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Dissident Academic Feels the Warmth of “Social Justice”

Longtime readers of this blog will be familiar with KC Johnson, a Brooklyn College history professor who’s written at length about leftist groupthink in academia, its various pathologies and its imperviousness to correction. Johnson is the co-author of Until Proven Innocent, which documents the infamous Duke “rape” case and its participants’ extraordinary improprieties and political prejudice.

In May 2005, writing for Inside Higher Ed, Johnson drew attention to the emergence of “dispositions theory” and attempts to impose overt political filtering in dozens of teacher-training programmes:

The faculty’s ideological imbalance has allowed three factors - a new accreditation policy, changes in how students are evaluated and curricular orientation around a theme of “social justice” - to impose a de facto political litmus test on the next cohort of public school teachers.

Looking through various teacher-training outlines, the familiar leftist buzzwords appear repeatedly. “Diversity” and identity politics feature prominently and teachers-to-be are referred to as “critical thinking change agents.” These “agents” will use the classroom “to transcend the negative effects of the dominant culture” and will “speak on behalf of identified constituent groups,” becoming “advocates for those on the margins of society.” (Evidently, “critical thinking” should be taken to mean leftist thinking – critical of capitalism, individualism and bourgeois values - not thinking that might also be critical of the left, its methods and its assorted conceits. And one wonders how many liberties will be taken while speaking on behalf of “groups” deemed marginal and oppressed.)

Some programmes encourage teachers to regard themselves as “enlightened leaders” who “must understand the political nature of education,” that “education is a political act,” and thereby “act as change agents,” while “developing emerging theories to support change agentry principles and processes.” The prospective teacher is expected to “serve as an advocate for groups that have been traditionally discriminated against” and to “provide evidence” of their own “commitment to social justice.” This commitment may be fostered by “fully developing candidates, not only academically but also in moral and political senses.”

All of which prompted Johnson to ask the obvious question: Who gets to define this mysterious “social justice”? Who gets to say what a “more just society” might entail and how one might achieve it?

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”…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. […]

Traditionally, prospective teachers needed to demonstrate knowledge of their subject field and mastery of essential educational skills. In recent years, however, an amorphous third criterion called “dispositions” has emerged. As one conference devoted to the concept explained, using this standard would produce “teachers who possess knowledge and discernment of what is good or virtuous.” Advocates leave ideologically one-sided education departments to determine “what is good or virtuous” in the world.

Johnson provided an illustration of “critical thinking” and “enlightened leadership” in action at his own institution, Brooklyn College:

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 recognise “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 politicised content, they were informed that their previous education had left them “brainwashed” on matters relating to race and social justice.

A number of students filed written complaints about their crassly politicised “training.” No formal replies were forthcoming, but the consequences of their heresy soon became apparent:

One senior was told to leave Brooklyn and take an equivalent course at a community college. Two other students were accused of violating the college’s “academic integrity” policy and [were] refused permission to bring a witness, a tape recorder, or an attorney to a meeting with the dean of undergraduate studies to discuss the allegation.

This egregious and sinister treatment prompted Johnson to raise an entirely legitimate question:

Must prospective public school teachers accept a professor’s argument that “white English is the oppressors’ language” in order to enter the profession?

However, raising questions of this kind is not without its own equally sinister consequences, as Johnson soon discovered:

“What was so offensive… was this argument that an individual faculty dissenter needed to be silenced to promote academic freedom.”

“Social justice,” people. Feel its warmth.

Comments

Anna

Teacher training is like Fight Club. And the first rule of Fight Club is...

David

“Teacher training is like Fight Club. And the first rule of Fight Club is...”

Heh. Quite. Or, “What happens in our fiefdom stays in our fiefdom.”

You have to wonder about an environment in which such grossly tendentious phrasing is deemed acceptable, defining and something to be proud of. What does the preferred language of such programmes – and their assumptions - tell us about the political atmosphere of higher education, or large parts thereof? Who will be made to feel welcome - and who won’t?

Some students are being encouraged to believe that advocating individual responsibility and advancement by merit is dubious, illegitimate, ideological and discriminatory. So what happens if a student thinks those things are *positive* values to be encouraged? Will that student be viewed as having a “disposition” unsuitable for a career in education? Will their opinions have to be “corrected” before they can complete their training? Will their personal views count more than their ability to teach history or English literature?

