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By Professor Doom
It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m just not up for listing more of the obvious fixes to higher education that are necessary. It’s the time of year for stories.
When I first decided to go into academia, decades ago, I was warned by the knowledgeable to be wary of PC (“What’s that?” I asked, being so ignorant, and this was well before "PC" stood for “personal computer”). Political correctness was establishing a stranglehold on campuses, and I was told not to get in the way. It was fairly good advice, although truth be told, most of it was just run-of-the-mill idiocy, which is why I’ve avoided talking about it in the blog. One has to pick battles, after all, and amidst the quintessential fraud and corruption that defines higher education today, simple idiocy just isn’t worth the effort.
That said, it’s the time of year for stories, and so allow me to share my worst experience with the consequences of political correctness. While it is the worst, it was a mere two years ago (almost to the day), so I make no assertion that this comes from a relatively ignorant past, even as I make apologies for it being the absolute worst I can come up with (the second worst isn’t too far distant, however), and so one shouldn’t take this as typical diversity sludge.
The faculty were gathered, as it was so often the case, for a mandatory meeting, for a Diversity Training workshop. The speaker was highly esteemed, being a head of some diversity-type department (I’ll avoid naming names here), from some place up north, with over 20 years in diversity-type education, and, of course, a Ph. D. (in the subject of African History, if I recall correctly).
He began his talk with a question:
“When were there no more European Wars in North America?”
I’m no historian, but I responded with a cautious “1776,” supposing that with the Declaration of Independence, it would be problematic to define the wars in North America as “European.” I was wrong, and he was quick to inform me:
“No. There were never any wars between the European powers in North America.”
I really feel that in a room full of educated people, this sort of claim would cause a small riot, if not laughter at the very least. Believing I misunderstood, I responded “Not even between France and England?” Again, my claim was wrong, although I sure seemed to remember an altercation or two.
“France and England didn’t have any wars in North America. Do you know why? Because they united to keep the black man down.”
One faculty responded with a feeble “I don’t agree,” but I felt the need to inform the supposedly knowledgeable speaker that George Washington’s early military career was working for the British, against the French—I’m no historian, but I know a little (and, apparently, more than the many Educationists I was working with). The esteemed speaker would have none of it, merely repeating himself with emphasis:
“France and England didn’t have any wars in North America because when they got here, they united to keep the black man down. This was how they solved the problems of war, and managed to not bring the European wars to the New World.”
While through experience I’ve learned not to pay much attention to Diversity nonsense, I actually took a whole page of notes of his gibberish—the mind has a hard time remembering gibberish with precision, and I wanted to be sure that I recalled what he said in detail. For the most part, his grasp of history was simply demented, but I trust the above gives the basic gist of it. His talk wandered, however, to the topic of education in America, and he loudly proclaimed:
“The US Education system is the best in the world,”
Again, I was confused at what he could possibly mean, since there is no positive standard by which the US students come out ahead, relative to basically anywhere else in the industrialized world. He explained further:
“It is the best because we have 36,000 institutions.”
Naturally, I asked him if by “best” he meant “largest”, but nope, he honestly thought the US system is superior to the rest of the world, because size means greatness. This at least explained why he managed to achieve high rank, since administrators also believe “quality” and “size” are equal concepts. The rest of his speech on this topic was the usual “vision for excellence” pablum that make Educationists and fools nod their heads in agreement, so I was fanned by nodding heads for a while.
At long last, he came to talking about diversity, but it was still mostly the victim-speak that isn’t particularly helpful. He then quoted someone-or-other….
“Diversity without equity is meaningless.”
I started paying attention again, since this is actually a relevant truth: equity, fairness, is the important thing. Not diversity. Apparently someone told him it was an important quote, but he didn’t understand it:
“[The quote] means the most important thing the US needs is diversity at all levels.”
