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This week in fascist academia

The childish nature of modern American culture often gets me very depressed. Sadly, this depression is worsened by the fascist and intolerant culture that dominates much of America academia and that I have been noting with regular weekly reports since October. If our intellectual community acts like jack-booted thugs how can we expect our overall culture to be mature and civilized?

Anyway, here are a few more stories from the past week that unfortunately intensify my depression and the lack of enthusiasm I presently have for posting anything related to culture or politics. It all seems to be a cesspool, and horribly the academic community appears to relish the idea of swimming in it.

First, some stories indicating the close-mindedness and intolerance of the teaching community:

The second story is especially disturbing. The professor, Donna Riley, is head of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue. This is what she advocates for her school’s engineering program:

She claims that rigor can “reinforce gender, race, and class hierarchies in engineering, and maintain invisibility of queer, disabled, low-income, and other marginalized engineering students,” adding that “decades of ethnographic research document a climate of microaggressions and cultures of whiteness and masculinity in engineering.” She evens contends that “scientific knowledge itself is gendered, raced, and colonizing,” asserting that in the field of engineering, there is an “inherent masculinist, white, and global North bias…all under a guise of neutrality.”

To fight this, Riley calls for engineering programs to “do away with” the notion of academic rigor completely, saying, “This is not about reinventing rigor for everyone, it is about doing away with the concept altogether so we can welcome other ways of knowing. Other ways of being. It is about criticality and reflexivity.”

So, would you want to fly on a rocket built by engineers taught at Purdue, under this professor’s program?

Next we have stories that show that the intolerance is definitely not confined to the teachers, that the students are becoming as intolerant and as fascist.

In all three cases, the students themselves acted to squelch conservative views. Apparently, they have come to college to tell everyone else what they know (since they already know everything), rather than to learn something from others. Our future will sure be bright with them in charge!

Finally, two stories that indicate some hope.

The first story is about how Emory University has cleaned up its policies to guarantee the right of free speech. The action was instigated by the school’s professors in response to last year’s events when the now former university president tried to prevent students for writing “Vote Trump” in chalk on university grounds.

The second story suggests that in at least one case, acting out illegally and violently to prevent a conservative from speaking can get you in trouble with the law.

Though there does appear to be some push back in favor of freedom and free speech, overall I do not get the sense that the push back is big enough. Instead, my impression at this moment is that these positive stories are the exception that proves the rule, and that we are going to see a lot more oppression in the coming years.

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  • Laurie

    I’d say Riley calls not for ‘criticality or reflexivity’, but rather ambiguity.

    The foothold this nonsense has owes much to the previous administration. Having read of the Fordham University story, the situation has become utterly irrational.

  • Steve Earle

    Every time I say that this stuff can’t get any worse, it does.

    It’s now so deeply entrenched in all of our schools, I’m not sure it can ever be fixed.

    Are we now so devolved that our Society is doomed?

    Is there anything short of Civil War that can turn things around?

  • Edward

    Robert asked: “So, would you want to fly on a rocket built by engineers taught at Purdue, under this professor’s program?

    How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the social justice warfare! When I was still in high school, I interned alongside a co-op student from Purdue. I was impressed with his knowledge and ability. Purdue was once regarded as a top notch engineering school (about ten minutes ago), but not any more.

    Not only would I not want to fly on a rocket built by Purdue engineering graduates taught by her, I wouldn’t want to fly on a plane, drive a car, drive over a bridge, or live below a dam designed, built, or tested by one, either. This also explains the trade-show-handout pen that fell apart as I removed the cap, a few years ago; it must have been made by one of her students.

    The first thing that she says is “academic rigor is a ‘dirty deed’ that upholds ‘white male heterosexual privilege.’ Defining rigor as ‘the aspirational quality academics apply to disciplinary standards of quality.’

    If being rigorous in one’s job can only be done by white male heterosexuals, then that does not say much for anyone else — or what she thinks of anyone else. The laws of nature are the same, no matter who you are, and we all have to be taught the scientific method, economics, and engineering practice; none of these are innate. This is why Professional Engineers (yes, it is a title) need to take a rigorous test to get a license. Like a doctor or a lawyer. No matter their race, sex, or sexual preference.

    I completely disagree with her assessment of the human condition. I have worked with plenty of people of many races, both sexes, and a few sexual preferences, but those factors did not seem to influence their knowledge or abilities. Engineering rigor seemed more prone to personality and willingness to do well at the job. The latter is what rigor comes from. Those who are rigorous want to do the job well. Professor Riley seems to think that only white heterosexual males want to the their jobs well. What a crock. This could only come from someone who has not worked in the real world but sees a view only from her ivory tower.

    I completely reject the second part of her opinion that “rigor is used to maintain disciplinary boundaries, with exclusionary implications for marginalized groups and marginalized ways of knowing.” rigor requires discipline, but if it is used to exclude anyone, it is only used to exclude those who are not willing to do what it takes to do a good job.

    Rigor is needed in all disciplines, jobs, and levels; otherwise this could happen:

    If, on the other hand, such rigor is influenced by the factors that Riley suggests then maybe it is because of teachers like her. If she is telling her students such drivel, then they are more likely to believe it than students of my generation.

    Students of my generation had to put up with a few old professors who had opinions about women engineers (some or many old professors were encouraging). I talked with several women at school who would, even without being asked, identify the professors who had low expectations of them, but that seemed to drive them to work harder and become the ones to beat (and at a school where grading is on a curve, you have to keep up with everyone else — not easy to do at a school that asks for, and gets, the best of the best of the best).

