Historians and the Falsification of History

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Some people wonder why an academic like me is so hard on academia. I suppose it is because academia often claims to be pure, beyond bias, able to think critically as opposed to the idiots out there among the common people. Knowing that all those claims are false makes academia a hypocritical institution. This is seen in a number of fields, but one of them is history. Below are some examples of how historians distort history.

I once read a book on the attempt of the Confederate government to arm slaves near the end of the War between the States. The author claimed that very few, if any, blacks fought for the Confederacy and that those who were in support position were generally slaves. However, there are articles from the era of the war in the New York Times and Harper’s Weekly (check the May 10, 1862 issue for an artist’s drawing of blacks helping load a cannon) by reporters who witnessed a large number of blacks in the Confederate camp, some of whom fought fiercely against Union troops. There were free blacks who fought for the Confederacy, not just slaves; estimates of the number of free black Confederate soldiers are at a low of 5000, with some estimates much higher. With slaves included, who could have easily revolted or fled to the North with so many of the men off to war, 100,000 helped in the war effort in support units. While the Confederacy did not formally include blacks by law in the army until 1865, de facto from the beginning they were served the army, perhaps not formally, but in support positions that involved combat when units encountered Union troops. The units were integrated, unlike Union units. Authors who deny that evidence of such is totally missing are either ignorant of it (and thus are guilty of bad scholarship), explain it away (which is difficult to do, given that there are multiple eyewitness accounts of black Confederate soldiers), or ignore it (which is dishonest). Most of the time it’s probably the latter, since I can’t imagine a good researcher missing the references in Harper’s. Thus ideologically driven dishonest is the only reasonable explanation for historians denying a fact of which they have clear evidence.

Another example is Reconstruction after the War between the States. Earlier historians recognized the corruption that permeated Reconstruction, but lately revisionists, mainly of a Marxist bent, have claimed that the reports of corruption and violence were due to biased Southern writers. Given that there are number of newspaper accounts from the time period of rapes and murders as well as letters from ordinary people detailing their fear of walking the street due to Carpetbagger-agitated gangs, this “historians'” conclusion seems more due to ideological bias.

In a conversation I had at an academic conference with a Marxist historian, he denied both the atrocities of Stalin and Mao. Given the overwhelming evidence for the brutal system of gulags, mass purges and executions, the starving of the people of the Ukraine, and the misuse of psychiatry in Stalin’s era, such denial is incredible. As for Mao, around 35,000,000-45,000,000 people died from the effects of his rule, directly through execution or brutality in prison or indirectly through failed agricultural policies. Did this Marxist forget about the Cultural Revolution? Again, this seems to be an integrity matter rather than sloppy scholarship.

While I am not a Classical Liberal, the claims of Classical Liberalism about what worsened the Great Depression should be taken seriously, and yet they are dismissed by most historians I have read with little or no argumentation. Usually the dismissal carries with it a tinge of sarcasm. Such a response, again, is due to ideological bias.

Many historians claimed that Alger Hiss was unjustly charged with espionage, as well as the Rosenbergs. KGB files opened after the Cold War ended have affirmed that Hiss was a Soviet spy, as well as Julius Rosenberg (his wife may well not have been involved). In fact, a number of people the much maligned Senator Joseph McCarthy accused of being Soviet spies turned out to be Soviet spies. The “anti-anti-communism” of leftist historians came into play rather than looking at evidence for or against the guilt of Hiss or Julius Rosenberg. To be fair, many historians have corrected earlier positions based on this new evidence, but the dogmatism with which historians held the earlier position is, at the least, fascinating.

Other events go unsaid by historians:

A number of prominent politicians believed succession was legal before the War between the States, including northern politicians.

Some early feminists opposed abortion on liberal grounds that forced abortion was one of the ways men would try to control and take advantage of women. Susan B. Anthony was opposed to abortion.

The Crusades began as a defensive war–vast swaths of the formerly Christian Mediterranean world had been conquered by Islam, and there were Islamic colonies throughout Europe, especially in Moorish Spain. The Crusades were an attempt to re-take the Holy Land which was lost when the Muslims defeated the Eastern Roman Empire’s troops in the seventh century.

