As an 18-year-old studying both history and education at the University of Sydney, I’ve quickly come to realise the greatest intellectual challenge my generation faces is the barrage of cultural revisionism, left-wing indoctrination, post-modernism and the fabrication of history. All this and worse at what is supposedly the most prestigious university in the southern hemisphere. What my experience so far has brought to mind is the slow indoctrination, generation by generation, that truth is a matter of the relativity. I am now in a position to confirm that there is indeed a crisis in liberal education, as Allen Bloom observed in The Closing of the American Mind:
The crisis of liberal education is a reflection of a crisis at the peaks of learning, an incoherence and incompatibility among the first principles with which we interpret the world, an intellectual crisis of the greatest magnitude, which consists of the crisis of our civilisation
Our postmodern age has rejected reason, and we must return to the discipline of scholarship founded in truth. Thomas Sowell in his book Intellectuals and Society brings clarity to this issue.
The rejection of such education in schools has led to the redefining of morals and virtues passed down by parents as teachers seek to enact ‘social reform’. Like so much from the optimist vision, or vision of the anointed, this view of education is exalted by those who believe in it. This takes form in education programs such as ‘values clarification’ ‘sex education’ and ‘decision making’, which conveniently mask the quest to voyage into social experimentation and the reshaping of beliefs and attitudes
Let me illustrate with an examination of my own two areas of study, education and history.
It has only taken a single semester for me to realise just how tertiary education is saturated with the relativist rhetoric of Marxism, Foucault, Freud and others. In my education course, the leftist trifecta of knowledge, truth and sexuality — all taught from a decidedly “progressive” perspective — has dominated my readings. In the first two weeks, we were told to reflect, re-read and then discuss the major themes of an extract from Peter McLaren’s ‘Critical Pedagogy: A look at the major concepts‘. Well McLaren writes,
The dialectal nature of critical theory enables the educational researcher to see the school…as an arena of indoctrination or socialisation”
What, then, do they say about knowledge? Well I was soon to find out that knowledge is a social construction rooted in a nexus of power relations. Keith Windschuttle deals with such cantwrites in his The Killing of History…
relative hermeneutics turns out to be nothing but a futile exercise in political correctness, an attempt to write a euphemistic version of history that offends nobody’s racial sensitivity, at the expense of telling what really happened
This is the current cultural zeitgeist of my degree in education. Championing political correctness without the courage to see knowledge as the disciplined act of seeking truth.
The next week’s reading on Sheelagh Daniels-Mayes’ “Repurposing schooling for the benefit of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, families and communities” blamed a Eurocentric focus as the reason for many indigenous students’ poor academic success. Thomas Sowell is quick to point out how this fallacy springs from Left ideology, noting “statistical disparities in outcomes between groups are presumptive evidence of differential treatment by others.” He then presents examples of social disparities — Scottish highlanders were not as prosperous as Scottish lowlanders, even as emigrants outside Scotland; Gaelic-speaking children in the Hebrides recorded lower IQ scores than their English-speaking classmates; rates of alcoholism among Irish-Americans were at one time multiples higher than that of Jews and Italian-Americans; in Malaysia during the Sixties, students from the Chinese minority earned more than 400 degrees in engineering, while students from Malay majority earned just four. Sowell rightly concludes, “It is not institutions and the government that cause these disparities, but a myriad of social variables.”
Before anyone accuses me of being blithely dismissive of social disparities, my greatest ambition as a teacher is too see all my students succeed, including Aborigines. This can only be achieved by first teaching literacy and numeracy and doing so effectively, even if that may be — please excuse me — a Eurocentric way of teaching. Mark Latham, points out how we must direct our education system:
Policy-makers have lost focus on the core purpose of school education: to maximise the knowledge, skills and future prospects of every student, consistent with the hopes and values of their family and the guiding principles of their nation
Where the course in education reaches peak politicisation, though, is in the area of sexuality. Another reading we were given was by Anthony R. Welch from Education, change and Society. Just note the following quotations from the article:
Denying children knowledge about sex and sexuality is done in the name of ‘protecting children’, but Robinson argues that in fact it makes them more vulnerable, undermining ‘their development as competent, well-informed, critical thinking and ethical young citizens…
… It has also denied young people an understanding of themselves as sexual beings by insisting sexuality is irrelevant to their lives.
An unhealthy obsession with sexuality and identity politics is being thrust upon our future teachers and their students and encouraging sexually aware children from the time they enter kindergarten. It is no coincidence that we have seen a rise in child hormone therapy and children seeking to transition from their biological gender. As Nancy Pearcy puts it in her book Love Thy Body,
The implication is that the body does not matter. It is not the site of the authentic self. Matter does not matter. All that matters is a person’s feelings or sense of self
I had consoled myself with the naïve hope that the academic discipline of objective inquiry would be safeguarded in the study of history. Well, I was wrong. The historical revisionism started on day one. The course was called “Age of Empires”. A simple topic, looking at the themes and aspects of significant civilisations spanning the course of time. But I was completely unprepared for the bombardment of environmentalism, attacks on the evils of Christendom in the Americas, plus a course entirely devoted to showing the atrocities of Western civilization, compared with the civil and equal nature of Islamic empires and their purportedly peaceful “expansionism”.
