Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Inexorably PC

A week ago, Quillette published this piece by Gregory Hansen. Usually I would have read it and moved on, but in the current environment it is worth revisiting. A chilling antidote to those moments when we think political correctness couldn't get any worse.

How All My Politically Correct Bones Were Broken

In my first 10 years of college teaching, from the mid-60s to mid-70s, I modeled myself on my best teachers—men and women who questioned my ideas vigorously. They let me know that I mattered to them, they praised when praise was due, and they pushed me hard. Often I balked, and they continued to push. Indeed, the teachers who sternly, even at times angrily, called me out on my intellectual arrogance and sloppiness became mentors and, in several cases, lifelong friends.

After that it is all downhill. Relentlessly depressing but the whole piece is well worth reading.

But inexorably, questions of identity inserted themselves into teacher-student relationships. It became increasingly dangerous for me to question, to challenge, to push—let alone to betray frustration or even anger when a student was conning me or not working to capacity. Year by year, as I met each new cohort of students, I had to calculate how much my own disfavored identity (white, male, heterosexual, middle-class) made it risky for me to push—depending on whether or not a student’s identity was (given the political climate of the moment) favored.

Down, down, down it goes. This for example -

In time, affirmative action amounted to a policy of “whites not encouraged to apply,” as a colleague found when sitting on a search committee for a tenured English position. We’d been flooded with applicants. Secure jobs in the field were now rare. The committee interviewed only a handful of candidates, one of whom offered clues in his application that he was African American. He got an interview, but the committee was perplexed. He did not look African American. After some carefully worded queries the candidate confessed: “I’ve applied scores of times for a tenured job in English, but never got a single interview. I just wanted to see what would happen.” “You do know,” he added with a wry smile as he was leaving the room, “that we all originated in Africa.”


Sam Vega said...

Sadly, I recognise some of the trends from teaching in Further Education in the UK. Here, the law of unintended consequences stems from making education a marketplace. With prices being roughly equal (and non-existent for 16-18 year olds) students are going to opt for a course which requires the least effort to pass. The race to the bottom and the pandering to student whims is understandable, but the hypocrisy in pretending that there are standards of excellence is quite nauseating.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Knock it out cheaply, and they will come. And a smooth flat institution is easier to march through.

Scrobs. said...

Only yesterday, standing in a short queue at a builder's merchants, I noticed skills and the will to strive from several people who just went about their business, and showed no sign of having needed 'education' as you describe.

It was enlightening to know that real business carries on without the flippancy of wokeness and PC cult.

djc said...

That piece would be better if not so long, it needs and editor.

This part however provoked a thought
When the college opened its doors, I had just received my MA in English from a prestigious university, as well as an induction notice from my Draft Board. Like most Boards, it had become hostile to college students and their deferments. A family friend, who, like my parents, was firmly devoted to civil rights causes, urged me to apply. I would be serving our community—and along the way have a teaching deferment (it was that or Vietnam) and, at long last, income.

You reap what you sow. A generation too nice, too trusting, too liberal, for their own good.

"men can only be highly civilised while other men, inevitably less civilized, are there to guard and feed them."

A K Haart said...

Sam - there was once a comment about climate change made by, I think, an MIT prof. He said that the subject does not attract the best students, it attracts those who see it as an easy option.

DJ - I sometimes wonder if the bubble will burst as young people chose other options rather than university.

Scrobs - yes, skills and the will to strive keep us afloat in spite of all the passengers and if the coronavirus mess hasn't rammed that home nothing will.

djc - "A generation too nice, too trusting, too liberal, for their own good." I agree, we aren't hard enough and we are too trusting. The coronavirus has shown us that, but probably not enough of us.