The swift firing of the renowned chemist Maitland Jones by New York University is still being discussed in the academic world and even among the commentariat that generally would have moved on to the next topic the day after the event had occurred.
Perhaps there is something perturbing about an 85-year-old esteemed professor who had had a distinguished career at Princeton before joining NYU being fired under such nefarious circumstances. After 82 of his 350 students signed a petition complaining that his organic chemistry course was too difficult, and that they did not like the way he ran his course, he was discharged. They further claimed that he lacked empathy; empathy towards those students who had family problems and mental health issues. But basically, his workload was regarded as too demanding against the backdrop of myriad courses students had to take aside from chemistry.
That less than a quarter of his students (23.4%, actually), could marshal enough power to have him discharged from a career spanning over five decades is frightening and disgraceful. Not one of the students came forward and publicly identified him- or herself. They signed a petition anonymously—these cowardly perverse members of the Olympics Oppression team who fail to realize that college is designed to provide one with skill sets and information in particular fields and then to certify that the individual has mastered them. Universities and colleges, too, are not just educative institutions. They are ones that, in the ideal sense, weed out those who are unfit to be in them; that is, those who fail to qualify to meet the standards required to be certified as mastering the skills and knowledge in a field, whether it be in chemistry, medicine, history, nursing, the law, or philosophy. We are, though, wedded to the egalitarian progressive idea that everyone who enrolls in a university has a constitutional and democratic right to graduate. Hell hath no fury like a parent whose child, after repeatedly failing all his courses, is given an honorable and noble piece of advice: The academic life is not meant for you. You’re smart, and your smarts lie in a trade school. You’d actually make a superb plumber, or carpenter.
But back to Professor Jones. How did we arrive at a point in our society where 82 village idiots had the temerity to make such preposterous demands, and were granted the institutional power to have their intellectual superior fired from his professorship?
The problem lies in liberalism itself. The over-democratization of all the culture spheres in our American civilization—from the arts, to education, the entertainment world, the worlds of science, and medicine, and finance—coupled with a belief in egalitarianism: the belief that we are all equal. It is such an untenable idea that it is almost embarrassing to comment on it. Certainly, we ought to be equal before the law, and before God we all have equal moral worth. But in intellectual, moral and physical attributes we are most emphatically not equal. Some people are more intelligent than others, more beautiful than others, more frugal, athletically superior to others, and more virtuous than others. However, if we harbor the belief that no one is better than anyone else at anything, then it is just a matter of time before we must democratize truth and all truth claims.
Egalitarianism is not a direct attack on reason and logic or even the traditional criteria for adjudicating among truth claims, although today those methods are cast off as the racist constructs of imperial European white men. The consequence of egalitarianism is that if we are all regarded as equal, then all our personal private truths will be viewed as having equal epistemic value, including the claim, my college course is too difficult and so my professor should be fired.
All truth claims are deemed equally true. None is more truthful than the other except when it comes to those truth claims uttered by those claiming to be victims harmed by an alleged oppressor class. Then their feelings and their grievances become weaponized and constitute unassailable truths against the criticisms or high standards of others. Those criticisms and high standards become codified as expressions of violence and abuse.
Under hyper-democratization there is not any proper vetting. There is no rational discrimination. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs have permanently killed that civilizational requirement.
The problem is that those 82 students were let into the future, so to speak. This is the promise of liberalism that, taken to its logical terminal, fulfills. It razes the mountains, so no one has to scale them to get the high view. The mountains are razed, and persons of ability are forced to stoop to meet the lowest common denominator of the masses and reflect back to them a vision of their own uninspiring mediocrity. There is nothing emulative in that picture, nothing on which to pin their aspirational identities; just a narcissistic desire that others kill the highest possible within themselves and adopt stylized vulgarity.
Observe the following: the singer/rapper Lizzo glamorizes obesity when there is nothing glamorous or pretty about it (obesity along with the comorbidities that accompany it, are the number one killers of black women in the United States); gangster-thug rap that celebrates violence, gang, and pornographic culture now permeates all spheres of our culture; in the spring of 2023 UC Berkeley will be offering a course on the female rapper Nicki Minaj called: Nicki Minaj: The Black Barbie Femmecee & Hip Hop Feminisms.
There is no lower place in educational and cultural hell for us to descend into.
Those 82 students are not the cause of the utter moral, intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy that is at the heart of our secular, liberal culture: they are the symptom of a rot that comes from the rampant egalitarianism that emerges from a massive surge of democracy undergirded by ethical and cultural relativism.