Focusing on violent protests in the South against integration, historians often ignore the many incidents of peaceful integration and the growing grassroots movement for civil rights which may have been more successful with less bitterness resulting than the massive federal and military intervention liberals support.

Historians often play up the atrocities of Christians and downplay the atrocities of Muslims. By the way, I am sure the troops of the Eastern Roman Empire discovered that Islam is a religion of peace. My sarcasm is obvious.

Now there are some fine historians, especially among those who have studied intellectual history. Shelby Foote has written a masterful narrative history of the War between the States. Thomas Molnar, Modris Eksteins, John Lukacs, and Jacques Barzun have written some splendid intellectual history. Thomas J. DiLorenzio has written some works that bring more balance to the study of Abraham Lincoln. David McCullough is a fine historian who is fair who has a flair for style, a rare trait among academic writers. Paul Johnson is a good writer, though his own classical liberal bias gets a bit thick — he’s not a trained academic historian, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Michael Grant is a fascinating writer. I know there are many others, and when I get overly cynical, when I say “There are liars, damned liars, and historians,” I think of these individuals. May more like them come along.



True, There Never Was a Golden Age, but….


Small town Arizona

I enjoy looking through the books other faculty require as reading at the university where I teach–it gives me a sense of the focus of their classes and the gist of the material taught in a particular class. One day I found a book on the 1950s, arguing that it was not a “golden age” for family life, and that families had severe problems then as they do now. My first response was to say to myself, “No kidding.” Only a fool would think that the 1950s or any other decade was some kind of “Golden Age” that bypassed human frailties. Marriages had problems in the 1950s, some spouses were abused as well as some children, and some families were dysfunctional. However, apart from these obvious facts, and apart from useful advances in technology and medicine since the 1950s, it does appear that, despite its flaws, that decade was the last true “Era of Good Feeling” in the United States. It was also the last decade in which a generally Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic was dominant in American thought, even among most Roman Catholics and Jews. Although divorce was sometimes necessary in extreme circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse or serial adultery, in most cases divorce was frowned upon. Although the Hollywood set would get abortions as well as others, abortion was recognized as a grave moral evil. Only a small minority disagreed. Premarital sex occurred, of course, and the hypocritical aspects of 1950s sexual mores are well known, but at least there was an ideal that the wedding night would be a special beginning of  a new life between two people that is sealed by their first act of sexual intercourse. More extended families existed, especially in the South, the Midwest, and (as is still the case today) in the Italian-American community. Although people moved, outside of the military or of upper business management, extensive moving was rare. The new suburbs, for a time, retained the notion of a “neighorhood” with cookouts and regular visits between neighbors. Small town life, though declining, still flourished in many parts of the country. Alcoholism was a problem, as was always the case, but extensive use of hard drugs such as heroin was rare outside some inner city neighborhoods. There was a growing problem with juvenile crime, but most teenaged social life was tame by today’s “standards.” Although conformity was sometimes taken to an extreme, there was a strong sense that the older generation felt a responsibility to rear a virtuous younger generation. Perhaps the “greatest generation” did not understand the degree to which easy access to material things would create the spoiled and self-serving whiners of the mid-1960s onward, but most tried to rear their children with high moral values. My parents told me that at least in the 1950s a person knew whom he could trust. Today, they said, it is difficult to trust anyone.

The “Great Society” and the destruction of underclass society which arose through their dependency on federal aid, was in the future. The vast majority of children, white and black, were born in stable two-parent homes. A strong work ethic permeated most of American society.

This is not to say that the 1950s did not have deep flaws–struggles over race and the threat of nuclear war, for example. However, I would have rather lived in that kind of culture rather than the upside down world of 2012, in which people “call evil good and good evil” and Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values” took place, though not in the direction of the Homeric virtues as Nietzsche desired. Christian culture is rapidly declining in influence, with a new breed of young secularists coming into view who, as Rush Limbaugh (who is right on this point) notes are both desirous of a government “nanny state” to take care of their physical needs while at the same time desiring that the government let them “do their thing” regarding gay marriage, abortion, and other “choices” they deem “personal.” The rapidity of the decline in American character since the 1950s has been astounding. In my own lifetime the world has turned upside down, to the delight of the anti-Christian left and to the chagrin of the few traditionalists standing against the plague of barbarism overwhelming the country.

