(See update at foot of article)
Via the Drudge Report, we learn that the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) has just fired one of its bloggers for daring to speak the truth.
The story began when Naomi Schaefer Riley, one of the contributors to CHE's Brainstorm blog, wrote about a recent article in CHE concerning 'A New Generation of Black-Studies Ph.D.'s'. She commented:
If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline [of black studies], the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.
There's more at the link.
Needless to say, speaking the truth like that called forth a torrent of disputing, even despairing commentary from the politically correct readers of CHE. (You can read the comments for yourself below Ms. Riley's article at the link.) Initially CHE encouraged the discussion, but clearly the editors were overwhelmed by the opposition, and caved in. Yesterday the editor announced:
We now agree that Ms. Riley’s blog posting did not meet The Chronicle’s basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles. As a result, we have asked Ms. Riley to leave the Brainstorm blog.
. . .
I realize we have made mistakes. We will thoroughly review our editorial practices on Brainstorm and other blogs and strengthen our guidelines for bloggers.
. . .
One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.
You told us we can do better, and we agree.
Again, more at the link. Check out the comments below the editor's response for more politically correct claptrap.
A finer example of addlepated stupidity hasn't crossed my path in quite a while. The CHE's dismissal of one of its bloggers for daring to speak the truth is a black day indeed (racial pun intended!) for any reputation that it may once have had for quality, impartiality and scholarly achievement. Ms. Riley is, in my opinion, entirely correct in her assessment of the relative lack of worth of the entire black studies phenomenon.
I met a number of US 'black studies' graduates who came to Africa as Peace Corps volunteers or in other capacities (some official, some private) during the 1980's and 1990's. The reaction of black Africans to their American black visitors was usually extremely negative. I heard it said many times, in various ways (none of them polite), that, in so many words, 'these black studies people have their heads up their fundamental orifices'. They were regarded as being completely out of touch with reality. My experience of them bore out this assessment.
Since immigrating to the USA, I've met academics in the 'black studies' departments of five US universities (so far). My impressions of them have not been favorable, to put it mildly. I have no idea why 'black studies' has become such a sacred cow on some US campuses. To me it appears to be valued more for its 'political correctness' than for any academic contribution to the institution or its students. I find no practical value in it whatsoever. It seems intuitive that, if someone wants to study the impact of history, or geography, or economics, or whatever, on any community, they should first study those disciplines (plus others that are relevant to the field[s] under discussion), and then apply that understanding to the community in question. To do it the other way around - begin with 'blackness' issues, then try to apply those altogether nebulous concepts to history, geography, economics, etc - is to put the cart before the horse. It's absurd!
John McWhorter (who is himself black, and describes himself as a 'cranky liberal Democrat') wrote an excellent essay on 'What African-American Studies Could Be'. I highly recommend reading the whole thing. It provides essential balance and counterpoint to the racially charged, politically indoctrinated perspectives peddled by many 'black studies' departments today. I'd like to quote two sentences in particular:
An African-American Studies curriculum whose main message is that black Americans' most interesting experience has always been racism, still is, and that this requires radicalism as a politics of choice is not education. It is indoctrination.
Amen, brother! There's more at the link. Go read.
I get very tired of hearing most Americans talk about racism. I probably know more about real, naked racism and its evils than ninety-nine out of a hundred black people in the USA today, as regular readers of this blog will understand. I also get tired of being lectured to about Africa by black Americans who know less than nothing about the continent. I know far more about it than almost all of them, having been born and raised there, and lived there for well over half my life, and traveled to or through many of the countries on that continent. That background allows me to say with some authority that most 'black studies' academics pretending to teach their students about racism and/or Africa are doing just that - pretending. They know little or nothing about those subjects from personal experience, and their 'book learning' about them has been based on entirely the wrong books, drawing more on political theory than physical reality!
I suggest that American 'black studies' students who want to understand both racism and Africa would do well to leave their academic ivory towers and go to Africa for several months. Let them observe (and experience for themselves) the hardships under which the people of that continent have to live. If that's too far, or too much trouble for them, there's Haiti and other troubled Caribbean islands where they could learn almost as much. They should live and work like ordinary people in their host communities - no comfortable university lodgings, no cafeteria meals, no pocket-money. After such an experience, they'd come back with a completely different and vastly more realistic perspective on the relative importance of 'black studies' in the true scheme of things.
I'm sure the entire academic discipline of 'black studies' would benefit greatly from such an injection of realism. However, I have no hope whatsoever that this is likely to happen - more's the pity.
UPDATED TO ADD: Ms. Riley has published a response to her dismissal in the Opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. I agree with and endorse her sentiments, and I hope and trust that her dismissal by the CHE will open the doors to other, more lucrative and more satisfying assignments.