The attack on traditional Western values today has seeped into the way historians now view the past. Once again, Thomas Sowell provides a more accurate picture
European and Western society is often attacked as the oppressor who disproportionately told a story of brutal Europeans concerning innocent native peoples who were ‘living in harmony with nature’”
My very first lecture began with a 15-minute diatribe from a climate-change activist, who introduced the harangue with a title on the screen, “Nature’s Dominion”. What followed was, in effect, an attack on our current age. The lecturer began with an attack on the Morrison government, claiming that they were not doing enough to stop bushfires, reduce coal use and emissions, and fully comprehend the ethical impacts of destroying nature. Quite an odd way, I thought, to begin an introductory course on historical empires.
As in education, the search for truth has clearly been replaced by ideology — history as viewed only through the monocular lens of politically progressive thought.
The cultures of indigenous tribes discussed in the course suggested that traditional Aboriginals lived in some Edenic environment entirely devoid of the corruption that animated white European ‘invaders”. Nowhere was this more apparent than in my lecture on Christopher Columbus and the fall of the Aztecs. I had assumed I would learn about the great expanse of the Spanish empire that spanned across the Atlantic. What followed was an immersion in the forced conversation of Aztecs in Mani. After describing the horrific torture inflicted on natives, my lecturer than used such an example to point out the evil of Europeans and moral inferiority of the Spanish in comparison with the natives they subjugated. Tearing the beating hearts out of human sacrifices must represent the nobler ideal, I quietly concluded, once again thinking of Windschuttle’s take on such cultural relativism in The Killing of History, where he notes children were offered to the agricultural god Tlaloc as human sacrifices.
The children who knew their fate, also wept. The priests welcome this because the tears were thought to augur rain
Yet academics see the ‘invasion’ of the Americas as an “American Holocaust”, and the violence perpetuated by the Aztecs as the “other side of the coin”. The first side of the coin being European violence perpetrated by the Spanish.
Cultural relativism has made its mark on the tertiary education scene. Such an unwillingness to focus on the truths of brutality and evils within the Aztec culture by academia is obvious and galling
A rejection of the West
Overall, my first university course in historical empires dedicated itself to discussing the evils and misconceptions of European empires. Niall Ferguson in his preface to Civilization puts this crisis of history at the forefront, as the importance of needing to know the benefits of Western empires,
For it is by identifying the true causes of Western ascendency that we can hope to estimate with any degree of accuracy the imminence of our decline and fall.
Likewise, Tom Holland in Dominion and Rodney Stark in The Victory of Reason, note that the investigation of Christianity’s roots within society have shaped the mindset of our current day, and that such historical inquiry is, and should be, “the greatest story ever told”. Yet universities consistently and intentionally choose to discredit our cultural debt to Europe in general and to Christianity in particular. It’s as if we should be ashamed of the Protestant work ethic, the foundation of capitalism and of science and, ultimately, of our search for reason and truth. The need for disciplined historical investigation devoid of postmodern tendencies is put best by Keith Windschuttle, again from The Killing of History
Western historical method is available to the people of any culture to understand their past and their relations with other people. It is by facing the truth of both our separate and our common histories that we can best learn to live with one another
Thankfully there are glimmers of hope, with some professors and teachers who do not inject their personal values into history and avoid political correctness for the sake of knowledge and their pursuit of truth. But conclusively, history has lost its discipline, and it shows. A quote from leading feminist Judith Butler shows the current level of academia. Keep in mind the passage below is one sentence…
The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
It seems all you need now to attain a PhD in the social sciences is a mastery of gibberish, as Douglas Murray’s puts it pithily in The Madness of Crowds, “Prose this bad can only occur when the author is trying to hide something.”
Ultimately, our rejection of disciplined learning that is able to actually communicate social issues means we fail to live with each other, as social media continually fosters vitriolic debate and intense hatred across political camps. Children are being taught in the educational curriculum that Australia was founded on genocides, identity is found in sexualisation, and the world is going to end because of old, white capitalist, patriarchy and Christian men. This feeds into the tribalism, culture wars and cultural relativism through courses that reject truth as an absolute.
But this is ultimately because the university has lost what Allen Bloom sees as the necessary “love of wisdom.” Sadly, my university experience only confirms such a pessimistic conclusion. What we need to do is to regain the disciplines of history and proper education that allow us breathe life into the morbid scene of learning. To which Thucydides gives us the antidote in the preface to his history of the Peloponnesian War:
… to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future. My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever.