Saturday, November 14, 2009

Paul Gottfried, A Call to the Alternative Right

I would also stress the divergence between our sides when it comes to extricating ourselves from the multicultural fever swamp. Possible neoconservative alternatives to what I’ve described, by such characteristic advocates as Lynne Cheney, David Horowitz and Bill Bennett, might include a compulsory course on the American heritage. This course would showcase our country as a self-perfecting global democracy; and it would take students on an inspirational journey from the Declaration of Independence’s proclamation that “All men are created equal” through FDR’s Four Freedoms down to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This and other similar measures would be used to teach students of all races and creeds “democratic values,” the spread of which, we would be told, is the high moral end for which the U.S. was brought into existence.

We might also hear a recommendation from neoconservative social commentator Dinesh D’Souza, calling for extraordinary efforts to integrate college students of all different ethnic backgrounds. D’Souza would accuse our administration of not going far enough to commit students and faculty to a universally exportable democratic way of life. We would also likely be told that recruiting minorities for the wrong reasons would create islands of separateness on our campus instead of making everyone into a member of the world’s first global nation. Finally we might be warned, perhaps by Cal Thomas or David Horowitz, that lurking behind calls for diversity is a hidden plea for anti-Zionism or a defeatist response to the War On Terror. Such hidden agendas characterize the advocates of diversity; who in any case are deviating from the goal of the saintly Martin Luther King, a firm opponent of all forms of quotas, even for black Americans.

Needless to say, I couldn’t think of anyone on the Alternative Right who would take any of these stands. Our side would stress that not every adolescent can do college work. Colleges that are serious about traditional disciplines might appeal to, at most, 20 percent of the young, which is the percentage of those who have the cognitive skills for doing college-level study. Given the fraudulent product that now passes for college education, it is not surprising that most students and faculty can neither learn nor teach what was once deemed appropriate as college subjects.

One could easily point to speakers at this conference who have taken the positions outlined. These fearless critics have questioned the transformation of American higher education into a devalued consumer product, made available to those who are incapable of real learning. Small wonder that colleges are turned into centers of multicultural social experiments and diversitarian gibberish! What better use could one find for a falsely advertised institution that is trying to entertain young social work, communication and primary education majors while taking their parents’ money!

Neoconservative educationists, we might also hear from the Alternative Right, have their own fish to fry. They are seeking to defend their version of the democratic welfare state as the best of all governments. They also have another far-reaching goal that is explicit or implicit in their college outreach. Neoconservatives, to speak about them specifically, wish to limit any disagreement on campuses generated by their aggressively internationalist foreign policy. In pursuit of this end, they happily falsify or obscure certain embarrassing historical facts, e.g., the massive deceit applied to pushing the U.S. into past foreign wars, and the published views of such neocon heroes as Churchill and Wilson dealing with racial and ethnic differences.

Neoconservatives and their defenders would accuse our side of taking positions that have no chance of being accepted. And they might be right on this last point. Our positions would infuriate the educational establishment and much of the public administration apparatus. Many of us, moreover, are strict constitutionalists, who would argue, to the consternation of the political class, that the federal government is excessively entangled in state and local education. It should be of no concern to public administrators whether a private college has or has not been recruiting designated minorities. Academic education should not be an occasion for government social planners to impose their vision on the private sector. Indeed private colleges, if they were truly concerned about being independent, would reject federal and state aid, and they would do all in their power to keep our managerial government from interfering with their institutions.

Note I am not defending “our side” in these debates. I am only making clear that we and they do not hold the same views about American education or about how its problems are to be engaged. I would also concede the obvious here, namely, that some people on our side of the divide may occasionally work for those on the other side and that the GOP out of power will occasionally get behind books and authors presenting arguments that would not please Republican administrations. Not all who make the arguments of the alternative Right have been subject to equally oppressive sanctions or have been uniformly denied a place in the sun. There are disparities in the ways that the GOP-movement conservative establishment has treated individual critics on the right. What seems beyond dispute however is that we and they disagree fundamentally on a wide range of questions, far more than we in this room would disagree with each other. The conventional conservative movement is therefore justified in recognizing that we are more different from their movement than establishment conservatives are from those on the center left. Movement conservatives and neoconservatives dialogue openly with the liberal Left while ignoring or ridiculing us—and this happens for a very good reason. The authorized version of the conservative movement understands that we and they are not of the same spirit. Unlike them, we do not serve the GOP; nor are we obliged to go along with neoconservative whims and fixations lest we lose our jobs or media outlets.

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