“wokeness” and Higher Education
Social inJustice and Cultural Hijacking of Fields of Study
All “Western” institutions of higher education have adopted and embraced some form of equality policy into the regulations they adhere to for self governance. However, questions concerning the negative effects of their implementation have arisen, regarding whether academic freedom, professorial prerogatives and the ability of faculty to teach and conduct research without risk of sanctions by official interference, or to professional disadvantage, are sustained by the members of its community.
In “wokeness” the aim is to distract focus from what truly matters, namely the subject under study (whether mathematics, physics, theology etc.) and concentrating it on a manipulative discourse articulated on “spreading critical consciousness, and in Critical Social Justice, all that matters is making everything about what it calls “Social Justice” from a critical theoretical perspective.”(Lindsay 2020)1 Lindsay, James. “How the Woke Virus Infects Academia and our Covid-19 Response” New Discourses. New Discourses, 04 April. 2020. Sun. 13 Mar. 2022.< https://newdiscourses.com/2020/04/woke-virus-infects-academia-covid-19-response/ >.
James Lindsey continues in the article, to illustrate by what processes the cultural hijacking of academic subjects takes place:
Step 1: Turn the field of study at hand into the sociology and cultural anthropology of that field, including in the education of that field…………..
Step 2: Claim that the systemic problems in the field manifest from the nature of the field itself………
Step 3: Call to remake the field itself as a critical theory…………James Lindsey 2 ibid
The infection of “woke” ideology into academic institutions generated by contaminating faculties with the virus of systematic “wokeness” has created some victims:
Our first victim, Rev. Dr. Gregory Schulz, a tenured professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Wisconsin, a private Lutheran university, was “suspended and barred from campus”. 3 Justin Weinberg. “Philosophy Professor Suspended for Criticizing “Wokeness” March 1, 2022 https://dailynous.com/2022/03/01/philosophy-professor-suspended-for-criticizing-wokeness/ The reason for the disciplinary action against him, ensued from his publication of an essay critical of the “Woke dysphoria” at Concordia“ on the blog Christian News. Schulz expresses opposition to diversity initiatives, articulating the polemic in the following quote:
The lynchpin issue is this: The Woke agenda (DIE, for Diversity, Inclusion, Equity) is utterly opposed to texts and to textual authority. In theory (such as it is) and in practice, the Woke agenda being championed by our BoR committees is literally an illiterate philosophy of education that has no place for authoritative texts. For example, Woke-ness has no place for authoritative texts such as the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. It also has no place for the authority of the biblical text.4Rev Gregory P Schulz, DMin, PhD. ” WOKE DYSPHORIA AT CONCORDIA” by Christian News https://christiannewsmissouri.com/2022/02/15/woke-dysphoria-at-concordia/Rev Gregory P Schulz, DMin, PhD.
Probably the most “incriminating” phrase of the essay (that led to his suspension) was the indictment that “While there is no systemic racism at Concordia because we are committed to Christ incarnate and His universal justification of all human beings without exception, there certainly is systemic Woke-ism.“
His department chair, Dr. Angus Menuge (a respected professor with research interests in the areas of philosophy of mind and philosophy of science) shows support for his colleague by reprimanding Concordia for their shameful behaviour. “Are we being told that you have to mute your Christianity so that it conforms to these ideologies of niceness and all of it? If so, that has a chilling effect on not only academic freedom but also on the Christian conscience,” Menuge said. Especially in a time when many Christians are feeling increasing pressure from cultural Marxism, and amid current efforts to encourage Concordia faculty to stay bold in their Christian scholarship, he said, “This is such an own goal, it really sets us back.”5 Joy Pullmann. “Christian University Bans Professor From Campus For Critiquing Its Dive Into ‘Equity’ And ‘Inclusion’” March 07, 2022 https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/07/christian-university-bans-professor-from-campus-for-critiquing-its-dive-into-equity-and-inclusion/
Another scholar: Portland State University assistant philosophy professor, Peter Boghossian, handed in his resignation. His notice letter 6Peter Boghossian My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit. Sep 8, 2021 available at https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/my-university-sacrificed-ideas-for?s=r laments the university as having: “transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.”
This seems a direct appropriation of Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance” on part of the University which considers that the protection of free speech thwarts the cause of social justice and, thus called for “intolerance toward prevailing policies, attitudes, opinions, and the extension of tolerance to policies, attitudes, and opinions which are outlawed or suppressed.”7Repressive Tolerance from: Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp. 95-137.
In his (and James Lindsay’s) endeavour to demonstrate that “corrupted bodies of scholarship” with questionable academic standards existed within certain fields of the social sciences, they submitted spoof research papers for publication and peer review, in order to study the claim that some humanities journals will publish anything as long as it contained references to: “acceptable” authors, the “correct” socialist ideology and significant quantities of appropriate parlance “a la” Sokal Affair.8Sokal, Alan D. (June 5, 1996), “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies”, Lingua Franca, archived from the original on October 5, 2007
So, in 2017, I co-published an intentionally garbled peer-reviewed paper that took aim at the new orthodoxy. Its title: “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct.” This example of pseudo-scholarship, which was published in Cogent Social Sciences, argued that penises were products of the human mind and responsible for climate change. Immediately thereafter, I revealed the article as a hoax designed to shed light on the flaws of the peer-review and academic publishing systems………..Our purpose was to show that certain kinds of “scholarship” are based not on finding truth but on advancing social grievances. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous.9Peter Boghossian. My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit. Sep 8, 2021 available at https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/my-university-sacrificed-ideas-for?s=rPeter Boghossian
Its easy to understand how following such events, certain fields of study’s reputation having suffered an embarassing outcome, have lead to grievances being materialised into various forms of “persecutions” leading to resignation.
