Skip to comments.W. Churchill __ A sad look at a sick academic bubble. (this article is great, don't miss it)
Posted on 02/10/2005 3:21:02 PM PST by Lorianne
The recent controversy over the writings of Ward Churchill, radical activist, faux Indian, and tenured professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado, raises a number of serious academic issues which, let me underscore, does not mean that Churchill himself is in any way serious. On the contrary, Churchill is as unserious as anyone ever paid to stand in front of a classroom, an intellectual featherweight whose ideas are less politically scandalous than buffoonishly wrongheaded. Case in point is his assertion that the victims of the World Trade Center attack got what was coming to them: "If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."
Churchill's own attempt to clarify what he meant by this is telling: "I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as 'Nazis.' What I said was that the 'technocrats of empire' working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of 'little Eichmanns.' Adolf Eichmann was not charged with direct killing but with ensuring the smooth running of the infrastructure that enabled the Nazi genocide. Similarly, German industrialists were legitimately targeted by the Allies."
To make sense of Churchill's clarification, a reader has to accept the following premises: 1) the United States government is actively and intentionally engaged in genocide; 2) the hijackers, contrary to their own claims, were attempting to defend individual freedom rather than advance a totalitarian spiritual regime; 3) the ideological agenda of the hijackers represents the true aspirations of the people on whose behalf they claim to act.
Each of these premises is false based on a preponderance of evidence. But that understates the point; all three are so utterly false that failure to recognize their falsehood, in effect, betrays a cognitive disability. Yet I'd estimate ten percent of American college professors and I'm low-balling that figure would accept them as probably or at least partially true. (If you substitute "corporate capitalists" for "the United States government" in the first premise i.e. "Corporate capitalists are actively and intentionally engaged in genocide" assent among college faculty probably rises to 25 percent.) These are credentialed adults who are initially hired to instruct, and who are eventually tenured to profess...yet they're professionally, stupendously, tenaciously, defiantly, demonstrably wrong.
That is the gist of the problem.
If we take as axiomatic the principle that colleges exist in order to pursue and disseminate the truth, it follows that no accredited mathematics department would employ a teacher who denied, say, that base angles of an isosceles triangle are equal; that no physics department would employ a teacher who denied the force of gravity; that no chemistry department would employ a teacher who denied that protons and neutrons are found in the nuclei of atoms; that no biology department would employ a teacher who denied that green plants convert light energy into chemical energy by photosynthesis. The hard sciences, in other words, are bound in their fidelity to truth not only by traditional logic and empirical evidence but by a demand for coherence within a framework of what is already known. Faculty in hard sciences seek to push the envelope of knowledge, not to "deconstruct" it. (Deconstruct v.t. To affect intellectual depth by teasing out secondary and tertiary senses of a term until it belies its original meaning.) It is exceedingly rare, therefore, to find a professor in a hard science espousing irrational, unsupportable theories.
Not so in the social sciences. To be sure, no history department would, in the current academic climate, employ a teacher who openly argued that the Holocaust never happened. But this is a matter of political expediency, not material certainty. On the contrary, many history departments employ teachers steeped in postmodern thinking, who hold, for example, that the perception of a reality existing independently of thought and language is illusory, that "reality" is in fact a linguistic construct of the phenomena of subjective experience which is continually adjusted in response to a fluid social consensus. But if there's no such thing as an independent reality, then there can be no reality check. There's no test for truth. And that, my friends, is Holocaust denial one step removed. Postmodern thought has taken root across the social sciences, spawning all manner of loopy theoretical posturing in history, psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, political science, and even philosophy itself.
Still further down the epistemological food chain come literature and art, pseudo-disciplines hoist on the ouija-board wonkery of aesthetic judgment. The truth value of a work is gauged neither by correspondence with an independent reality nor even, for the last quarter century, by it coherence within a canonical framework; rather, truth value is a function of whether the work pleases the teacher. Subjectivity, therefore, rules. Literature and art departments often employ faculty members whose theories are not just at variance with one another but are mutually exclusive. It is not unusual, nowadays, for two students at the same college to sign up for the same survey course the same semester with two different professors and discover they're learning nothing in common.
