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Essay on the National Threat of Wokeness in American Higher Education

by | May 4, 2021 | Opinion, Social Justice, Social-Issues | 0 comments

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by Greg Douthit, Ph.D. Student, Graduate Research Assistant at Cornell University

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” – Attributed to Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany

As a physicist, I strive for objectivity, but, I’m no longer able to judge my colleagues purely by their qualifications and ability. I am biased towards their irrelevant characteristics such as race and gender due to the indoctrination happening in universities today. I strongly believe that the Anti-Racist movement sweeping through the universities and K-12 education fosters racism and creates racists out of people that were previously color-blind, and I’ve become a victim.

Under a Bayesian paradigm, the probability a hypothesis is true, given some evidence, is proportional to both the quality of the evidence assuming the hypothesis is true and prior beliefs about the hypothesis. As a white male, in the past, it was relatively easy for me to not think about race or sex. I grew up in Atlanta, one of the most diverse cities in the country. I went to an elementary school where the number of Whites and Blacks was about equal, and I never thought anything of race. I readily admit that this is at least partly due to white and male privilege, and I have as much implicit bias as the next person. I never, however, consciously took race or gender into consideration when evaluating the ability of others.

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A year ago, if you’d have asked me about the gap between the sexes and races in mathematical ability, I’d have told you that I treat everyone as an individual independent of their identity group. If you asked me today and forced me to not lie, like Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, I’d have to admit that my priors are no longer uniform. I tend to assume that women and non-Asian minorities are not as good as their male and White and Asian counterparts. This is an inevitable unintended consequence of the Anti-Racist movement.

Moreover, the people without such a bias in the current environment are actually the racists. Because there are quotas requiring levels of oppressed minorities and women above their representation in the application pool, the results of new hires must necessarily be biased towards having higher quality men, Whites, and Asians on average than women, Blacks, and Hispanics. It’s a statistical necessity.

In a talk on job applications, a faculty member in my department claimed it was okay to apply with all-female recommendations but not all male recommendations. Her rationale was that if you have all-male recommendations it signals that you may have a problem working with women. However, she did not apply the same logic towards an applicant with all-female recommendations, even though her hypothesis is actually more likely true of such an applicant because there are fewer women to ask for recommendations than men. An unbiased applicant not bothering with gender would by far be more likely to have all-male recommenders than all-female ones.

The kinds of ideas circulating through humanities departments are patently absurd. Psychoanalyst, Luce Irigaray, claims that the physics of fluids is not as well understood as the physics of solids because of sexism in physics. Her argument is that fluids are associated with femininity and, therefore, more neglected than the masculine solids. She also says that the theory of Special Relativity is a patriarchal theory because it privileges the speed of light over other speeds.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere. Professors who discuss well-established scientific results on the biological or psychological differences between the sexes or IQ have been removed from their positions, including the former president of Harvard, renowned economist, Larry Summers. Universities revoke invitations and research funding to those daring to question Woke orthodoxy, and student protesters violently assault speakers at campus events.

Over my years at Cornell, I’ve been accused of microaggressions in response to lighthearted jokes. My black female housemate told me that the SAT is racist because people like her don’t think like white males. A graduate student in my department told me that new faculty hires need to be women, even though hiring based on gender is illegal under the Civil Rights Act. A department chair, from the University of Michigan, told me that I need to step aside because people like me have had a tail-wind pushing them forward, even though I’ve probably had more head-wind in my journey to the Ivy League than 95% of the students on campus. The maid-of-honor at my sister’s wedding and a former friend told me I had no idea how progress in science is made and that she couldn’t talk to me anymore because of my color-blind mentality. What’s happening to the universities is personal to me, but it’s more than personal. It’s a national threat to our future.

Recently, the STEM fields have been on a crusade to radically change the demographics in departments across the country under the assumption that these fields are especially hostile towards minorities. Ostensibly, this is the only socially acceptable explanation for the under-representation of these groups. Any explanation other than racism is heresy. The president of the university, our bishop of Wokeism, sends campus-wide emails telling us what to believe rather than telling us to engage in respectful dialogue. Weekly colloquia traditionally dedicated to science are becoming social equity propaganda meetings. We are encouraged to attend weekly diversity and inclusion meetings to discuss the departmental “climate”. A copy of Ibram Xendi’s racist book on Anti-Racism is included in my teaching materials. It’s becoming more and more Orwellian by the day.

If there were any space for alternative views, blind spots might be noticed. These people aren’t dumb, but they are stuck in an echo chamber. The stifled environment will only lead to increasingly disgruntled and isolated conservatives and increasingly ideologically homogeneous universities. I expect that white men will be exiting the universities in droves, and there will hardly be any conservatives at all in a decade. The number has been declining since the sixties. Whether it makes you laugh or cry, the political spectrum for professors ranges from anarcho-communism on the left to social democracy on the right. I would fear for a Trump supporter’s safety on campuses today.

I suspect that this movement will create massive amounts of Imposter Syndrome in women and minorities and only serve to increase social tensions between identity groups. It obviously hurts America’s global competitiveness. Many political strategists are already saying that we’re in Cold War 2, and China is clearly gaining on us both economically, technically, and spiritually. China is increasingly confident in the fall of the West. It seems that we no longer believe in ourselves. What is driving this self-destruction?

The major argument justifying discriminatory hiring practices is that socially constructed negative stereotypes make the process unfair for oppressed groups. The logic is if minds can be altered by filling the universities with color and mandating diversity training, the disparities will eventually disappear. They are molding young minds in their image and creating a modern-day Red Guard for the cultural revolution. Conservatives spouting views uncontroversial outside of academia are being expunged. Conservative explanations of representation discrepancies including: women being more interested in people and less interested in things leading them away from fields like physics and engineering and towards the life sciences; or Blacks growing up without a father in neighborhoods with higher rates of crime, poverty, and drug use with less access to high-quality primary education; or differences in culture between groups are considered hate speech.

The universities are so one-sided today that they may be impossible to reform. It may still be possible to rescue our K-12 schools from the same fate. We have to keep Critical Theory out of the federal government, especially public education. In addition, we must try to build new higher-ed institutions around the decaying ones. This is vital for the survival of the West. If we don’t change course soon, I’m afraid the authoritarian propaganda machine will get the better of us, and we’ll start believing all of the lies.

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