attack by the usual radical environmentalist suspects (TreeHugger, Greenpeace and Sierra Club, for instance) and media liberals at Mother Jones, the New York Times (which coined the term “Big Coal” to hammer the American Coal Foundation, which helped fund the curriculum), and Rethinking Schools. The left wing Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood seems to have driven the entire campaign. These groups hunt in packs, and they all seem to have been mouthing from the same set of talking points, about “pushing coal in the classroom” and so forth.
These groups ripped Scholastic from several directions and got yet another liberal propaganda campaign tucked into our schools, one that fits the left’s agenda of ditching fossil fuels before we have the technology to replace them, and command average Americans’ choices and lives down to the kindergarten level.
This is the latest in the left’s campaign against fossil fuels, claiming that providing children any information on coal is commercial indoctrination, worthy of an all out ideological war. But the original lesson packet wasn’t limited to coal, and also included general information on nuclear, hydroelectric power, wind, natural gas and solar energy.
Now, Scholastic seems intent to focus on promoting environmental activism through children by promoting the book The Down-to-Earth-Guide to Global Warming, which was written by Al Gore’s co-producer of An Inconvenient Truth, Laurie David. When the Goracle gets his due, the left has won. The left’s Luddite diktats have replaced what they denounced as the coal industry’s advocacy.
Hey, Al Gore wasn’t kidding when he dubbed his worldview an Assault on Reason. And of course, as the War on Pronouns heated up, and Newspeak Dictionary shrunk, and Gaia replaced both von Clausewitz and Edison in the classroom, the new Ministers of Truth began to look increasingly silly to those of us who stand outside the cult:
On page A-6 of The Washington Post on Thursday, Post reporter Krissah Williams found Princeton professor Cornel West stirred up debate among black bloggers and academics for calling the president a “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” The Post skipped over the next line: “And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”In a Monday interview with radical former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, West said: “I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men…It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.”
And thus, the speed at which we return to zero increases exponentially.