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.