But the epistemological nadir of any university is found in the wacky world of ethnic and gender studies: black studies, Africana studies, Chicano studies, Latino studies, Puerto Rican studies, Middle Eastern studies, Native American studies, women's studies, gay and lesbian studies, et al. The suggestion that "studying" is involved in any of these subjects is laughable; they are quasi-religious advocacy groups whose curricula run the gamut from historical wish fulfillment (the ancient Egyptians were black; the U.S. Constitution was derived from the Iroquois Nation) to political axe grinding (the Israelis are committing genocide against the Palestinians; the U.S. is committing genocide against the people of Cuba) to gynocentric self-help (reasoning from verifiable data is a tool of male domination, to which the experiential impressions of women are a necessary antidote) to circumstantial special pleading (Lincoln was gay because, well, he was a nice guy; Hitler, not so nice, therefore not gay). Contesting the status quo is the raison d'etre of these departments. No idea is beyond the pale except, of course, the suggestion that the status quo might somehow be valid.
Which returns us to Ward Churchill, professor of ethnic studies, University of Colorado. In one sense, he's like a thousand other burnt-out refugees from the 1960s who avoided a full-time job long enough to acquire multiple university degrees. Along the way, however, he convinced lots of people that he was a Cherokee Indian apparently on the basis of an honorary tribal membership and thus tapped into the vast reservoir of white liberal guilt flowing through the halls of academia. Most critically, he found outlets to publish crypto-Marxist rants and thereby distinguished himself from the vast majority of his invincibly ignorant peers. That publishing record, in turn, allowed him to command not only his tenured professorship, but activist committee posts and lucrative speaking engagements at campuses nationwide.
So who published Ward Churchill?
Well, there's AK Press. Publisher's mission statement:
AK Press is a worker run book publisher and distributor organized around anarchist principles. . . . Our goal is to make available radical books and other materials, titles that are published by independent presses, not the corporate giants, titles with which you can make a positive change in the world.
Then there's South End Press. Publisher's mission statement:
Since our founding in 1977, we have tried to meet the needs of readers who are exploring, or are already committed to, the politics of radical social change. . . . In this way, we hope to give expression to a wide diversity of democratic social movements and to provide an alternative to the products of corporate publishing.
Finally, there's City Lights Books. Manuscript submission guidelines:
City Lights Books is a publisher of fiction, essays, memoirs, translations, poetry, and books on social and political issues. We publish a dozen new books a year and are committed to providing the finest works of vanguard literature and oppositional politics.
In other words, Churchill hooked up with like-minded lefties, networked himself into book contracts, parlayed these into academic prestige and political name recognition and thus a wholly unserious man who says wholly unserious things wound up being taken very seriously. In a more rational world, Churchill would be an amateur conspiracy theorist with a chip on his shoulder, the type who spends an hour on hold with CSPAN to spew 15 seconds of venom before Brian Lamb cuts him off.
In our world, Churchill is a cause célébre.
So what's to be done with him?
The fact that he has tenure must, I'm afraid, be taken into account. Firing him, or forcing him to resign, might be morally satisfying but would be a tactical error. It would confer martyr status on him, and it would be interpreted by his students, and by Churchill himself, as punishment for speaking the truth to power. Besides, the fault here does not lie with Churchill; he's a symptom, not a disease. The fault lies, generally, with the sick academic culture in which he has thrived, and, specifically, with the administrative weasels at the University of Colorado who have repeatedly rewarded his dubious critical achievements. What should be done with Churchill, therefore, is...nothing. His notoriety should stand as an ongoing monument to the decay of intellectual standards in higher education, and his professorship as an ongoing monument to the intellectual cowardice of the school which hired and tenured him.
Thus, inadvertently, Ward Churchill might teach us all a lesson
Exactly. Boycotting the Univesity of Colorado is the best plan of action to stop the spread of this disease. He's right, it's really not about W. Churchill, the problem is much bigger than one blowhard.
Chuchill is a repugnant human being. But I want to see this extremist dope paraded around as a liberal freak show to the country. He is what the left is all about these days. Let people see its true ugliness.
courtesy of Boazo
"Along the way, however, he convinced lots of people that he was a Cherokee Indian"
And John Kerry isn't Irish. Those who disliked him the most didn't think much of his Irish routine, it was just another character flaw.
Has anyone said this guy can't teach a classroom on Indian History or Ethnography? Maybe he does it well.
