A Commonplace Extremism
Projection (2)

Attitude Correction

What can it possibly mean to ask candidates what they’ve done lately to demonstrate their “public commitment to equity?” Any chance that an acceptable answer would be the following: “In view of what happened in the USSR, China, Cuba, Cambodia, and many other parts of the world under communist rule, I believe that the best thing I can do to promote equity in our society is to help strengthen capitalism and democracy in every way I can and, toward that end, I actively promote Republican candidates”?

Daphne Patai notes yet another effort to ensure faculty display the “correct” political orientation:

The legality of the questions suggested by Sandler and her co-authors seems dubious, though I am not aware of any lawsuit that has challenged them. They are also patently inappropriate. Gauging levels of “commitment” to what are essentially political issues has nothing to do with one’s academic expertise. Rather, it resembles the effort by Schools of Education to gauge potential teachers’ “dispositions,” a practice challenged and publicized by K. C. Johnson. It is also in the same league as the still widely prevalent speech codes and harassment policies that elevate sensitivity and comfort into major academic concerns… Potential faculty are thus being pressured to adopt and embrace - or merely pretend to do so - the requisite “attitude” toward minorities, political activism, and social issues, and to provide evidence that they have acted on these supposed commitments. And, scarier still, these questions by implication are presented as legitimate requirements for employment, though they have nothing to do with either education or intellectual and scholarly accomplishments. And, even worse, the questions are designed to weed out the merely formal assenters from authentic true believers.

The whole thing.

KC Johnson’s encounter with the academic policing of “disposition” is unlikely to reassure

[As] the hotly contested campaigns of 2000 and 2004 amply demonstrated, people of good faith disagree on the components of a “just society,” or what constitutes the “negative effects of the dominant culture,” or how best to achieve “world peace... and preservation of the environment.” An intellectually diverse academic culture would ensure that these vague sentiments did not yield one-sided policy prescriptions for students. But the professoriate cannot dismiss its ideological and political imbalance as meaningless while simultaneously implementing initiatives based on a fundamentally partisan agenda. […]

At the undergraduate level, these high-sounding principles have been translated into practice through a required class called “Language and Literacy Development in Secondary Education.” According to numerous students, the course’s instructor demanded that they recognize “white English” as the “oppressors’ language.” Without explanation, the class spent its session before Election Day screening Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. When several students complained to the professor about the course’s politicized content, they were informed that their previous education had left them “brainwashed” on matters relating to race and social justice.

Again, worth reading in full.

I’ve been told I make too much of these academic issues, as if such things are unimportant or indicative of nothing in particular. But given the number of incidents of this kind gradually swelling the archives, I’m inclined to wonder exactly how egregious and pervasive this phenomenon has to be before concern becomes legitimate. After all, if you want to propagate tendentious ideology and make it seem normative, respectable and self-evidently true, insinuating that ideology into schools and universities would be a pretty good way to do it. “Debate” can then be had on what is most likely an unequal footing, thus arriving at the approved conclusions with a minimum of informed and realistic opposition. If faculty and students are obliged to regurgitate that ideology and perhaps internalise it, while mouthing fuzzwords like “social justice,” all the better. Is it enough to bemoan certain socio-political trends or bias in areas of the media if one doesn’t also address the place where many of these things originate? And are we supposed to believe that the ideologues who push for such measures are going to get tired and desist of their own volition, and then politely roll back the idiocy they’ve been so keen to put in place?

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