No generation is unfallen. Yet most members of the 1950s generation would admit when they did wrong. They might do bad things anyway, but they understood them to be morally wrong. Today people strut immoral activity without believing it to be immoral. Academia has been part of the fuel for the fire of relativism, but it is, ironically, an absolutist relativism that denies traditionalists their right to express their views. The universities have become cesspools of relativism, Marxism, and a stifling politically correct orthodoxy. At least in the 1950s, faculty had academic freedom to express their views. Traditional conservatives may have been a small minority, but they were not censored. The university was generally a place of open discussion of ideas rather than the cesspool of radical orthodoxy it has become now.

It is too late to go back–the United States as I knew it as a child is dying. The sense of anomie I and other traditionalists feel has driven some to emigrate from the country and others to retreat to enclaves of like-minded people. In the 1950s I would have felt at home. Even in the 1980s there seemed to be hope for the future. Now I feel like a stranger in a strange land, and I am sure many other people do as well. There are times I want to go back to my grandparents’ house where my parents lived with my sister and I from 1965-1969 and enjoy the simplicity of it all before the madness of the 1960s froze into place in the 1970s. It may be a good thing for Christians, for it forces us to focus on God as the only One who is eternal, the only One who does not change. Going back to the past is pointless–traditionalists have lost the culture. We can trust in God, try to live good moral lives and be good examples to others, be active in church, and enjoy visits with like-minded people without isolating ourselves from the larger society. We know that God will triumph in the end, but until then, we wait “with earnest expectation” for Christ to come.


Voting Straight Republican in Academia


English: A female African Bush Elephant raises...

English: A female African Bush Elephant raises her trunk as a warning sign in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Donkey Face

Yesterday I stood in line over an hour and a half to vote on the first day of early voting in North Carolina. I voted straight Republican, the first time I have voted straight party since 1984. The reaction of liberal academics when I tell them of my vote is interesting (and I admit I enjoy telling them to see their reaction). Most know me so they later laugh about it, but the initial reaction is something like “You’re an idiot.” That can be said in good fun by a true liberal, but the more dogmatic liberals who believe that “the political is the personal” are not saying that in good fun. They truly believe that anyone who votes right of center is either a fool, insane, or a moral reprobate. Now this attitude is not confined to the left–to be fair, I have been castigated in a personal way for not buying into Christian-Israelism or the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Yet overall I have found conservatives, other than a few rabid Neoconservatives, to be more open to disagreement and to discussion than academic liberals. Liberals in the arts also tend to be intolerant in my experience. I try to avoid saying anything political in a group of writers because their reaction makes hostile reactions by academics look like  a kiss on the cheek. Although I strongly disagree with my Democratic friends and family members, I do not consider them morally reprobate. I do believe that they should examine the economy and debt and carefully reconsider their position, but if they stick with the Democrats and with Mr. Obama I do not think less of them as persons. Most Republicans, except for some Evangelicals and the more dogmatic Neocons, react the same way. On the left, older liberals, the working class unionized liberals, may fuss and fume with me, but they will be happy to have a drink with me afterwards. Academic liberals, especially those who are Marxist (most, not all Marxists) tend to divide the world into the class of good left wingers and evil right wingers, and the politics becomes the personal. That is a shame since life is more than politics and people may have other things in common. Democrats have to eat, raise families, make it through everyday problems–and so do Republicans. We are all human beings worthy of respect and, as a Christian, I would say that we are all created in God’s image. Both Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives should get out of the trap of making politics so large in their lives that it becomes a lens to evaluate people’s morality or intelligence.

Ideology as Platonism


English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I was responding to a Facebook post regarding same-sex marriage. As usual, I was irenic, I presented the classic natural law arguments against that practice, and since the person to whom I was responding was Christian, I presented the arguments from Holy Scripture and from Catholic tradition. Instead of engaging in a reasonable discussion over an important societal issue, my respondent (who is homosexual) proceeded to say I was demeaning her, that made her feel less than a person, that she despised people like me. In other words, she resorted to an abusive ad hominem attack instead of rationally responding to my arguments.