The latest victim of University diversity, equity and inclusion (DIE) policy is the clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, a full tenured professor (non grata) at the University of Toronto, who resigned from his position recently (now awarded professor emeritus status). He laments several reasons for his difficult decision, firstly and most seriously:
First, my qualified and supremely trained heterosexual white male graduate students (and I’ve had many others, by the way) face a negligible chance of being offered university research positions, despite stellar scientific dossiers.10 Jordan Peterson: Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto. The appalling ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity is demolishing education and business. January 19, 2022. available at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/jordan-peterson-why-i-am-no-longer-a-tenured-professor-at-the-university-of-torontoJordan Peterson
Secondly, the professor is indignant as to why academics must craft DIE statements to obtain a research grant and why hiring committees are required to ask for diversity statements. He is rightly aggrieved by the fact some of his colleagues subject themselves “to undergo so-called anti-bias training” (indoctrination via communist influenced Kulturträger invented newspeak) “conducted by supremely unqualified Human Resources personnel lecturing inanely and blithely” (the new socialist political commissars) “and in an accusatory manner about theoretically all-pervasive racist/sexist/heterosexist attitudes”.11ibid.
The challenge of education politics in any country is that it needs to get enough competence out of its population’s talent (for whatever scope that talent is eventually designated for). If the population achieves a standard whereby the national level of competence will not reach those that are maintained internationally, the population will be under-educated. The ramifications and implications of such a scenario, may have serious ramifications in many areas affecting a persons life, prosperity, health etc. If the various scientific fields lack people with the skills necessary to meet the demands of the education society, then in professor Peterson’s words “we’re out to produce a generation of researchers utterly unqualified for the job”.
Jordan Peterson then finishes with some quotes from Putin although not this one, which I thought spoke more to this post. “Some people in the West believe that an aggressive elimination of entire pages from their own history, ‘reverse discrimination’ against the majority in the interests of a minority, and the demand to give up the traditional notions of mother, father, family and even gender, they believe that all of these are the mileposts on the path towards social renewal”.12Putin’s speech at the Valdai Forum on October 21, 2021: contained in Anna Mahjar-Barducci. Russia’s New ‘Conservative’ Ideology To Counter Liberalism January 11, 2022 available at https://www.memri.org/reports/russias-new-conservative-ideology-counter-liberalism
Professor Robert Tombs a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, gives his insight as to why this is happening in the UK: “The real problem comes from the University and College administrations. It is they who are encouraging, and even requiring, gestures towards “decolonisation” and the sort of anonymous denunciation that masquerades under the once innocent slogan of “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion”. Herein lies a clue as to what is really going on here. The university is in competition, especially with American universities, and, pretty obviously, wokeness is part of a marketing strategy. University managers are increasingly operating like any other multinational corporation. All have to “curate” their public image, and their gestures carry no more intellectual or moral weight than those of Nike or Ben and Jerry”.13Professor Robert Tombs. The cynical wokeness of Cambridge colleges. Decolonisation is an excellent marketing strategy. December 27, 2021 available at https://unherd.com/2021/12/the-cynical-wokeness-of-cambridge-colleges/
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])
- 1Lindsay, James. “How the Woke Virus Infects Academia and our Covid-19 Response” New Discourses. New Discourses, 04 April. 2020. Sun. 13 Mar. 2022.< https://newdiscourses.com/2020/04/woke-virus-infects-academia-covid-19-response/ >.
- 3Justin Weinberg. “Philosophy Professor Suspended for Criticizing “Wokeness” March 1, 2022 https://dailynous.com/2022/03/01/philosophy-professor-suspended-for-criticizing-wokeness/
- 4Rev Gregory P Schulz, DMin, PhD. ” WOKE DYSPHORIA AT CONCORDIA” by Christian News https://christiannewsmissouri.com/2022/02/15/woke-dysphoria-at-concordia/
- 5Joy Pullmann. “Christian University Bans Professor From Campus For Critiquing Its Dive Into ‘Equity’ And ‘Inclusion’” March 07, 2022 https://thefederalist.com/2022/03/07/christian-university-bans-professor-from-campus-for-critiquing-its-dive-into-equity-and-inclusion/
- 6Peter Boghossian My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit. Sep 8, 2021 available at https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/my-university-sacrificed-ideas-for?s=r
- 7Repressive Tolerance from: Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969), pp. 95-137.
- 8Sokal, Alan D. (June 5, 1996), “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies”, Lingua Franca, archived from the original on October 5, 2007
- 9Peter Boghossian. My University Sacrificed Ideas for Ideology. So Today I Quit. Sep 8, 2021 available at https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/my-university-sacrificed-ideas-for?s=r
- 10Jordan Peterson: Why I am no longer a tenured professor at the University of Toronto. The appalling ideology of diversity, inclusion and equity is demolishing education and business. January 19, 2022. available at https://nationalpost.com/opinion/jordan-peterson-why-i-am-no-longer-a-tenured-professor-at-the-university-of-toronto
- 12Putin’s speech at the Valdai Forum on October 21, 2021: contained in Anna Mahjar-Barducci. Russia’s New ‘Conservative’ Ideology To Counter Liberalism January 11, 2022 available at https://www.memri.org/reports/russias-new-conservative-ideology-counter-liberalism
- 13Professor Robert Tombs. The cynical wokeness of Cambridge colleges. Decolonisation is an excellent marketing strategy. December 27, 2021 available at https://unherd.com/2021/12/the-cynical-wokeness-of-cambridge-colleges/