Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Great American Cultural Revolution

We all know that America is undergoing its very own cultural revolution. The fact that the Chinese version was a spectacular failure does not deter our elite intellectuals. They never had much truck with reality anyway. In truth, I devoted a chapter of my book Saving Face to “The Great American Cultural Revolution.”

Since I wrote that chapter, more than two decades ago, our own Cultural Revolution has metastasized. It has invaded the world of elite intellectuals, has infested the academy and has even sent corporations scurrying for cover. Today, it marches forward under the banner of social justice. And it’s motto is Diversity Uber Alles.

It is a horror. And it is destroying, Heather Mac Donald correctly notes, our civilization. Of course, it is designed to so, so don’t feel surprised.

In a wonderful essay, adopted from a recent lecture, Mac Donald shows what is happening to the American mind under the American Cultural Revolution:

But social-justice education is merely a symptom of an even deeper perversion of academic values: the cult of race and gender victimology, otherwise known as “diversity.” The diversity cult is destroying the very foundations of our civilization. 

Surely, she is correct. It fully resembles a cult, with cult leaders and cult followers. Among the first casualties is the pursuit of knowledge, of objective, dispassionate knowledge… the kind you might find in science. She notes that you cannot dedicate yourself to social justice activism while at the same time pursuing knowledge:

When a university pursues social justice, it puts aside its traditional claim to authority: the disinterested search for knowledge. We accord universities enormous privileges. Their denizens are sheltered from the hurly-burly of the marketplace on the assumption that they will pursue truth wherever it will take them, unaffected by political or economic pressures. The definition of social justice, however, is deeply political, entailing a large number of contestable claims about the causes of socioeconomic inequality. Social-justice proponents believe that those claims are settled, and woe to anyone who challenges them on a college campus. There are, however, alternative explanations—besides oppression and illegitimate power—for ongoing inequalities, taboo though they may be in academia.

Mac Donald goes back in time to quote the eminent German sociologist Max Weber. He warned in 1918 against turning academic work into a form of political action:

In his 1918 lecture, “Science as a Vocation,” Max Weber criticized the conflation of intellectual work with political action: “Whenever the man of science introduces his personal value judgment, a full understanding of the facts ceases.” The primary task of a teacher, Weber said, is to help his students recognize what Weber called “inconvenient” facts—inconvenient, that is, to the students’ party opinions. And for every party opinion, Weber observed, some facts are extremely inconvenient. Our political understanding of the world is partial; we will emphasize certain aspects of reality that buttress our values and deemphasize other aspects that contradict those values. According to Weber, when an academic pronounces on how one should act, he becomes a prophet or demagogue, neither of whom belong on the academic platform.

We might notice that the philosopher Martin Heidegger, some fifteen years after Weber’s warning used his administrative position at the University of Friberg to militate for the Third Reich.

It has often been noted, but perhaps not often enough, but the social justice movement is being driven by one reality: the achievement gap between white and Asian students on one side and blacks and Hispanics on the other. Strangely, the Obama presidency, which was supposed to be the ultimate antidote to racism, has had little impact on this gap. It might even have made things worse. If the gap remained the same we must conclude that racism is far more powerful than we had thought.

Mac Donald explains the problem:

Social-justice pedagogy is driven by one overwhelming reality: the seemingly intractable achievement gap between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other. Radical feminism, as well as gay and now trans advocacy, are also deeply intertwined with social-justice thinking on campus and off, as we have just seen. But race is the main impetus. Liberal whites are terrified that the achievement and behavior gaps will never close. So they have crafted a totalizing narrative about the racism that allegedly holds back black achievement.

How big is the gap?

