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September 19 2017

Latest Banned Ideas:Bourgeois Norms

by Charlotte Hays

Don't expect college kids to pick up the kinds of values that in the past enabled them to get jobs and succeed in life.

Two college professors became the center of a storm last month for advocating unacceptable ideas such as getting married before having children, working hard instead of being idle, and avoiding crime and drug abuse. What retrograde ideas.  

At the University of Pennsylvania, where Amy Wax, one of the offending professors teaches, a dean wrote an oped in the student newspaper noting  that “contemporaneous occurrence” to publication of Wax's outlandish piece was the white supremacist rally at Charlottesville.

The dean of the institution where Ms. Wax's coauthor, Larry Alexander, teaches, the University of San Diego (a Catholic  university that might be expected to embrace such outlandish ideas as hard work and marriage), issued a memo repudiating Alexander's ideas, which apparently were harmful to “vulnerable, marginalized” students who suffered from “racial discrimination and cultural subordination.”

Heather Mac Donald addresses the "bourgeois norms" controversy in today's Wall Street Journal:

Two aspects of the op-ed have generated the most outrage. Ms. Wax and Mr. Alexander observed that cultures are not all “equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy.” Their critics pounced on this statement as a bigoted, hate-filled violation of the multicultural ethic. In his response, Penn’s Dean Ruger proclaimed that “as a scholar and educator I reject emphatically any claim that a single cultural tradition is better than all others.” But that wasn’t the claim the authors were making.

Rather, they argued that bourgeois culture is better than underclass culture—specifically, “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks.” The authors’ criticism of white underclass behavior has been universally suppressed in the stampede to accuse them of “white supremacy.”

The op-ed’s other offense was extolling the 1950s for that decade’s embrace of bourgeois virtues. “Nostalgia for the 1950s breezes over the truth of inequality and exclusion,” five Penn faculty assert in yet another op-ed for the student newspaper. In fact, Mr. Alexander and Ms. Wax expressly acknowledged that era’s “racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism.”

None of the professors’ high-placed critics have engaged with any of their arguments. Mr. Ferruolo’s schoolwide letter was one of the worst examples. The dean simply announced that Mr. Alexander’s “views” were not “representative of the views of our law school community” and suggested that they were insensitive to “many students” who feel “vulnerable, marginalized or fearful that they are not welcomed.” He did not raise any specific objections to Mr. Alexander’s arguments, or even reveal what the arguments were.

Instead, he promised more classes, speakers and workshops on racism; more training on racial sensitivity; and a new committee to devise further diversity measures. Stronger racial preferences will most certainly follow. The implication of this bureaucratic outpouring is that the law-school faculty is full of bigots. In reality, Mr. Alexander and his colleagues are among the most tolerant people in human history, and every University of San Diego law student is among the most privileged—simply by virtue of being at an institution with such unfettered intellectual resources. The failure of administrators like Mr. Ferruolo to answer delusional student narcissism with obvious truth is an abdication of their responsibility to lead students toward an adult understanding of reality.

What are university administrators and faculty so afraid of? The Wax-Alexander op-ed confronted important issues responsibly and with solid grounding in social-science research. Each of these administrative capitulations sends a message to professors not to challenge the reigning ideology. The result is an ever more monolithic intellectual environment on American campuses, where behavioral analyses of social problems may not even be whispered. What happens to America if those banned ideas turn out to be true?

The response from the University of San Diego was particularly significant as USD has one of the highest percentage of non-leftist faculty members than any college in the country.

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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