Left-Wing Madness at Butler University

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.


Earlier this week, a link at Instapundit led me to a piece by one Ryan Lovelace, a gutsy college journalism major who has dared to tell the truth about the curricular lunacy at the place where he’s studying, “a small Midwestern liberal arts institution in Indianapolis” called Butler University.  His primary focus is on Political Science 201: Research and Analysis, a class taught by a black woman who calls on students, in the name of “social justice,” to use “inclusive language,” meaning language that “affirms sexuality, racial and ethnic backgrounds,” and so on, and that, Lovelace writes, expects students “to disregard their ‘American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status’ when writing and speaking in the classroom.”

If it is unclear to you what any of this might mean in practice, join the club.

Jay Howard, Butler’s dean of liberal arts and sciences, offered Lovelace the explanation that all this was about “leveling hierarchies” and complained that part of the reason why leveling those hierarchies is such a bitch is the English language: “We don’t have a generic singular, I mean we have he and she. There is no pronoun that is gender-neutral there.” For my part, I can’t easily think of a Western language in which that isn’t the case, but of course, as always, Western civilization is doubtless at the heart of the whole problem: presumably there are plenty of wonderful, sensitive non-Western languages with non-gendered singular pronouns that, if adopted in Indianapolis and environs, would much better serve the noble cause of progress toward an all-inclusive, gender-blind utopia in which all those nasty old hierarchies will be as leveled out as a parking lot. (Want paradise? Put up a parking lot.)

In any case, as Lovelace argues, and as Dean Howard’s comments would certainly seem to confirm, “the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Butler University believes its students were raised as racist and misogynist homophobes who have grown to harbor many prejudices, a stance that is both offensive and hostile to any student’s ability to learn.” Lovelace – who tells us, incidentally, that he quit that ridiculous Poli-Sci class (rah!), and who also mentions almost parenthetically that an “education” at Butler costs 40,000 simoleons a year – notes that while he expected, when he first headed off to college, “to hear professors express opinions different from my own,” he “did not expect to be judged before I ever walked through the door, and did not think I would be forced to agree with my teachers’ worldviews or suffer the consequences.”

One of Glenn Reynolds’s readers at Instapundit commented that she’d taken a freshman seminar at Duke University in which the first thing the professor told them “was that we were all white male supremacists” – including her, “a half-Asian woman.” Readers of Lovelace’s piece offered a cornucopia of similar autobiographical tidbits. For my part, my first thought on reading Lovelace’s piece was that most of his fellow students at Butler would probably be better off at a school where you actually go to learn how to be a butler.  At least that would be more useful, career-wise, than the kind of bilge that that Poli-Sci prof is peddling.

My second thought was that Butler might almost have been named for our favorite fourflushing academic hustler, Judith Butler, whose world-class flair for empty but formidably pretentious hokum has made her the doyenne of the contemporary humanities, in which essentially content-free “studies” (Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, Fat Studies, etc.) are spreading like kudzu. But no, it turns out that Butler University was founded way back in 1885 by an abolitionist named Butler. How sad that an institution established by a man with a real cause has ended up as an overpriced grab-bag of all of today’s academy’s most fashionably pietistic pseudo-causes.

It’s wrong to pile on Butler University, of course. It’s just one more depressing example – out of thousands – of the way in which inane orthodoxies have come to rule the roost in the humanities departments of North American campuses. But three cheers for Lovelace: for the more examples students can provide of the ubiquity of this folderal, and of its impact on their efforts to acquire a real education, the better. For the most striking thing I’ve learned from the response to my own current book The Victims’ Revolution, which addresses this deplorable phenomenon head-on, is that there’s an amazing amount of resistance out there to the fact that this kind of thinking really does dominate humanities divisions nowadays, and/or to the notion that there’s anything terribly wrong with it.  I’m quick to point out in the book that, yes, there are exceptions – humanities programs, departments, and even whole universities that have dodged the postmodernist bullet.  Indeed, even in some of the most appalling departments in the worst affected colleges and universities it’s not uncommon to find individual professors who provide students with first-rate educations in their fields.