The homosexual rights movement is one of many ideologies that came out of the 1960s and early 1970s. Feminism is another and womanism still another. All these ideologies shared a Marxist interpretation of reality in which the group advocates represented was the oppressed and society at large was the oppressor. Recently, homosexual advocates have begun labeling those who disagree with their lifestyle “haters.” Now this is a characteristic of an ideology–no matter how much compassion I show for homosexuals who are “advocates” (note that not all homosexuals agree with their “representatives”), I am, by definition, labeled as a “hater.” It does not matter that I do not hate homosexuals–the ideology accepts the following syllogism:

All persons who believe that homosexual activity is morally wrong are haters.

This person holds that homosexual activity is morally wrong.

Therefore, this person is a hater.

Given my respondent’s ideology, she had no other way to respond.

All ideologies are Platonic in the sense that they propose overarching visions of reality and apply them from at top-down perspective. That is, like rationalism in general, they do not look to sense experience for justification. The only justification is in terms of the axioms of their system, which are taken to be self-evident. Thus if one axiom says that “Anyone who believes that homosexuality is morally wrong hates homosexuals,” then that axiom applies by definition to all people in that class and cannot be questioned. As is the case with Plato’s transcendent Forms, Descartes’ Cogito, or Leibniz’s monads, reality is forced into the mold of theory instead of the theory being checked by reality.

Some versions (not all) of feminism function the same way. If, by definition, all classic literary works reflect male dominance, then scholars needing publications for tenure can search through texts for code words and sentences that reflect such male domination. In the case of Marxist ideology concerning the economic system, those who are in the bourgeois are, by definition, exploiting the proletariat. Mr. Obama’s use of class warfare recognizes the power of such a position (even though he has been more of a Chinese-style “state capitalist” than a dogmatic Communist). Envy is a powerful emotion, and if it can be justified by definition, then government should “make the rich pay their fair share” (whatever that might be).

Platonic political philosophy supports a top-down view of government–the same government is best for all people–the rule of philosopher kings (and queens). Such a position is held by Neoconservative and social democratic ideologues who desire to “spread democracy to the entire world.” The geography, history, and culture of a particular state is ignored in a naive attempt to mold the state into the pattern preferred by the Neocons or social democratic hawks.

Ideology has a convenient way of resorting to ad hominem arguments when its basic principles are attacked. After all, if they are self-evident, the person who does not recognize them is, at the very least, ignorant–and possibly reprobate as well. This position cuts the ground from under rational discussion of important societal issues and dangerously divides people into hostile groups. Ideology is, as Nietzsche recognized, a form of the “will to power,” and in a society only filled with ideologues the fundamental ethic becomes “might makes right.” This is a prescription for societal chaos. If people feel forced into a corner because of ideological labeling, and rational discussion is out of the question, what is left but assertion of raw physical force?

Aristotle recognized, in theory at least, that understanding the world requires a bottom-up approach. While all observation is “theory laden,” this does not abrogate the fact that knowledge of reality arises from the senses. Thus, unlike Plato, Aristotle placed forms in things, and held that states should follow the system that best suits their history and culture.

As Alasdair MacIntyre recognized, the only way for communities with different values can rationally discuss issues is by having the person in one community “put himself in the shoes” of someone in another community to understand that community’s values. Once that occurs (and it must be a mutual process), then rational discussion can take place. Agreement may not be reached, but there should remain a feeling of mutual respect.

Russell Kirk famously said that conservatism is not an ideology, meaning that the form that conservatism takes in a particular state will depend on the history and culture of that state. Conserving key societal values is not a matter of imposing them, Platonic-Formlike, from above–most likely one will only come up with one’s own a priori values to apply to everyone. Rather, conservatism should have a deep respect for the way things are in the actual world. There may be need for change, but this is done slowly and with appropriate concern for the history of a people.

God forbid that American society melt into a soup of competing ideologies. The end of the United States as we currently know it (what’s left of it, at least) will most likely result.

