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August 29 2017

Bourgeois Values Decried as Racist on Elite College Campus

by Charlotte Hays

Amy Wax and Larry Alexander are two law professors who believe that a return to bourgeois values could cure some of the pathologies that ail our culture. They wrote this in an op-ed on bourgeois values in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Clearly, this is hate speech. But then Wax and Alexander really went too far:

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants.

These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

All hell broke loose. The very next day the University of Pennsylvania's Daily Pennsylvanian published an article sneering at the quaint notion that a return to certain values--the editorial cited "thrift, gratitude, temperance, continence, among others"--would be helpful to society. What particularly scandalized the editorialist, however, was Wax's outlandish notion that what were termed "Anglo-Protestant cultural norms" have contributed to the flourishing of American society and could do so again.

Wax didn't cave, and indeed she told the Daily Pennsylvanian:

“Bourgeois values aren’t just for white people,” she said. “The irony is: bourgeois values can help minorities get ahead.”  

Well, this can't stand!

The college newspaper writer recalled that Wax had been called "a racist" after delivering such sentiments at Middlebury College and had "previously drawn sharp rebukes from her colleagues" by taking a stand on marriage that is unpopular in academia.

As Heather Mac Donald points out in an article defending Wax and Alexander, the original Wax-Alexander piece said nothing about race but argued instead for a certain set of cultural norms. But the game was on. Wax critics unearthed a particularly horrifying episode in her past: she had taught at the University of Virginia! Mac Donald writes:

A glad cry must have gone out among IDEAL manifesto writers when they discovered that Wax had taught at the University of Virginia law school until 2001. Voilà! Irrefutable proof of bigotry! “Prior to teaching at Penn, Wax was a professor at the University of Virginia Law School,” the manifesto gloats.

“On August 12th, White supremacists marched through the University of Virginia carrying torches, chanting ‘You will not replace us,’ and yelling racial and anti-Semitic slurs.” The causality speaks for itself, but in case the reader needs help, IDEAL explains that the white supremacy “can find its intellectual home in the kind of falsely ‘objective’ rhetoric in Amy Wax’s statement, which positions (white) bourgeois culture as not only objectively superior, but also under incursion from lesser cultures and races.”

The students may hate racism, but they are clearly short of a logic class or two, and how about a little temperance in argument. Oh, wait--that's so bourgeois.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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