The average black 12th-grader currently reads at the level of the average white eighth-grader. Math levels are similarly skewed. Truancy rates for black students are often four times as high as for white students. Inner-city teachers, if they are being honest, will describe the barely controlled anarchy in their classrooms—anarchy exacerbated by the phony conceit that school discipline is racist. In light of such disparities, it is absurd to attribute the absence of proportional representation in the STEM fields, say, to bias. … The solution to this lack of proportional representation is not greater effort on the part of students, according to social-justice and diversity proponents. Instead, it is watering down meritocratic standards. Professors are now taught about “inclusive grading” and how to assess writing without judging its quality, since such quality judgments maintain white language supremacy.

In order to solve the problem, our academic maestros and our corporate honchos are pretending that it does not exist. They are getting rid of test scores and course grades. They are abolishing all standards of achievement, thus demoralizing those who achieve. They are closing the achievement gap, not be working to improve the scores of underachievers, but by dumbing down the overachievers. By making them feel guilty for their white privilege.

That means, we must destroy the last smidgen of American meritocracy:

It is impossible to overstate how fierce and sweeping the attack on meritocracy is: every mainstream institution is either furiously revising its standards or finds itself in the crosshairs for failing to do so. STEM professional organizations decry traditional means of testing knowledge. Diverse students should be able to get credit for participation in a group project or for putting together a presentation for their family and friends on a scientific concept, say these STEM professionals. Faculty hiring criteria are also under pressure. A decade or so ago, the demand was to give credit toward tenure for editing an anthology. Substitutes for scholarship have only gotten more creative. At Bucknell University, a minority faculty member suggested that participating in an expletive-filled faculty list-serve discussion denouncing Amy Wax, an embattled University of Pennsylvania law professor, should count toward the “intellectual labor” of minority faculty and be included in the faculty merit review.

Minority students who have been catapulted by racial preferences into schools for which they are not academically prepared frequently struggle in their classes. The cause of those struggles, according to the social-justice diversity bureaucracy, is not academic mismatch; it is the lack of a critical mass of other minority students and faculty to provide refuge from the school’s overwhelming bigotry. And so, the school admits more minority students to create such a critical mass. Rather than raising minority performance, however, this new influx of diverse students lowers it, since the school has had to dig deeper into the applicant pool. The academic struggles and alienation of minority students will increase, along with the demand for more diversity bureaucrats, more segregated safe spaces, more victimology courses, more mental health workers, more diverse faculty, more lowered standards, and of course, more diversity student admits. And the cycle will start all over again.

And, of course, as noted on this blog and elsewhere, the continuing embarrassment of the high levels of minority crime has caused leftist district attorneys to decriminalize crime:

Across the country, district attorneys are refusing to enforce misdemeanor laws and judges are releasing convicted felons early because virtually every criminal-justice practice has a disparate impact on blacks. That disparate impact is due not to criminal-justice racism, but to blacks’ exponentially higher crime rates. This ongoing push for decriminalization and deincarceration will result in more black lives being lost to violent street crime. The liberal elites seemingly don’t give a damn, however, since black street-crime victims are killed overwhelmingly by other blacks, not by racist cops or white supremacists.

And, in a closing note, Mac Donald remarks that the enhanced race consciousness, coupled with the war against white people, has reflexively provoked the rise of white pride movements:

How a civilization survives with so much contempt for itself is an open question. It is not wholly fanciful to see America’s drug-addicted malaise and rising mortality rates as a consequence, in part, of the nonstop denunciation of the white-male patriarchy. White identity politics is the inevitable result of this nonstop attack, and a logical one: if every other group celebrates its racial identity, why shouldn’t whites, if only as a matter of self-defense?


UbuMaccabee said...

Well, there is this

Derek Ramsey said...

"It has often been noted, but perhaps not often enough, but the social justice movement is being driven by one reality: the achievement gap between white and Asian students on one side and blacks and Hispanics on the other."

I've recently been sharing this extremely relevant quote from the "Lewontin's Fallacy" paper by A.W.F. Edwards:

"It is a dangerous mistake to premise the moral equality of human beings on biological similarity because dissimilarity, once revealed, then becomes an argument for moral inequality."