Nostalgia for the New Critics


Image of U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren

Image of U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Penn Warren (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The field of English is in shambles, and the Modern Language Association is a gaggle of voices for various interest groups based on race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Dissertations in English appeal to Derrida and Foucault long after they became passe in France. A presentation on any topic by any writer at a conference sponsored by a college or university English Department that does not mention the four “code words” listed above will be considered quaint and out of date by most of the audience. Much of the radicalism in academia stems from English Departments (although other departments can be guilty as well–philosophy, with its analytic bent, may be narrow in methodology, but at least it eschews the relativism of many people who call themselves “postmodern”). Although many English professors are old-fashioned social democrats who are liberals, not radicals, the radicals have a missionary-like zeal in pushing their agenda. This agenda is anti-Western Culture, anti-traditional Christianity (and Muslims take note–if Christianity were to falter in the West, Islam would be the next target of the radicals, who are engaged in a “divide and conquer” strategy now). When radicals take over, ideological diversity dies, and the departments become as one-sided, closed-minded, Puritanical, and bigoted as religious Fundamentalists.

I long for the days of John Crowe Ransom, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, and T. S. Eliot. They may have failed to give psychological and sociological factors sufficient treatment in literary criticism, but their focus on a close reading of the text is surely a better approach than seeking the alleged hidden motivations of the authors. From the New Critics I have read, I see no evidence that they denied the existence of polysemy, but they limited their discussion of polysemy to what was suggested by the text and various historical and mythological allusions found in the text. Postmodern criticisms of the New Critics seemed to confuse the New Critics with European Structuralists–Structuralism was more narrow in approach than the New Criticism, must more Platonic than Aristotelian in approach, much more abstract than concrete. Structuralism deserved the scathing critique of Derrida. The New Criticism was a horse of a different color.

With the emphasis on “newness” in academia, the decline in the New Criticism had to be replaced with something, and that something included Marxist, feminist, womanist, African-American, and queer approaches to literature. Some approaches (such as Marxism) were not necessarily subjective, but the other approaches I listed are largely subjective. Since the advocates of radical theories consider themselves social reformers, including reformers of the academy, they push their agenda like a Fundamentalist preacher pushes being saved from hell fire. The resulting cultural rot spreads to other humanities departments, to the extent that it is difficult to blame students who do not want to major or minor in the humanities. Frankly, I cannot blame them–the New Criticism probably offered more that is relevant to their lives–Shakespeare’s plays concern the universal human experience of revenge, pain, suffering, and happiness. The New Critics could at least point out where the text does relate to students’ lives. Poststructuralists focus so much on polysemy and a political reading of the text that students walk away in disgust. They should be disgusted. Let’s bring out some “New New Critics” to restore intellectual coherence and sanity to English Departments.

Stop Being So Sensitive!


I am utterly sick of sensitive people–not those “sensitive” in a good way, but those people who are professionals at being offended in order to get their way or get money. Those after money are only different in degree than someone who points a gun at someone and says, “Hand over your money.” Discussing certain issues is taboo at many colleges and universities due to the intimidation and (sometimes) violence of the left. Consider what has happened to conservative speakers who come to college and university campuses. While some are treated with respect, others have been shouted down or threatened physically (as Tom Tancredo was treated a few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, when a brick was thrown through a window by a thuggish group and

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at th...

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his talk was cancelled for the sake of everyone’s safety). In other cases, academics have lost their jobs when they criticized the politically correct mainstream–I know one personally. Most of them have either gotten their jobs back or been given a settlement since, thus far, the courts have respected freedom of speech. That could change in the future as Mr. Obama‘s appointments pile up in the federal judiciary.

Stifling discussion of controversial issues or only allowing one side to express itself does not allow room for learning and discussion. Some of the most productive class discussions I have experienced are when I bring up controversial topics or express “non-politically correct” positions. For example, I am morally opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Usually I am the only person in class holding that positions, and students are free to argue with me (and they do–vehemently). I learn something from their arguments and hopefully they learn something from mine. What if some “sensitivity Fascist” had said that my position on abortion should no longer be part of the “public square” because it offends some people? Since when did college and university students gain the right not to be offended. I do not mind the Marxist professor two doors down from me expressing his views to his classes as long as students are free to disagree and are not penalized for their positions. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if Marxist positions can be presented, so can conservative positions in economics, morals, philosophy, and/or religion.