And would that be an example of “social justice”?

sk60

"When several students complained to the professor about the course's politicised content, they were informed that their previous education had left them "brainwashed" on matters relating to race and social justice."

Lesson #1: Lefties project.

dicentra

I'm increasingly convinced that the core battle in this world is between the pursuit of TRVTH and the pursuit of power.

Once you decide that you want to pursue power, all other considerations go out the door, and the first to head for the exit are TRVTH and Truth and truth and all of their siblings: liberty, virtue, love, etc.

Just as a quetzal cannot live in captivity, the pursuit of TRVTH cannot survive in the back seat of anyone's life or in any project or institution. It must be the top priority or it will die, and the pursuit of power will rush in to fill the vacuum.

This is how civilizations decay and fall: the pursuit of TRVTH is assassinated for being old-fashioned, constraining, futile, bigoted, and all that's left are corrupt people and institutions to squabble over the carcass.

FriendofYasmine

Bill Ayers is more direct: "We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution. . . "
http://michellemalkin.com/2009/09/02/flashback-bill-ayers-declares-education-the-motor-force-of-revolution/"

dw

"These "agents"... will "speak *on behalf of* identified constituent groups,"

How convenient for them.

David

dw,

“How convenient for them.”

Speaking “on behalf of” some Designated Victim Group is a popular activity, not least because it allows those so inclined to paraphrase, distort and insert their own agenda. It also affords some superficial immunity from criticism, since any challenge can then be framed (dishonestly) as an attack not on the speaker or their argument but on the Designated Victim Group they claim to represent.

If you read the Duke faculty profiles at the DiW site, you’ll see several examples of this manoeuvre. Professor Miriam Cooke, for instance, takes it upon herself to be the voice of those she deems oppressed, taking absurd liberties along the way - despite being corrected, repeatedly, by those on whose behalf she presumes to speak.

http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/2007/08/group-profile-miriam-cooke.html

In this, Cooke is following a standard pattern. She disregards evidence, ignores correction, takes umbrage at criticism (even on points of fact) and makes claims of being victimised by expectations of probity. Truth doesn’t appear to concern her, nor does logic, even cause and effect. She is, however, “interested in discourse.”

rxc

The left has highjacked our language, claiming that certain words and phrases can only be used their way:e.g. social justice, diversity, public interest. Any other use of these words is heresy, and is pubished quite severely. Yesterday (Sat.), NPR in the US asked members to suggest a new word or phrase to describe the authors of the "attack ads" that are being used in the US election. I suggested "public interest group", because the ads are sponsored by groups (of all sorts) that want tobe heard on matters of public interst.

Of course, this does not sit well with the "Public Interest Research Group", or the "Center for Science in the Public Interest", both left-wing organizations that have decided that only they are capable or authorized to speak "in the public interest". And most of the suggested phrases from the NPR listeners are snarky perjoratives about right-wingers. They do not realize that these ads come from all directions - the ones they agree with are "activists for social transformation" while their opponents are low-life of the worst sort.

Theproblem, as David has pointed out, is that this has mind-set has been insinuated into the schools, and the children are being innoculated/indoctrinated with it. It is Gramscian intervention at the most basic level. And it needs to be fought in the same way, through postings in blogs of all kinds, because this is where these young people go to see what people who are not their parents or teachers have to say about these issues. It is a good thing that Al Gore invented this internet, so that they now have this ability to read what members of the public and knowledgeable esperts on both sides have to say about items of public interest without the filter of the mainstream media.