Professor Jones is an elitist in the best sense of the term. He is a human being who has embodied standards of excellence in his person and discipline. Elitism in this sense has a moral upshot to both the trait and to the practice of it. It is not an inheritance or an endowment. It is, rather, an achievement earned through grit, honor, resilience, perseverance, tenacity, failure, success, audacity, and merit. One cannot whore one’s way into the pantheon of human greatness by screams, shouts, claims of grievances, or by weaponizing one’s infantile feelings against those whom one wishes would be more compliant and a little less competent.
What we need are more conscientious defectors from the Parthenon of excellence who are complicit in upholding mediocrity and the substandard. They need to break with the herd and stop pandering to obstreperous children and plain dunces out of fear. We need more outspoken individuals who will not be afraid to be part in what may now seem like a Darwinian vetting process. Too many social ballasts have been allowed to raze the mountains and sink the ships traversing the world built by giants. We need rational discriminators who are not afraid to admit to themselves and to others that there is, unfortunately, as hard as liberalism has tried to negate this truism, the following: that some people are simply outside the historical process. Leave them alone to find their way. But do not let them destroy the epoch-making processes and events effected by achievers. Do not let them infect the process with their idea pathogens and embodied mediocrity by destroying a culture of greatness some are trying to create and preserve.
They had their chance to participate, and they failed. Everyone has a democratic right to fail. Failure is built into the nature of reality.
Algorithmic Analyst says
If they flunk the course, they should be allowed to retake it until they master the material.
Yes, that is how most progressive states obtain the referendum vote that they want
Obtaining the result, they want by repetitive attrition or potluck
In your case some students would be there eternally.
I do not agree with the methodology of exams as they select for question answerers as opposed to question askers, BUT they do mostly weed out the useless and the incompetent.
Del Varner says
I agree. If a student shows enough drive to keep trying after suffering a setback like a bad grade, that is good. Two bits of past history to share from my time as an undergraduate at Berkeley in the 70s:
1) First quarter freshman engineering students had to take Calculus, Physics, an Engineering course, and one other I can remember. It was a heavy load that tested your resolve to become an engineer. The classes were arranged in such a fashion that come finals week you had four finals in a row, and finals were up to three hours long. Somehow, many student managed to get through it.
2) I once got a “D” in a computer science class. In this case, some of the fault was due to the professor grading the work in the class like an idiot–on project was worth 90% of the grade, although many students did the work and got a decent grade. I retook the class the next quarter–his grading had changed–he graded the logical pieces of the same project separately. I got a “B” that time. I did learn the material.
THX 1138 says
On whose dime?
On a Free Market of higher education with the student, his parents, a private scholarship, or someone else paying out of his pocket for the student to be educated this crap wouldn’t be happening.
THX 1138 says
On whose dime?
On a Free Market of higher education with the student, his parents, a private scholarship, or someone else paying out of his pocket for the student to be educated this nonsense wouldn’t be happening.
J.J. Sefton says
My hair hurts every time I read someone – especially on our side – state we’re a democracy. We’re a REPUBLIC, at least on paper. It’s not being pedantic because it is a crucial point that the Left uses to beat the snot out of us.
David Ray says
Not a surprising outcome when faculty lack courage or ethics.
Bret Weinstein of Evergreen University took a stand against a woke mob of facistic students pushing racial segregation. The timid faculty bent the knee, and Bret was forced out.
James Bennet, an editor at the NYTimes, allowed Tom Cotton to publish an oped. For the sin of supporting the First Amendment, woke employees had a drama-queen style reaction. The owners also submitted to hissy fits, and kicked James to the curb.
Other examples abound.
Sandra Larson Gonzales says
It’s such a travesty
They are coming for all
Don’t hire a Dr under 40
THX 1138 says
Is a philosopher that keeps trying to combine Objectivism and Christianity the result of philosophical egalitarianism?
Or just fear of coming out of the Objectivist closet?
Kynarion Hellenis says
Thank you for this article, beautifully, powerfully and passionately expressed, Dr. Hill.
Jason Hill says
Thanks very much, Kynarion. I appreciate your support and kind words
David Ray says
What’s unfortunate are the circumstances that required him to pen the article in the first place.
In a surreal world where woke trash have transvestites teaching 1st graders to POLE DANCE, we either become complacent, or . . .
Well, here is solid documentation of 82 individuals that are guaranteed to fail in life, long term.