All I could do was write down; if I didn’t have it written down in my own hand, I wouldn’t believe anyone could have such confusion of ideas. This alleged scholar then wandered back to history:
“Memphis, in North Africa, is the oldest city in the world,”
I again foolishly chose to interrupt him, to mention that Sumeria predates Memphis by 1,000 years. Now, I’ll grant archeologists probably have a few things wrong, and I’ve an open mind to alternative interpretations of historical evidence…but there was no evidence provided, he simply repeated himself, doubling down with, and I’m going to break this next quote down into pieces because it’s such a train wreck:
“When Alexander the Great captured Alexandria,”
Again, I’m no historian, but I know a thing or two. Alexander the Great was a bit of a megalomaniac, and named many cities after himself…he did this naming after he did the conquering, of course. So, I was confused when the esteemed department head said this. Again the historical evidence says Alexandria wasn’t much before Alexander came there, but this scholar had more to say…
“When Alexander the Great captured Alexandria, it was called Memphis at the time,”
This, of course, added more momentary confusion, since “the” Alexandria is located some distance from Memphis. Memphis, incidentally, was something of a holy city in its day, and you really, really, can’t move holy ground (not to mention, the stone temples are really tough to move). But the train wreck continues:
“When Alexander the Great captured Alexandria, it was called Memphis at the time, he found the Great Library there,”
Again, the historical evidence makes it pretty clear the Great Library was founded after the city was founded (and likely, well after Alexander’s death)…historians can be wrong, but a claim like this requires evidence, and none beyond confident bluster was provided. I again point out I was very lonely in what was supposed to be a room full of scholars. The train wreck continued:
“When Alexander the Great captured Alexandria, it was called Memphis at the time, he found the Great Library there, and took the knowledge back to Greece, to form the foundations of Western Civilization.”
I was in the front row, with what I’m certain was a look of bewildered confusion on my face. I looked around the room, to see mostly nods of agreement. There’s considerable evidence that the Great Library sought texts FROM Greece, rather than the other way around, incidentally.
Now that he finished the train wreck, I paused from my copying it down. Again, I called him on what he said, making certain that he really was claiming Alexander the Great captured Alexandria. Yes, that’s what he meant, and he doubled down again by repeating Alexandria used to be called Memphis. Truly, he was impervious to input.
After he gave his “lesson” on history, he asked us:
“How many of you were familiar with this chronology?”
Nobody indicated familiarity, which under the circumstances, was understandable. I had to admit, I wasn’t, but I’m also not intimately familiar with other fictional timelines, like the Star Wars or Lord of the Rings histories, either. Again, he provided no evidence; one other faculty asked if there was a book on this, which the scholar cited. To my own shame, I haven’t tracked down the book so I could see with my own eyes that this sort of stuff is passed off as fact.
The speaker then wandered back into victim-speak, spewing just pure silliness. For what it’s worth, my ancestry doesn’t go anywhere near Sumeria and not much near Greece (but I’m quite willing to accept that the evidence says Plato was from Greece, not Memphis, and that the wheel came from Sumeria, again not Memphis)…my own ancestors were likely conquered and enslaved by the ancient Romans. Stuff happens. By the time the speaker finished up with:
“Hitler only persecuted the Jews because there were no black people in Germany,”
I was covering my mouth with both hands, and yes, I was sitting in the front row. There was no reason to point out that Hitler wrote a well known book on the subject, listing his issues. Again, I admit ignorance of much of the book, but I’m pretty sure “skin not dark enough” wasn’t one of his problems with Jews (to be clear, I’m simply addressing contents, or lack therof). Perhaps I’m wrong on this, however.
Still, it really highlights how little control faculty, real scholars, have over higher education, that someone could spout such unsubstantiated and highly questionable “information” and become head of a department with a successful career in academia. I’m all for overthrowing invalid orthodoxy…but I feel it should be done in a more civilized way than simply shouting down and ignoring other points of view.For the most part in my blog, I’ve focused on what the corruption of higher education has done to mathematics, and so I include this story both to amuse, and to remind the gentle reader, that the entirety of the system has been devastated. It took nearly thirty years, but I still feel it can be fixed in far less time. I feel the need to point out: the cost for learning this diversity stuff in a college classroom is the same as the cost for learning about advanced calculus, or chemistry, or sexual deviancy. I also want to point out that I was warned for my lack of collegiality during this talk (but keeping my mouth shut was so hard, I really admire the lack of fortitude of my associates in being able to nod their heads in agreement to this stuff).
After the talk, one of the more spineless of the sycophants rushed up to shake the speaker's hand.
After the talk, one of the more spineless of the sycophants rushed up to shake the speaker's hand.