Yet, as I’ve come to realize, part of the explanation for why these oppressive, lockstep orthodoxies continue to thrive at so many institutions of higher education is that even professors who in theory are – or should be – fiercely opposed to them have arrived at a kind of modus vivendi with them, and in some cases have even come to identify with them in, say, much the same way that many diplomats representing free countries come to identify with, and are in many cases even prepared to excuse, justify, and vouch for the character of, fellow diplomats who represent the vilest and most tyrannical of regimes.

How else to explain the review of The Victims’ Revolution that appeared in Reason – the (usually) eminently reliable libertarian magazine that boasts its enthusiasm for “free minds” and “free markets” and that one would not ordinarily expect to be particularly happy with the patterns of ideological indoctrination addressed in my book? The reviewer, a nominally libertarian professor at Auburn University, insists, contrary to my claims, that fields like Women’s Studies, Queer Studies, and Chicano Studies do indeed give “due [and presumably valuable] attention to the experiences and perspectives of groups that have traditionally been marginalized and oppressed in Western societies.” He also slams my “superficial, dismissive, and often insulting treatment” of supposedly important “thinkers” such as the shrill propagandist hacks Catharine MacKinnon and Judith Butler. And he suggests, in the name of “critical engagement,” that students would “gain more from studying both Aristotle and [Michel] Foucault, both Samuel Butler and Judith Butler, than from studying just the one or just the other.”

What quickly becomes clear is that the “libertarianism”  of Reason‘s reviewer is a peculiar thing indeed, which does not prevent him for a moment from approaching his postmodernist colleagues’ approaches to education – based, in large part, on the totalitarian prescriptions of Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire – with a benign collegiality. But then again, as it turns out, this purported libertarian is a man whose response to 9/11 was to pen a thoroughly serious open letter to “Mr. Osama bin Laden” in which he broke the following dark news to the addressee: “You have become George Bush.” In short, the man from Reason is the sort of morally bankrupt moral-equivalency maven who, as a rule, can only be found either raving on a street corner or comfortably ensconced in some academic sinecure – an individual, that is, who, even as he seeks to dismiss my book’s thesis, is in many ways the very embodiment of the out-of-touch ivory-tower tomfoolery of which both I and Ryan Lovelace of Butler University have had quite enough.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    And this article is further proof of the following commentary's efficacy -http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/21/the-paradox-pitfalls-of-liberal-democracies-in-a-time-of-immoral-relativism-the-havoc-wrought-by-leftist-academia-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

    And the fact of the matter is that conservatives only recently woke up to the dangers within western academia, particularly from the US, as the heretofore leader of the free world.

    But it is not over until it is. NO time to waste to beat them back, exposing them in the process. They are indeed a danger to western civilization. NO doubt about it.
    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – ww.adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • cmdorsey

      AdinaK: I totally agree with you. And it's become so much more clear, especially in the last 5 years. I thank God my daughter will soon be finished, she only took classes at small community colleges but I'm thankful she's not in high school any longer either. My older daughter and son-in-law have a 2 year old son and live in a town of about 5000 in which it too has become a sanctuary city for illegals. So anyone who owns property pays for those kids also, that's why school districts are so happy to have so many kids attending when the school gets around $5000-$6000 per student, illegal or not. And when it comes time to vote for a sales tax hike or vote for a bond to build on or improve the school structure, guess who will vote YES everytime, those who have no skin in the game. I feel the best way to fight this is to start taking all kids out of public schools and stop sending them to colleges. Now that the govt is in charge of student loans, and the majority of the universities are mostly administrators, some even have 8 vice-presidents AT ONE COLLEGE. So it's simple for them to keep raising tuition, govt. hands students big checks, which goes to the faculty members and taxpayers are stuck AGAIN with the bill. Especially what is going on now. Students get a 4 year or 8 year degree for what? There are NO jobs. So why waste the time? If there are no jobs, how in God's name will the loans get paid back? They won't. WE, taxpayers are stuck. Just my opinion. But we need to collapse the schools/colleges and start the heck over.

      • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

        cmdorsey, a COMPLETE collapse is in order, and alternate institutions must be established. Places where true critical thinking can evolve, sans indoctrination of any kind!

        But this blogger would leave Caltech & MIT standing, for they truly are the only two worth a damn, despite MIT's random humanities courses, which are rotten too, but the crux/core curriculum is rock solid in engineering/science/tech. Ditto Caltech. Caltech is a gem of a school, but only the fittest survive. It is that brutal a program. Spent a fortune on both programs and don't regret one penny of the investment, as attested to in the commentary above.
        Adina Kutnicki, Israel -www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

      • Bungard

        It should be noted that many faculty members, especially adjuncts and instructors, are paid fairly modest wages in comparison with the cost of tuition an colleges and universities, public and private. The rising cost of tuition is not proportionally going to enhanced salaries for those teaching students.

    • Herbster

      Go to any journalism school today and ask the students why they have picked this "Profession." The answer will invariable be, "Because I want to change the world," or, "I want to make the world a better place." Higher education today should be called Highway Riobbery Education. Examine the salaries and benefits of the presidents of universities. Overpaid so-called professors leave the teaching to assistants and grad students. So called teacher's colleges are probably the worst, turning out union driven drones whose most important learned skill is stapling a union placard to a stick and walking in a circle. Here in Texas the two year colleges are getting students who need remedial classes in reading, reading comprehension and basic writing. A properly constructed sentence? What's that? Our high schools here have a "Spokesperson." I guess the Principal cannot speak for himself. Sounds like a show-up-when-needed job to me – at 60K to the taxpayers. However, isn't the continuing dumbing down of society part of "The plan." After all, isn't the result of our past election proof of its sucess?

  • objectivefactsmatter

    Rod T. Long is an idiot with a fan club, like most liberal professors. Yes, he's a liberal, not a libertarian.

    Update from his own blog: "I’m Roderick T. Long, Professor of Philosophy at Auburn University. I’m an Aristotelean/Wittgensteinian in philosophy and a left-libertarian market anarchist in social theory."

    Oh, THAT kind of libertarian. That describes the occupy movement very well. You get upset, you join the mob and attack the class that oppresses you.

    • tagalog

      If he's an Aristotelean, do his beliefs include the ideas of Aristotle that women are inferior to men, and that some people are genetically fit only for slavery?

      • intrcptr2

        Can't respond to that, but since he is a "market anarchist", I think we can be pretty sure he agrees with the old, dead white guy that flies have 4 legs…

  • Herb Benty

    Please remember America that in the Comunist Manifesto, Marx realised America could not be beaten head- on. America would be conquered from within. You have been invaded by Muslim extremists, and Marxists even attaining the Presidency. The desire for free stuff is killing the country I love and it is sad to watch from my already invaded country of Canada. Lord Jesus Christ please deliver us from this EVIL.

    • cmdorsey

      Herb Benty: My dad passed away the year the marxist got infested the Oval Office, 2009. He was an AF veteran stationed in Iceland in the mid-50s as an airplane and radar mechanic/specialist. But 2009 was the worst year I've had so far in my 54 years. My dad saw it coming, even though he was sick. Before he was sick, he and I would sit for hours and talk about what was happening. We knew it was. We knew the schools were being infected by unions, D.C. was crooked and corrupt and now our elections are infected with filth. Americans, the ones with any brains, have been robbed of at least two elections by Soros, moveon.org, fieldworks.com (ACORN) in different name only. 2008 and 2012. It's so damn frustrating to have worked your whole life, starting at an early age of 9 or 10 helping on the farm and loving it. And feeling self-respect for having a career lasting 25 years with NO college degrees. I just got myself 2-3 part time jobs, worked myself up and your bosses usually saw your good work ethic and you moved up. Not all are made for college. In my opinion, a good majority of students with no degrees have better work ethic and common sense. Anybody can be BOOK SMART and have NO common sense.

      • objectivefactsmatter

        "In my opinion, a good majority of students with no degrees have better work ethic and common sense."