My first year in college, at an University highly respected for its sciences curricula, I was to take a full year of Organic Chemisty. This course was given in alternate years, Thus all freshmen and sophomores in any given year would take it together. It fell to me to take as a freshman, There were about ninety of us all told. No aloowance was given the beginning students, you were there to master the material. The onus was on YOU. If you bombed out you could not take it for two more years, and thus you were finished because OCHem was required for later coursework.
So I rolled up my sleeves and jumped in. I remember the final exam… part of the test was to follow a stick molecule diagramme through a sequence of chemical reactions, accurately predicing the new sitck molecule diagramme as the reqction sequence progressed.a The molecules in question were complex organic compounds some in common use, others not to much. One misplaced chemical bond at, say, stage three in the chain would bom the rest of the reaction chain, resulting in a no credit for that chain. Harsh? Well, I hope so. but consider… mastery of this wold be a critical qualification for anyone going into medical chemistry, the development of new drugs, treatments, etc. That world is sort of a one wrong move and your patient is dead situation. What was that about ‘first do no harm”?
‘There was one extra credit sequence of reactions. It being the era of new psychochemicals and such, and LSD being a new light on the horizin (and Tim Leary being a notorious character) I happened to have, out of curiosity, done some investigation of this chemical and its synthesis. I happened to recognise the starting molecule as Lysergic Acid. Hmmm.. it was reacted upon wiht something else, resulting in a new molecule, whith in its turn was reacted upon again, and I believe a fourth reaction. Ay student should hav e been able to identify the active “end” and how the next reaction would affect it. And so on down the line to the final result. The whole sequence was the synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide. , or LSD as it was commonly called. Not only did I get every step of the reaction correctly, I named each compound along the line. The only one out of the ninety who got the reactions correctl.
I’ll wager two things here:
One, that not one of the 82 signers of the firing squad could pass the final exam
Two not one of the 82 signers of the firing squad will succeed much in life. No moxie. No perseverance. No determination. And an overabundance of whine.
Maybe flipping burgers at McDonalds, IF they get hired before robots replace the hired help. They’d certainly never be part of the team to design or build the robots themselves.
They will likely blame their upbringing, and be partially correct.
David Ray says
Different times. Genuine standards of excellence were the standard – back when you strived for it.
I still remember pampered idiots in the 90’s marching in protest that they were required to at least HAVE A PASSING GRADE to get taxpayer dollars for their “free” education.
Thankless fools armed with an entitlement mentality never ends well.
(Marine Corp required one to earn it – at least back then.)
Where was the faculty to have this outstanding professor’s back? They threw him under the bus based on a bunch of entitled, navel-gazing whiners who don’t have the mental fortitude to work through what is an admittedly tough subject. I would have failed organic chemistry miserably if I had taken such a course. Most university programs have courses that are “tougher” than others. What do these whiners expect – a bed of roses until they get their degree? How does that prepare them for the vicissitudes of real life? And in their jobs? Quit when things get tough (while expecting to be paid mega-bucks for their mediocre contribution)? This is one more example of the “idiotization” of the current generation.
David Ray says
The ones in charge of Universities have no concept or moral courage; they only calculate how best to placate a mob.
First thing I ask when hiring is what classes they took. If they brag with enthusiasm the “studies” they passed, I reject ’em with more enthusiasm.
The level of cowardice displayed across all facets of our society is truly mind boggling.
I wish my Mother was still alive. The power contained in her mommy finger would have sent these 82 cretins back under the rock they climbed out from.
Yusuf Murjani says
Thanks Prof Hill; college should not be kindergarden! I worked really hard in my 4 organic chemisry courses in college. I went to a foreign high school where we had no labs and war/mobilization resulted in only a month of chemisry during an entire academic year in my senior year of high school. The really hard chemistry classes for chemistry and physics majors at Penn State and the Morrison & Boyd textbook were not easy. I sacrificed social life, some sleep, and other leisure time to put in the time and effort to get 3 As to make up for my first C so I would pass and get good grades . I learned diligence, perseverence, logic, resourcefullness, postponement of gratification, goal setting, To this day I have tremendous respect for organic chemists. I learned to work harder, smarter, and longer . I’m now retired after getting a life sceince doctoral degree and patenting new drug formulations that directly drew upon what what I forced myself to learn in a course designed to weed-out those who were less serious and those less fit for careers in science and medicine. Gratitude to the tough professors, whose names I have forgotten, and to Sami Talhouk, PhD from Lebanon, a gifted and caring college chemistry treacher who loved teaching more than research and a great humanitarian who came from a differfent war torn middle east country.