You betcha. When my daughter (now 11) starts looking at colleges, you can be darn sure that Mom will be investigating each school very carefully as well. UC is off the list. I wonder what UC alumni and others (who may fund endowments to UC) will have to say. Vote with the pocketbook, that may get their attention.
Ward Churchill, the face of the democrat party.
Maybe its time to see if people can endow some new Universities No tenure,no ethnic Studies
And he makes $97,000/year to work 7 months max. Suspect he can retire pretty early and still get a decent hunk of change since he is a government employee.
If we take as axiomatic the principle that colleges exist in order to pursue and disseminate the truth, it follows that no accredited mathematics department would employ a teacher who denied, say, that base angles of an isosceles triangle are equal; that no physics department would employ a teacher who denied the force of gravity; that no chemistry department would employ a teacher who denied that protons and neutrons are found in the nuclei of atoms; that no biology department would employ a teacher who denied that green plants convert light energy into chemical energy by photosynthesis.
But you know what? Thank God for Ward Churchill!! He is sending sales of our book through the roof, because people can easily see what good academics/scholarship is (us) and isn't (him). Go Ward! Sell more of our book!
Very good analysis.
Years ago my two oldest kids spent some time in that hippy refuge. One of them, the most impressionable, still hasn't recovered from his years of "study" at UC Boulder. BTW, Boulderites themselves describe Boulder as "70 square miles surrounded by Reality".
And his speaking fee at other universities is $3,000 per lecture. I am amazed how Hamilton and other universities are ready to throw money away. Looks like Churchill's nonsense has been generating a lot of profits for him.
He may teach it well but if he took the job under pretenses of an affirmative action set aside that means he cheated a legitimate American native candidate out of a job!!! That's cold and cruel - bastard...
that's $97,000 per year he's been stealing from Anerican natives
But they do have a nice mascot
I wouldn't say that "nothing" should be done with Ward Churchill. For example, there's no reason why Sen. Harry "Ward Churchill" Reid, or Kent "Churchill" Conrad, or Barbara "Churchill" Boxer shouldn't be made to publicly support the right of this anit-American nutcase to demand the U.S. be erased from the planet. I don't know how the 'Rats could defend him and 'reach out' to rural and red state voters at the same time. And if the 'Rats rebuked Churchill, they'd piss of their Churchill-Moore-Dean-gra$$root$ base.
[money=student fees and tuition paid by parents, or taxpayers' money, if it's a state school]
Brilliant, absolutely breath-taking analytic thinking. Thank you for an INCREDIBLE post!
Anyone who imagines that this might be an exaggeration hasn't been on a college campus in a good long while. And it's not just a few campuses: victimology is the received orthodoxy in the liberal arts and social sciences nationwide. Nor can students bypass these courses. Many of them fulfill the "diversity" requirement mandatory for all majors.
"The fault lies, generally, with the sick academic culture in which he has thrived, and, specifically, with the administrative weasels at the University of Colorado who have repeatedly rewarded his dubious critical achievements."
Such a good article makes such a glaring mistake. Who really determines which professors get what rewards? Not administrators--other faculty! The inmates run the asylum. Lefty tenure committees choose who gets hired and who gets tenured; dept admins are tenured profs who want some extra bucks and less teaching; same with deans; etc., etc., etc. Ward Churchill's peers are just as guilty--they recruited him, hired him, promoted him, provided peer reviews, voted him for awards, etc.
The whole system is sick. I would never waste a nickel on anything academic program in the fields of study they list in this article. It's just plain disgusting.
If the broke the ethics code of teaching he should be fired and make sure it's known it's not about free speech it's about telling the truth to academia.
Him and Moore should do a road movie together, the Road to Tenure, maybe?
But they need a repugant female to play the traditional love interest. Susan Sarandon? Sharon Stone? Who?
Maybe a male of indeterminate sex? Ben Afflick? The guy who plays Apollo on the new Battlestar Galactica?
I understand bugmenot.com will provide a login to rate chief runamuck on the site you found.
Two Colleges that are worthy of your consideration:
Hillsdale College (Michigan)
Ave Maria College (Florida)
...other freepers, feel free to add to this list of good colleges for conservatives.
CU-Boulder Alumni Association Koenig Alumni Center Boulder, CO 80309-0459 (303) 492-8484 or (800) 492-7743 General Info Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Just kidding, of course. We are above that. Still, this might be a good address to send grievance letters.