There are so many issues on which this nation is deeply divided–sexual ethics, racial issues, gender issues, issues regarding the role of government in combating poverty, issues surrounding health care. If discussion is halted just because someone is “offended,” this only serves to increase resentment on the part of those who disagree with the position of the professional sensitive person. We become even more divided and angry at one another. The best way for the culture war to become a true war rather than a war by means of language is to stifle discussion.

If “sensitivity training” really dealt with bad behavior, I suppose there would be no problem with it–men and women are wrong if they are in a supervisory position and request sexual favors from an employee before they promote that employee. That is unethical and illegal, and it should be. If someone constantly tells sexual jokes after being warned not to several times, that is bad behavior that can and should lead to termination from a job. But a man who is of equal rank in a company to a woman surely has the right to ask her out unless the company forbids inter-employee dating. Often a woman really will have plans on the day the man wanted to go out, so he will ask her again. Now if she says no then, if I am not mistaken, society generally says “two time’s the charm” and the man should not ask her out again (although there are men who married women whom they asked out many times–and they remain happily married). If some professional sensitive woman whines about sexual harassment when a man asks her out in a nice way on a date, this is oversensitive behavior from someone who either hates men, is a psychopath, enjoys hurting people, or wants easy money. Have some common sense, folks!

Racial issues have become so sensitive that many people won’t talk about them lest someone be offended. I do not deny that there are racists in our society–every society has them–and that sometimes racists will discriminate against those of a different race. When the race card is overplayed, however, in cases in which it is unwarranted, eventually any racial incident comes across as “crying wolf” and genuine incidents of racial prejudice may be unnecessarily ignored. When any criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies is labeled “racism,” that ignores the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies–including some who voted for him. I do not hate or even dislike Mr. Obama, but I disagree with a number of his policies–and that does not make me a racist. I am a conservative, so of course I will disagree with Mr. Obama on some points. What else would you expect?

Liberals gain their power by playing on the sensitivity and resentments of people. They play up the envy the poor have for the middle classes and the wealthy. They emasculate man by calling any comment “sexist” that does not fit their radical feminist agenda of changing human nature, either by denying differences between males and females or trumping up “female virtues” as superior to “male virtues.” Those positions are self-contradictory, of course, but to the liberal, especially to the “postmodern” liberal, coherence is not a truth preserving condition.

As outspoken as I am, I keep some positions to myself, not because they are wrong, but because I know there would probably be a professional sensitive person in the audience who would misrepresent my beliefs–knowingly. On religious and moral issues I am more outspoken. Political issues are not values free, but they are contingent matters about which people even of similar world views disagree, and I must pick my battles. But I have grown more outspoken over the years because I am sick of a false, hypocritical “sensitivity” stifling discussion, especially of conservative positions, on issues important for the good of society.

Why Library Sales Have Such Good Choices in Books

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Historic works in a Bookshelf in the Prunksaal...

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I love library sales. Lately, I love them even more. The choices in books, especially the classics of Western literature, are incredible. Libraries are discarding good books so they can make room for those from a multicultural perspective. With all the officially accepted minority groups (African Americans, Arabs [Muslim Arabs, not Christian Arabs], Latinos, women [feminists only], homosexuals [only when they write on gay culture]), libraries are hard-pressed to include all these perspectives without discarding a large number of books. The books that suffer most are those that reflect the great tradition of Western Culture from its ancient roots in Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Jewish and Christian thought to present day writers who focus on Western culture. Thus, poorly written, highly politicized books from a predominately Marxist perspective (Marx through the lens of Marcuse) replace literary classics, science books, and any other work that does not reflect a so-called “minority viewpoint.” For traditionalists, this situation provides a great opportunity. We can go to library sales, buy the fine books they have, and be enriched by the treasures of Western Culture. Those individuals who only read politicized pseud0-scholarly pablum will become dumber than ever. The bad thing about this situation is that people who visit libraries are exposed to intellectual left-wing multiculturalist ideology rather than to good, or even average, literature and scholarship. The course libraries and educational institutions have taken will leave the common person isolated from Western Culture unless he knows the Internet provides excellent options for reading great classic works. For more recent material, say, in popular science, the common person will have to look elsewhere than a library if he wants a good selection of books. Libraries today, especially academic libraries, are becoming more ideologically driven as library schools take over the values of multiculturalism, moral and epistemological relativism, and a lack of respect for Western civilization. Those of us who take advantage of the intellectual void in some libraries should buy wisely, read the books, and use their insights to live a better life–and to teach others the value of works that are classics, of informational guides in science–of any work that can increase knowledge and encourage wisdom, the wisdom that helps a person to develop good moral virtues. Hopefully students who miss good books in the library will go online to see which books are available. Years from now, what is left of Western Civilization might be preserved by some customer at a library sale.