        These days, the traditional path to education doesn't guarantee much at all.

        Hang in there…the message will get out to more people and a consensus will build. Most political movements are like a pendulum and we've got to make sure we are putting our efforts in the right direction with patience and perseverance, then things will go our way because our ideas are clearly better, being based on reality (all sarcasm aside).

    • Mary Sue

      ironically things have gotten so bad in the USA that it makes our country of Canada seem SANE in comparison! It's like the countries are having a role reversal.

  • Stern

    So the problem with the English language is that "There is no pronoun that is gender-neutral". wow, Thank heavens it's not like German and so many other languages that assign gender to just about all nouns! Imagine the fun we could have if we now decided that a table is female and a table cloth is male. Yes, the cloth goes OVER the table.

    • Mary Sue

      the hilarious part is German has a "neuter" gender assignment to certain objects/pronouns.

      Yeah, the fun you can have….with French! Where a dog is male and a door is female!

  • "gunner"

    i have been accused, several times, of having a college "education", i deny the charge vigorously. i was fortunate in learning to read at an early age, and happily discovered the world of books for myself, and now the internet, with the knowledge of the world and ages literally at my fingertips and free to take and learn. "college", thank you but no thanks, i can seek and find for myself.

  • Questions

    A black female professor who demands "inclusiveness" and "appreciation of diversity" from students? Ugh. A prison. I'd rather spend my tuition money on a dominatrix.

    A small caveat: Bruce Bawer initially refers to Butler University as though he's never heard of the place. It has about 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Its basketball team played Duke down to the last second in the 2010 Division 1-A championship game before losing. Hardly small-time.

    • intrcptr2

      5,000 students is small to medium in the US.

      And athletics play no role in modern academia concerning "small-time", its the library that matters, not the gym.
      But then that sort of warped thinking is part of why we're here discussing the depths to which American learning has fallen, init?

      • gunlady

        However, you will notice that most of Butler's basketball players actually graduated with legit degrees, some even at the top of their class; no basket weaving courses there. It is a good school with one bad professor.

  • Thomas Wells

    I'm shocked,shocked to find that there is left wing madness going on at colleges and universities in America!

  • jacob

    [Research and Analysis, a class taught by a black woman who calls on students, in the name of “social justice,” to use “inclusive language,” meaning language that “affirms sexuality, racial and ethnic backgrounds,” and so on, and that, Lovelace writes, expects students “to disregard their ‘American-ness, maleness, whiteness, heterosexuality, middle-class status’ when writing and speaking in the classroom.”]

    So this leftist loon "professor" is asking to "affirm" sexuality, racial and ethnic backgrounds and "disregard" these characteristics at the same time. Quite a feat!

    • intrcptr2

      "…and "disregard" these characteristics at the same time"

      Just the ones she does not share…

  • Ghostwriter

    I have no idea what she was talking about.

  • jemaasjr

    What we call the humanities contribute so little and damage so much that they do not need to be replaced, they could just be dropped.

  • Loyal Achates

    WHAT??? Using college to make students think about the world from a new perspective?? Those crazy libruls!!

  • JustWrite

    The education in this country is dismal, to say the least. Mostly because, out of all of the comments to this article, no one has dared to consider that this professor may be actually making a good point. If Lovelace is feeling attacked, challenged, then good. It's supposed to be a challenge. It's college. But then again, this is America where every whiny, snively individual can complain that something is too hard or 'that hurts my feelings.' Grow up, Lovelace and embrace the wisdom that might come your way. Use the disdain that you have for this professor and what she's requesting and ace the damn class. You might actually learn something.

  • F. D. Thomas

    I am Butler graduate, Class of' '51. I used to make moderate annual contributions to Butler. I stopped doing that several years ago after a preponderance of evidence piled up to support the idea that my alma mater had become a bastion of left wing thinking and teaching. The left wing professor he speaks of heads the political science department. She also writes a race based column frequently for the Indianapolis Star. I shudder to think that she is in a position to spread her socialistic beliefs onto the minds of young, impressionable students.