Edwards was writing to debunk the notion that there are no meaningful identifiable genetic differences among populations. For a few decades now, America has been trying to square the circle by making these four groups (Asian, white, Hispanic, and black) equivalent when there is a consistent mostly-heritable 20 IQ point difference between the populations of the highest (Asian) and lowest (Black). In denying this, modern elites must necessarily create moral inequality. It must be destructive.

Moreover, while the Flynn Effect shows that humans have gained ~30 IQ points since the late 1800s, the Woodley Effect notes that general intelligence has fallen by ~15 points over the same period. In other words, our environments have improved significantly, but we are getting stupider. We are, quite literally, 'dumbing down':

“The general population doesn't know what's happening, and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know.” -- Noam Chomsky

UbuMaccabee said...

And this, courtesy of Charles Murray

Derek Ramsey is spot on.

"It is a dangerous mistake to premise the moral equality of human beings on biological similarity because dissimilarity, once revealed, then becomes an argument for moral inequality."

In a competitive global market, one group in America is failing to compete, and failing badly, and that is being viewed as a moral failure, not a cognitive shortcoming (the very idea is cause for banishment, and soon, prison). Race is the central tenet of the university grievance factory, and at the root of the whole woke narrative. Race is the bone on bone anguish for the entire leftist project; for them it is a moral crusade.

The schools have all been dumbed down to give the appearance that blacks and Hispanics can compete. If you lower the standards, it fixes the problem. But these groups are not competitive at all. It might have worked if the Asians hadn’t shown up in large numbers and completely destroyed the class curve.

The black reaction is to become more aggressive, which only undermines their credibility further. Subliterate violent black mobs on campus isn’t really convincing anyone that we have a moral gap, least of all the study groups of Chinese and Indian kids in the library, watching out the windows, as they master how to code. They are just more subtle about the eye roll. Or they can speak freely in Mandarin because there is almost zero chance an American born black student would ever learn their language. We have a cognitive gap that no one is permitted to even think about. But we think it nonetheless.

Asians have already looked at the facts and have drawn their conclusions. They are practical. The Chinese view Africa, for example, as an easy mark. Does any western intellectual really think the Chinese in Africa view black Africans as equals? Honestly?

I do not think intelligence necessarily imparts any advance in character or ethical behavior. It does not endow anyone with a higher degree of moral value. It does not mean you are a better person, in fact, most great evil flows from the lies of intellectuals. Intelligence simply allows one to be more successful, economically, in a knowledge-based economy. And that economic gap is growing wider while everyone else is getting dumber. Refusing to deal with cognitive variances is cruel and will prevent us from organizing an economy that provides productive and available work, at an honorable wage, that allows people who are not capable of learning to code to feel like citizens.

Well keep lying until war resets the clocks.

Jim in Alaska said...

“Each new generation born “is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.”
Thomas Sowell

Alas, we've waited until 'too late' by at least 2 or 3 generations.

Anonymous said...

It is becoming clear that the hard marxist core is not interested in correcting these gaps, but seeks to exploit them to divide and conquer. Many well intentioned "liberals" who thought they were expanding opportunity within a free meritocracy have been left to flop, gasp, and die like beached fish as this hard core takes over. The hard core estimates that bleeding heart liberalism is no longer a necessary camouflage. That may be their biggest mistake: dropping the mask and no longer even pretending to "fairness" have awakened not-very-polticised mainstream Americans (and other Westerners).

Texan99 said...

Derek Ramsey posted: "Moreover, while the Flynn Effect shows that humans have gained ~30 IQ points since the late 1800s, the Woodley Effect notes that general intelligence has fallen by ~15 points over the same period. In other words, our environments have improved significantly, but we are getting stupider. We are, quite literally, 'dumbing down':"

What's the distinction you're drawing between "IQ" and "general intelligence," such that one can decrease while the other increases?