The Sin of the Poor

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Bolshevik Party Meeting. Lenin is seen at right.

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No person is immune to moral evil. Whether moral evil entered human nature at some specific point in human evolution in some updated doctrine of the Fall in Genesis or whether it has always been infecting human character, “all have sinned.” Now the Liberation Theologians have noted that there is a bias toward the poor in the Bible–and that is true. But there is also a tendency in Marxist and liberal democratic circles to place the poor in a special category of people who are somehow immune to the Fall. In that category, the poor join women and racial minorities. Somehow the people in these special groups are immune to the evil of wealthy Eurocentric Americans.

But this view is false. Both rich, middle-class, and poor are morally flawed. If the sin of the rich is arrogance and lack of charity, and of the middle classes a worship of financial stability to the exclusion of higher goods, the great sin of the poor is envy.

Not all poor people envy the rich. But many do. They resent the fact that someone has more than they. I understand the impulse–as a child growing up in a lower middle-class, working class home I was frustrated at not having all the things the “city kids” had. Few feelings make a person more miserable–and more filled with hatred–than envy. I would rather be in rage with jealously any day than be filled with envy.

Thus there is a subset of the poor who want to take the hard-earned goods of the middle class and the rich for themselves without putting in the necessary effort. Either they break in and steal, or they steal by other means, becoming dependent on government to get them the “good things of life.” Sometimes envy results in a combination of the two ways of gaining property.

As a teacher, I have students from all socioeconomic classes. Students from wealthier families tend to be materialistic and desire to keep their lifestyle–I grant that. And some of the middle class students would prefer to be like the richer students in socioeconomic status. But, to my surprise, it is oftentimes the students from less prosperous backgrounds who are the most materialistic. I tell them I only want a car that gets me from point A to point B, and these poor students respond that I should desire the nicer things of life, including a luxury car. Those poor have bought into the lie that American society tells them, that true worth comes from wealth and status. Plato and Aristotle recognized long ago that true worth comes from a virtuous life, not from the accumulation of wealth, but my students of all classes do not see it that way. When envy leads to a sense of entitlement, trouble begins, either by the poor robbing people on the streets or engaging in illegal activities for a quick source of income, or by their robbing the taxpayers by refusing to take the time and effort to work their way up the socioeconomic ladder.

There are many, many poor people who do try to work their way up the socioeconomic ladder, and some do quite well for themselves when it comes to material goods. And there are poor people on small family farms who would not trade their lives for the world. But those who are envious are dangerous, for they hate those who have more, and it does n0t matter to them whether those who have more worked hard for their possessions. The envious want what they want NOW. Envy and resentment led the Bolsheviks into power in post-Czarist Russia, and such envy and resentment can destroy the freedom that we Americans enjoy. When the Left puts the poor on a pedestal and pampers their envy, they pave the way for a ruinous pathway for America’s future. Only by recognizing that all people are part of the basic human condition, including moral faults, can envy and other sins be, at least in some small part, overcome.

Academia: A Diamond-Filled Cesspool

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P Education

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Such a title may appear strange coming from an academic. I enjoy academic, and my undergraduate and graduate school training changed my life, I believe, for the better. Through my education, I learned how to critically think beyond my childhood Fundamentalism without giving up Christian orthodoxy. I learned the wonderful field of philosophy and experienced reading some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world: Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Alfred North Whitehead, and many others. Sadly, if a young person were to talk to me about going to college or university, I would tell him, “Go, but remember that academia is a cesspool, and sometimes you have to dip your hands in s..t to gather up the diamonds.

