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At California’s San Jose State University recently, a book critical of the global warming hoax was burned in public to show that no dissent is allowed from the global-warming- is-destroying-the-planet mantra – and the burning was done not by students but by two professors from the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.
No one should be surprised that the two professors have not been disciplined for their action. In fact, they probably got high-fives from their colleagues in the faculty lounge.
Higher education in America is in crisis, but the crisis goes largely unreported – and it has nothing to do with escalating tuition costs. The crisis in higher education is the abandonment of standards resulting from the tyranny of political correctness.
Book burning is one manifestation of this tyranny, but other incidents of violence and intimidation area regular occurrence if you are paying attention.
The contemporary university claims the right to police itself in the name of academic freedom. The problem is that the people responsible for maintaining standards and overall governance, the trustees and regents, have largely abandoned traditional roles and standards in deference to the new orthodoxies that are defined by and enforced by political correctness.
What happens in public forums on campuses pales in comparison to the hypocrisy practiced every day in academic hiring and promotion decisions. Discrimination against conservative professors has become so routine as to be unremarkable. In fact, the power of the new orthodoxy is nowhere better illustrated than in their power to define away the problem: It is no longer discrimination to deny a job or promotion to a conservative professor, it is merely the enforcement of academic standards. And by tradition, no one outside the profession can interfere with that process. It is the perfect monopoly – a monopoly over the language of debate and terms of discourse.
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The domination of hiring and promotions has become so accepted as a way of life that graduate students of conservative views are actively discouraged from pursuing a career in college teaching. Thus, the lack of intellectual diversity on campuses is not self-correcting. On the contrary, it is self-perpetuating, growing like a cancer.
If a group of alumni tries to do something about it, they are attacked as traitors to the canons of sound public relations: Thou shalt not criticize thy alma mater. Concerned alumni are told to stick to raising money for the new athletic complex or the new Student Center and quit worrying about what students are taught in humanities classes.
The reality is as oppressive as it is instructive: If you want to know what life will be like when the left controls ALL of American society, simply look at how the left uses its power to suppress dissident thought on university campuses.
In the 1960s, when left-wing students took over a building and interrupted academic life to push a radical agenda, it was headline news. Today they are not rioting against the academic establishment because in all important respects, the radicals have become the establishment.
It is of course true that some parts of the university have been largely exempted from this discipline of political correctness. Graduate programs in business, engineering, technology and the natural sciences have maintained high standards and continue to attract top students and corporate underwriting. This is due in part to a growing awareness in corporate philanthropy that to be worthwhile, its support must be targeted to graduate programs designed to produce real-world results – graduates who will make a real contribution in the private-sector economy.
The discipline imposed by that real-world employment test is largely lacking in the social sciences and humanities, so in those arenas, political correctness has no external check. Thus, undergraduate education in the humanities and social sciences is increasingly under the control of the left, which has no interest in helping students prepare for a successful career in America’s private-sector economy. The typical student majoring in those subject areas is thinking of a career in government, in academia itself, or “running a nonprofit.”
Ward Churchill’s firing by the University of Colorado Regents was notable as the exception that proves the rule. He was an especially colorful charlatan who had the misfortune to get caught plagiarizing his way to academic tenure. Had he been only a little less ambitious or a little more careful, he would still be teaching his special brand of anti-Americanism at a premier American institution of higher learning supported by American taxpayers.
The dirty little secret of the American academic establishment is that today, there are legions of less-famous and less flamboyant Ward Churchills teaching American youth about the unfathomable evils of capitalism, global warming, racism, “gender identification stereotypes” and other ideological constructs. If you want to question the merit of these academic enterprises, be prepared to be denounced as a hatemonger, and any trustee who questions it will be asked ever so politely to stick to fundraising.
It should be worrisome that political correctness has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer news. Even George Orwell would be shocked at how our society has accepted and adapted to the “crime think” enforcers who determine the parameters of permissible political debate on American campuses.