Northern State University, South Dakota
A concise and accurate description of postmodernism, deconstruction, and the rot that invaded the social "sciences" sometime in the 70's. There is a similarity between the worldview of the adherents of this academic fad and the actual structure of their canon - both are composed of obscurantist jargon that fronts for a void.
Boycott the universities and ridicule Churchill and same university just for fun.
Look at the courses. Do not allow her to go to any college that offers a degree in Peace Studies ( Marxism) or ethnic studies (denigrating Western Culture).
It's time to start petitioning State Legislatures to defund these institutions.
Going to college should be entirely tuition based. The legislatures may selectively award scholarships based on merit.
[money=student fees and tuition paid by parents, or taxpayers' money, if it's a state school]
You are right, this is a great article. Are you 100% sure quidnunc didn't beat you to the post?
Goldblatt just gets better and better, he even wrote a obit for Sontag that pointed out some good things she'd done/said. I thought that was his best ever, then a read this one, and it was even better!
Thanks for posting this!
What's ethical about claiming a heritage you don't have?
Shouldn't there be (tenured or not) some standards that if you teach ethics, you actually have ethics?
To all, thanks for all the links and suggestions. Daunting sometimes, isn't it?
I attended Stanford and mrs tom h attended Hanover College, yet we are doubtful that our children will attend our alma maters because of the rampant liberalism.
I have been cataloguing possibilities -- we are a Christian family so you will find some of these on the list:
Hillsdale College, Hillsdale MI -- the Stanford of the right.
Patrick Henry College, Leesburg VA -- most of the Bush Administration interns come from here.
Grove City, Grove City PA -- famous for rejecting matching Federal funding.
Thomas Acquinas College, Ojai CA
Ronald Reagan University -- planned for somewhere in Tennessee.
There will be more. But even age 18 is too young for inflicting liberalism on children.
Excellent take on Churchill,
except this unwanted scrutiny seems to be bringing to light that indeed the ethics studies professor is less than ethical, beyond the issue of his native American status
I did hear that UC was going to review all his writings because it appears Mr. Churchill has a little problem with plagiarism and making up facts.......
gasp.....gee he's seem like such an honest grounded in reality kind of guy, NOT
of course I hear cheating and plagiarism are no biggy in the left leaning world of academia anymore - I refer to the big Harvard Law cheating school scandal as one example
I am hearing more and more about teachers who give their students failing grades for plagiarism and their useless parents browbeating even public school and high school principals until they reverse the failing grade - in my day, my parents would have punished me more severely than the school for such indiscretions, of course I would have never even dared nor considered cheating in school.....then again I was smart so I guess I didn't have to cheat, LOL
I remember a teacher in the US quit last year because the kids were told right at the time of the assignment, you will fail if you are caught plagiarizing off the internet
sure enough a bunch of kids did ( please children footnotes are not that hard - footnoting and paraphrasing are not difficult skills) and their parents moaned and groaned so the kids didn't get a failing grade, by order of the principal so the teacher quit because the administration didn't back her up and she couldn't countenance the bad message being sent......
ain't it ironic, the left leaning world of academia is in fact actively creating the next generation of Enron executives.......and NY Times journalists, oops.....
Hear hear. Cloaking themselves in the credibility of science. I think of Freud and Boas.
seems like you have strong values and if you instilled them properly they shouldn't have a problem......Hell, I went to UC Berkeley which you going to Stanford know that both those universites are outstanding academic institutions which is why I went. Sure I was surrounded by liberalism but it never was as bad as the press would have you believe, and it never dented my entrenched conservative values and viewpoints learned from my excellent parents. I just hate ot see otherwise smart kids not go to great universities cause they are "scared" of the liberals....is 18 also young to inflict conservatism on them also.....
It should be ETHNIC STUDIES.
Bump for Patriot's History.
"Has anyone said this guy can't teach a classroom on Indian History or Ethnography? Maybe he does it well."
Somewhere around here is the thread on how he made up the history of germ warfare against the Indians by the US Army. If by "does it well" you mean "makes it up as he goes along," then you may be onto something.
HEHE. This guy "bumps" us just by opening his mouth. Honestly, people who would have thought we were "conservative" listen to Churchill and think, "these guys are downright centrists!!!"
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