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The universities of Canada have worked like a gold mine for progressives. Many of the professors cited in the article have multiple research grants, contracts with government departments, awards for research and teaching, are fellows of the Royal Academy and, in at least one case, is a member of the Order of Canada. I could go on for pages citing their academic honours. University Affairs might have done its readers a greater service publishing an article entitled “The Racism Industry in Academia.”
One would think that after decades of widespread employment equity and the creation of entire departments and programs dedicated to the grievances and resentments of minorities and women, these academics would have some achievements to call for. Then again, why give up on what has been a most remunerative profession? Can these specialists do anything else? They don’t care much for Western high culture. Their research and teaching interests stand in direct opposition to the Greek discovery of rational argumentation, the Roman legacy in jurisprudence, the invention of polyphonic music in medieval France, the invention of linear perspective painting in Renaissance Italy, the invention of the novel in modern Europe, the calibration of uncertainty in Europe (1565-1657), the rise of Galilean and Newtonian science, and indeed the invention of Liberalism and Democracy.
What really matters for progressives is not equality of opportunity as a right but equality as a fact and equality as a result. This is why they have started advocating a way of thinking about merit consistent with “equity and diversity.” Grace-Edward Galabuzi, associate professor in politics at Ryerson, thinks that “When you have a critical mass of PhDs in a whole range of disciplines, the issue of whether you have to choose between [race] representation or quality [is] moot.” Tom Patch says “excellence in the academy requires equity and diversity.” The goal, it seems to me, is to enforce some racial or sexual balance rather than to encourage intellectual openness and variety. Professor Backhouse even says that those administrators who fail to make progress on diversity should be condemned as “not meritorious.” Excellence requires agreement with her agenda.
Anthony Lising, a professor of education at Stanford University, says that non-whites are better at integrating knowledge and political activism than whites — from which observation he suggests that they are rather excellent scholars. Others advise that the curriculum should place less emphasis on European culture, find new ways to adjudicate qualifications by advertising jobs in “community” papers and relying on “personal contacts” for hiring purposes. Dr Kobayashi wants nothing less than a campus-wide strategy commanding every faculty to offer an anti-racism course or a full program so that all students can learn about white racial attitudes.
Looking at the courses offered in Canadian universities, one wonders if the attempt to teach Western high culture is itself now seen as offensive. It is difficult to think of ethnic and gender courses as requiring any mental discipline internal to themselves apart from the foregone ideological conclusions for which they were created in the first place.
White academics welcome this blanket indictment against the “unearned privileges of white faculty” – to use the heading of a letter published in the subsequent issue of UA (December 2010), by Susan Gingell, professor of English at Saskatchewan. There were two letters published in this issue in response to Eisenkraft’s article; by Gingell, in which she suggests that whites are failing to recognize their “racialized privileges,” and by Baljit Singh (quoted in the article) in which he compliments Eisenkraft’s “balanced story.” Never mind that not a single contrarian view was mentioned in this article. In the “comments to this article” in the UA website, there are four comments currently listed (Dec. 5, 2010), each of which agrees with the accusations.
White progressives firmly believe that these impressionistic and anecdotal allegations are legitimate. Peggy Berkowitz, the editor of UA, calls them “serious” and praises Eisenkraft’s attentive journalistic habits. Not a few academic minorities – all too human as they are – have welcomed this state of affairs.
Indeed, racism has become a catch-all explanation for many of their everyday difficulties: the struggle to achieve good grades, publish articles, handle students who are skeptical of leftist policies, or just plain coping with bad affairs and unfriendly people. Whites and progressives don’t mind castigating the “structural racism” of the institutions they inhabit and operate daily. The culprit is not any one of them in particular, but the “structures” of Western culture, the family, capitalism, white masculinity, and the classics. The generations paying the price for an education based heavily on a “Studies” curriculum – Mothering Studies, Environment Studies, Peace Studies, Asian Studies – are the students coming out with a BA believing that truth is only a reflection of one’s own ethnicity and sexual orientation.
Dr. Duchesne is a professor of sociology at the University of New Brunswick, Saint John campus.
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