virgil xenophon

Were that this indoctrination problem be limited to the educational realm alone. I hardly need point out to those who frequent this site that this leftist miasma, like a cancer of the blood and lymphatic system, has coursed thru the MSM and those cultural mediums, TV, the music industry and Hollywood, as well as much of the blogosphere that rxc banks on so much; infecting not only the general public but now even the armed services whose upper command-levels have unfortunately, sadly, sickeningly, quaffed deeply from the PC Kool-Aide tankards eschewing merit for "diversity" in recruitment and promotion standards. Even more insidiously, it has wormed its way into everyday, general-interest magazines such as Redbook and H & G, etc., in which supposedly humdrum articles about personal finance, ecology and children's education are covered by a leftist gloss of one kind or another, more or less as the default, "neutral" set-point from which all frames of reference are made. And it is an all-pervasive 24/7/365 drum-beat, like the background cosmic radiation ever-present in the universe--an almost inaudible hum--but one whose carrier wave carries over it what is the functional equivalent of the famed subliminal advertising of yore once tried out in movie theaters--only this time it is permanently ensconced in the sociocultural public matrix, to be absorbed like a dangerous drug as if by osmosis by the unwary.

virgil xenophon

I should add to my above comments that unfortunately I have beeen unable to think of any employable long-term cultural/political antidote to the conditions described above....which is why, retired at age 66 and nowadays more or less just a loose cannon on the deck of life, I consume "mass quantities" of my favorite Haitian "Rhum"--Barbancourt 5-Star--thereby simultaneously preserving my sanity while helping to revive the shattered Haitian economy one "good deed" sip at a time...thus sleeping and/or passed out soundly knowing I've done my thoroughly enjoyable bit to alleviate world poverty--even if driven by psychic necessity. (Or is that a sin falling under the rubric of "no good deed 'ere goes long unpunished"?)

Ralph

Incredible. 'Academic freedom' now means 'the right to indoctrinate and censor criticism'...? Guess I missed that memo.

David

“‘Academic freedom’ now means ‘the right to indoctrinate and censor criticism’...?”

Bingo. Just as “critical thinking” and “critical theory” tend to mean “the witless regurgitation of leftist boilerplate.” Which doesn’t sound quite so sexy. But fear not. The institutional inversion of meaning is all being done for The Greater Good by People Who Know What’s Best. Which is a comfort, I think you’ll agree.

As Jeff Goldstein puts it,

“The “diversity” movement[‘s] Orwellian upshot is to demonize true diversity and true tolerance, and replace them with an entirely superficial idea of diversity, and an idea of tolerance that promotes only that speech approved by the leftists who set the parameters for what comes to count as a socially allowable utterance.”

http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=21970

And we see something very similar in the world of art, where similar language is used, and where “subversion” and “transgression” mean anything but:

“Making a thing of beauty isn’t a consideration and isn’t attempted, possibly because it doesn’t suit the role-play of being a “social and political agent.” What matters to Mr Teixeira is demonstrating his compliance with the belief that art should be a vehicle for anti-bourgeois gestures, which signals both the cleverness of the artist and his ideological credentials. This is done by muttering the standard incantations – “hegemony,” “subversion,” etc. The use of such terms indicates the artist belongs to an approved ideological caste and has the approved political views. (We can be fairly sure that the assumptions being “challenged” and “subverted” won’t include egalitarianism, the parasitic nature of arts subsidy or the latest conceits of the postmodern left.) So the more loudly a piece of art affects an air of subversive radicalism, the less reason there is to believe it delivers anything of the sort.”

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/05/thrashing-the-hegemon.html

And Fabian Tassano notes much the same phenomenon:

“A mediocracy has ersatz versions of everything related to intellectual or artistic independence: questioning, analysis, scepticism, radicalism, and so on. No real questioning or radicalism is involved, since that would be too dangerous. There are two reasons for a culture of pseudo-iconoclasm. First, having a replacement version is safer than trying to eliminate openly. The latter would make it too obvious that something was being suppressed. By suitable redefinition, it becomes impossible to complain that an activity (e.g. real challenge) is in fact absent.”

http://inversions-and-deceptions.blogspot.com/2007/07/iconoclasm-by-decree.html

His book, Mediocracy, is a sort of devil’s dictionary of “adjusted” meanings. Well worth reading.

Franklin

FIRE returns the love:

http://thefire.org/article/12385.html

WAKE UP

The most profound definition of hypocrisy: using democracy to shut down democracy.

Lee Reynolds

Parents who are not home schooling their children are complicit in their child's indoctrination. Handing your child off to teachers such as these is like sending them to a summer camp run by NAMBLA.

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