Friday, August 23, 2013

A Tale of Woe

It has been said that the Greek term historia was originally the progressive stages of a disease, and then was applied, by Herodotus, to his researches into how things happened and how the Greek world got where it was. The evidence is not as clear-cut as that, but it is still sometimes useful to think of history as the progressive stages of a disease.

Paul Gottfried certainly seems to view things that way. He describes how the acceptance of a progressive political fad destroyed the atmosphere at Elizabethtown College. He describes Elizabethtown College as "a sleepy Anabaptist college, affiliated with the Church of the Brethren."

Gottfried attributes the beginning of the end to a new administration headed by a president who "pushed the college in an unmistakably ideological direction from which it would never turn back." Gottfried does not think that the president "believed any of the multicultural doctrines he so energetically pushed. He was just taking his lead from the presidents of other colleges."

First came the "tolerance." "This typically took the form of being more “welcoming” to our modest number of non-Christian, non-white students." No one was allowed to say or do anything that might make those not of the college's religious persuasion uncomfortable even though there were plenty of other outlets for them.

Then came the invited "guest speakers who would be invited to campus to edify us, and justify the stress on diversity and social justice" and thus "even without injecting the righteous odor of PC into every core course, the entire college would emit its fragrance."
Equally significant were the multiple “hires” that took place during this time. Most of the younger people who came on board have better credentials than the older generation of faculty. Unfortunately, they are not much interested in serious scholarship. . . . The primary effect of the younger faculty has been to radicalize the institution beyond recognition.

Then came the dean "who imposed her political values on recalcitrant residents. Students of mine were dressed down by this dean and the provost for not being sufficiently sensitive . . . [and] were threatened with expulsion for disputing the diversity dogma that had been proclaimed for the “college community.”"

Next those faculty decided, “It’s time we make a statement.” And they did.

Gottfried, no longer teaching at Elizabethtown, generalizes the situation found at his college:
Elizabethtown’s pitiable transformation corresponds to a widespread degradation of learning. What bothers me about such glib generalizing, however, is the unwillingness of those of my generation to acknowledge that what they are deploring happened on their watch.

This process of change took place in different places and varied contexts, and so when I hear from those who lament what has befallen our college that “it’s really the same all over” I get intensely annoyed. I have no doubt that at Elizabethtown something could have been done to make things less crazy if fewer professors had hidden their heads in the sand. There was rarely a vote on any issue that radicalized the school in which the “nays” could not have won or at least held their own. The critics were just too cowardly or self-centered to let their opposition be known at the appropriate time.

Although this passage from Burke may now be overworked, it seems particularly apt looking back at my college experience: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Clearly those who wish "the opportunity to live in a charming setting and to teach at a socially traditional college" (if any such places still exist) need to exhibit vigilance or the same thing could happen to them.

The point in seeing history as the progression of disease symptoms is to recognize the symptoms and treat the disease.