If you've never had the chance to wade through the miasma of uber-imperialist ranting that is Frontpage Magazine, today's your lucky day. Because Pope Puppet and education "expert" George Leef has caught the attention of the Radical White with his latest twisted take on one more thing that's "wrong" with higher education. I'll bet ol' George is all a titter today to see his name up in lights along with the Wicked Witch of the West, Ann-the-Man Coulter on the virtual rightwing rag.
I know you have more important things to do - like take a nap or watch some water boil - but if you have just a few minutes, dip your toes into George Leef's treatise for a full frontal view of intellectual dishonesty that only a Pope Puppet could muster.
For several decades now, American colleges and universities have been expanding their academic offerings to include courses in different species of identity politics: Women’s Studies, Black (now African-American) Studies, Latino Studies, Queer Studies and more. Whereas traditional academic fields were rooted in some distinct body of knowledge such as chemistry, mathematics, or economics, these new fields are not about transmitting knowledge so much as they’re about transmitting the edgy and often intellectually shaky attitudes of the professors. Women’s Studies, for example, is mostly about trying to inculcate a sense of grievance in young, impressionable women and that is accomplished with the use of some disreputable arguments about the supposedly discriminatory nature of our economic system.
"Supposedly discriminatory nature of our economic system?" What world has this "supposed" expert in education been living in, this wacko who appears to have his finger on the pulse of all things academic? Well, according to his own website George Leef is the Director of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. He was a Vice President of the John Locke Foundation until the Pope Center became independent in 2003. Prior to joining the Locke Foundation, he was president of Patrick Henry Associates, a consulting firm in Michigan dedicated to assisting others in advocating free markets, minimal government, private property and individual rights." In other words, a second-rate free-market apologist who's only claim to fame is his brief turn in the barrel at Duke Law.
Among the more recent of these new fields is “whiteness studies,” which is built around the notion that being of “the white race” confers power and privilege in society. There is, however, a big difference between “whiteness studies” and the other identity fields. Instead of extolling a specific group as being worthy victims of an unjust society, the apparent aim of “whiteness studies” is to make white students feel that they are responsible for historical injustices; that “their” race is to blame for slavery, oppression and genocide. “Minority” students are supposed to bond in a sense of group victimization, but white students are supposed to bond in a sense of group guilt.
It's hard to know where to begin to unload this pile of bullshit, because once you get past the breathtakingly uninformed assumptions about the nature of the study of identity, the fact is, white students SHOULD understand the role of Anglo-Saxon (white) culture in colonial imperialism, genocide, war and oppression.
Anyone who follows developments in higher education is aware that many professors in the social sciences have made their careers by trying to explain just about everything in terms of race, class, and gender. Following in that tradition, “whiteness” scholars claim that the white race is actually a “social construct” that has been used for centuries as a rationalization for the privileges enjoyed by some and denied to others. The infamous Harvard professor Noel Ignatiev (infamous for his statement that the white race should be “abolished”) says that “The white race is like a private club based on one huge assumption that all those who look white are, whatever their complaints or reservations, fundamentally loyal to the race.”
Exactly how Ignatiev knows the beliefs of millions of other people is a mystery. My own great-grandfather, for example, was an immigrant from Sweden who worked as a day laborer in Minnesota. Did he feel “loyalty” to his race? No one in my family has any evidence about his views regarding race, politics, or anything else, but Ignatiev seems perfectly comfortable in asserting that he and millions of other European immigrants must have bought into the idea that, as “whites,” they were entitled to a privileged existence in the U.S. That academic careers can be based on such breezy theorizing as that is a testament the sorry state of higher education.
That second-rate pundit careers can be based on sappy stories about one's great-grandfather in Minnesota is a testament to the intellectual bankruptcy of the Pope Center for Liar Education.
One of the academicians most associated with “whiteness studies” is University of Illinois professor David Roediger. In a recent article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Whiteness and Is Complications (July 14, 2006; subscriber site), he writes, “The critical study of whiteness emerged, from slave and American Indian traditions forward, from the idea that whiteness is a problem to be investigated and confronted.”
It is undeniably true that in America slaves were held by whites and that Indians were horribly treated at the hands of whites. Does it follow from that those facts that “whiteness” was the cause of slavery, the attacks on Indians, and a litany of other social evils?
We are therefore faced with this question: Why ascribe all of these evils to one race? Why not drop the trendy proclivity for analyzing social phenomena in terms of abstractions such as race and merely say that some individuals have always been ready to commit acts of aggression against others? It is not a racial characteristic we’re dealing with, but a personal one. Occam’s Razor counsels us against constructing complicated explanations where simple ones will do and that takes the starch out of the whole business about “the social construction of whiteness.” It isn’t necessary to explain the facts.
This red herring is typical of the black and white world of the Puppetshow. I know of no one who wants to "acribe all of these evils to one race." No one. But Leef uses his stinky fish as a ploy to tilt against a larger windmill - the practice of questioning the role of race in social and cultural constructs. To pretend that such a role is non-existent is the kind of delusion we have come to expect from the Puppetshow.
If professors want to toy around with vaporous theories like “the construction of whiteness,” they should confine their musings to academic journals. To visit such ideas on gullible students adds nothing to their knowledge but irresponsibly contributes to feelings of victimization among non-whites and guilt among whites. It’s educational malpractice.
Poor George and his oh-so ignorant and gullible students. They can't manage to think for themselves when mean old professors engage in inquiry about the nature of race. And given his preoccupation with feelings of guilt, methinks Mr. Leef would benefit from a few years on a psychiatrist's couch.
Anglico the White
PS I wonder if the Puppetmaster Pope knows that Mr. Leef has joined Ms. Coulter as a big-time pundit - and that his current cause celebre is opposing the study of whiteness. How does that jive with the Puppetmaster's latest initiative - the creation of a high school curriculum designed to celebrate the many accomplishments of rich old white guys?
PPS Leave it to the Puppetshow to associate a picture of UNC's Old Well with Leef's current screed, when, in fact, his rantings mention UNC only in passing. More fodder for the couch, no doubt.