    Yeah, it was my privilege to have to keep up with the supposedly unprivileged students.

    It is one thing when a professor says that he personally thinks that you are inferior, it is another when all the professors say that society has deemed that you are inferior. A single professor can be overcome, but an entire society is much harder. We aren’t dealing with the same prejudices of half a century ago, this time it is worse, because today’s professors are aware that it is better to be encouraging rather than divisive. It is worse because the professors are encouraged to be divisive, and those who disagree are shunned and not given tenure. As with half a century ago, this attitude by leadership, people like Riley, has to be overcome. (Yes, Steve, it can be fixed, we did it before. It isn’t easy, but we can do it.)

    Professor Riley does her students a disservice and that hurts the rest of us in many ways. We get worse spacecraft, cars, and dams, and those students that she marginalizes are more likely to fail to live up to their potentials. What a putz.

    Her slogan, unlike the US Army, may be: “Be all I say you can be.” Which is mediocre.

  • wayne

    Good stuff. There must be an appropriate Shakespeare or Bible reference in this situation!

    I tend to think it’s more of a counter-revolution, than a civil war. The coup has pretty much been implemented, now we need to overthrow them before they can fully consolidate control, and re-establish Constitutional rule. I would prefer an Article 5 political route, but I fear it will degrade into kinetic action.

    Good stuff.
    I’m in the Behavioral end of the Social Sciences, and we always tried to emulate the traditional hard sciences as much as possible. (Physics rather than Politics.)
    If I spouted the same tripe as this lady, I would never have graduated

  • Edward

    Come to think of it, Steve, we did come close to civil war, back then. I’m not sure how an Article 5 convention would fix it, but that would be preferable. It is more of an attitude problem and less a problem with the Constitution. Changing the Constitution should help, but it does not change attitudes.

    Frankly, I have absolutely no idea how we managed to circle around to the progressives being so outwardly bigoted and prejudiced, as half a century ago, but it has happened. This time, it seems to be accepted by many people who should know better.

    It is clear that such policies as Affirmative Action, which presumes lower ability on the part of some people, did not fix the problem and seems to have exacerbated it. Electing Obama did not have the post-racial effect that the news media thought it would, which they thought should have fixed the attitudinal problem, and Obama himself exacerbated the problem, too, commenting stupidly about various situations. Now, after proving that the country is not prejudiced (except for that Affirmative Action policy), the social justice warriors (SJW) are going to extremes to say the opposite.

    But then again, when there is such prejudice against the 1% (a prejudice that wasn’t prominent half a century ago), why would a SJW professor help her students to move in that direction?

  • Tom Billings

    Riley attempts to move engineering into compliance with the concept that, since personal worth is determined by the college degree you attain, then denying a college degree in a discipline is unjust. Her words are the most straightforward example of such concepts, current in academia for 50 years now, and finally penetrating to where they can directly kill people through engineering incompetence.

    When you build a boat, the boat has got to float, and a bridge you build has to stand up, …or people die in screaming horror! If Riley’s dogma wins in engineering education, the last excuses for industrial society to be supporting academia will be gone. It is far past time to be building competent alternatives.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Agree about Purdue. I wasn’t aware that anyone this ideologically blinkered was actually in charge of their Engineering school, but it explains one thing at least – how Dan Dumbacher wound up as a Professor there after leaving NASA as head of the SLS program a couple years back.

  • Edward

    You make an important point: where will America’s engineering companies get their people if the engineering schools succumb to the social justice warriors?

  • Laurie


    The one that comes to mind is, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

  • Chris

    Edward: Where will we find our engineers when the “great” schools have gone to pot?
    Grove City College for one – great program, NO FEDERAL MONEY (Just like Hillsdale). In fact, in my 35 years of engineering pointing and tracking systems, medium voltage variable drives and high-speed networks, I have found that it is NOT the school but the individual that makes the difference.
    The exemplary engineers that I have worked with and led were not necessarily the MIT, CMU or Stanford grad but often the Pitt (Johnston Campus) grad who had great intelligence coupled with diligence that was the most effective. Yes, we had the big name grads and they were good – some very good but I cannot correlate the excellent engineer to the big name school.
    Qualities of intelligence, diligence, organization (in mind and operation), personality, integrity and humility – these made the difference.
    The beauty of engineering is (paraphrasing Mike Bright (Grove City professor)) – it the pursuit of truth. The laws of physics and engineering allow no falshood to exist.

  • wayne

    Good stuff!

    Good stuff, as well!
    My daughter went to Hillsdale, and I am extremely satisfied! (extremely)
    (We even have our own brick, on the sidewalk near the student-center.)

    – We wanted her well-grounded in a classical education. She went on to earn her M.S. & Ph.D in chemistry & pharmacological-research from Minnesota & Wisconsin (respectively), and I picked up a genius Ph.D son-in-law, (also in pharmacology) in the process, whom she had originally met at Hillsdale.

  • Edward

    Chris wrote: “I have found that it is NOT the school but the individual that makes the difference.

    I agree, but some schools tend to attract those individuals that make the difference. Not all of them want to go to MIT or Cal Tech, and the best schools cannot take all who might deserve to go there, but presumably those who get in to the top engineering schools are ones who make the difference. The presumption is not always right, sometimes they only get good grades.

    The teacher can make it easier for the student to learn or he can make it harder. But if the school distracts the student away from learning, that makes a difference, too.

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