What damaged the integrity of academia was the radicalism of the 1960s. The history of such radicalism has been documented by David Horowitz and Robert Bork, so I will only give the broadest details. After the 1962 Port Huron Meeting, in which the Students for a Democratic Society were radicalized under the leadership of Tom Hayden, they began to work toward revolutionizing higher education. Influenced by the Frankfurt School, especially the thought of Herbert Marcuse, they desired to bring about a Marxist society by changing the culture, rather than by changing the government. After the student protests of the 1960s and the early 1970s, many of these radicals attended graduate school and got their Ph.D.s. They believed that race, class, and gender (what some have called “the unholy trinity”) determine one’s identity. The Humanities became dominated by such thought, especially English departments. At a conference on Southern literature at which I presented a paper, I believe that my paper (on Wendell Berry) was the only one that did not focus on race, class, and/or gender. A young lady presented a paper that espoused relativism based on the unholy trinity. In the question and answer session I pointed out the contradictions with any kind of relativism, and she readily admitted their existence. When I talked privately with her, I found her to be a traditionalist and a Christian. When I asked her why she presented a paper presenting views with which she did not agree, she said, “I must do what is necessary to get a job.”

To use another term found in discussions of academia, these “tenured radicals” gained control of many departments of English, History, and even Music—they were not as successful in philosophy departments. Once they gained control, they hired only clones of themselves. As a result, many students are exposed to a distorted view of English literature or American History. Instead of focusing on the classic core of literature, for example, Shakespeare is often not even required for an English degree. “Underrepresented writers” replace the great writers of the past. The reason Shakespeare and other writers are in the core curriculum is their ability to express universal meaning through the particularities of their literature. The purging of the classics affects libraries, as they rush to order books to gain the proper balance of “race, class, and gender” and discard classics.

Class discussion is poisoned. Female students are taught to focus on grievances, and men are often portrayed as evil, greedy, and lecherous—to the point that even consensual sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is portrayed as a man raping a woman. Racial differences are emphasized, and minority races are taught to focus on how the majority society has mistreated them. Traditional religion is mocked, especially traditional Christianity, which is portrayed as a tool of the ruling class to keep down women, minorities, and the poor. “Multiculturalism” and “diversity” are code words—they do not refer to teaching about other cultures such as India or China—they are code words for “black and Hispanic.” This kind of multiculturalism distorts the rich cultural diversity found in different black and Hispanic communities. It also promotes a naïve relativism that claims that no one culture is better than another. Such a view poisons moral discourse because if relativism is true, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Pol Pot’s Cambodia could not be morally censured. If a student questions the radicalism of the professor, oftentimes the student’s grade will suffer.

How can a student find the diamonds within the cesspool of academia? First, he should, to the best of his ability, choose his teachers carefully. Choose teachers who are willing to hear both sides of an issue, no matter what the teacher’s political views might be. Avoid professors who are known to push their agenda and who punish students for politically incorrect speech. Speaking of which, many colleges and universities have adopted “speech codes” to control politically incorrect speech. Now if such speech referred to truly offensive and insulting speech against a group of people, I could at least understand why a speech code was adopted. But speech codes can be used to censure politically or religiously conservative talk. If a student is punished for breaking a speech code, for example, by defending the position that practicing homosexuality is morally wrong, that student should fight that conviction, in court if necessary. Students should be willing—and be strong enough—to speak up and defend their own positions.

A student can also take elective courses on the classics, such as an elective course on Shakespeare. A student might orient his term paper around a classic work of literature, philosophy, or around a major historical event. Many classics are now online, and some students might be interested in reading them in their spare time. I know of a few students who read classic texts and who do not buy into the radical left’s understanding of human history in terms of the unholy trinity. Of course math and science courses have not, for the most part, been politicized, at least in terms of a strong left-right split.

If anyone teaches a course in Classical Rhetoric, a student should take it. The skills taught in that course are seldom taught today—and they aid both in grammar and in logical reasoning. Taking logic is also something that would benefit students.

I make this next suggestion with some concern that today’s students may not have the discipline to handle classical languages, but students should learn at least Latin, and ideally Greek as well. This teaches not only English grammar, but discipline, and opens up the world of the classics in their original tongues to students.

It is possible to find gold nuggets in the cesspool of academia. The main task for parents is to be aware and do their own homework in finding a school that will encourage a person to think, that will not indoctrinate students, and which focuses on a classic core of literary and philosophical works.