The Lies Your Professor Told You
An Accuracy in Academia Address by Daniel J. Flynn
Variations of this talk have been delivered more than a dozen times in 1998, including at the University of Massachusetts, Georgia Tech, Wabash College, George Washington University, St. Johns College, and the University of New Hampshire.
My talk is about how little truth seems to matter in higher education today. At one time, as the mottoes of Harvard and Yale attest, truth was the ultimate goal of our colleges and universities. Today that ideal has been subverted by something that modern academics prize more highly Im referring to the concept known as "diversity." For the modern academic, "diversity" is something to be preserved at all costs, even when it comes at the expense of truth.
When faculty and administrators talk about "diversity," the term is used as a euphemism for left-wing conformity an inversion of the words true meaning. As Thomas Sowell has observed, when folks on campus talk about creating a "diverse faculty," they mean they want to hire a faculty that includes black leftists, Asian leftists, Hispanic leftists, female leftists, gay leftists, and so on and so forth. The diversity envisioned by many of those who run Americas top colleges and universities is a diversity where everybody looks like the United Nations but thinks like a San Francisco coffeehouse. That is to say it is not diversity at all.
Specifically, I want to focus my remarks on the conflict between truth and "diversity" in the once political, and now strangely academic, areas of environmentalism, feminism, gay rights, and multiculturalism. It is because professors overwhelmingly support these political ideologies that they have adopted the stance of accepting what Plato referred to as "needful falsehoods" over the not-so-convenient truth in these fields.
More than 70 colleges and universities currently offer programs in lesbian and gay studies. The most popular textbook in the subject admits that the field was designed to "advance the interests of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men" and that it "straddles scholarship and politics." You dont have to be Nostradamus to predict what would happen if it were not gay activists but say NRA members, pro-lifers, or some other group on the Right that was offering courses that straddle "scholarship and politics." Theyd by laughed out of their jobs.
Courses in the discipline, as one might guess, reflect this political mindset: Yales "Sexual Diversity and Social Change," the University of Minnesotas "Gay Men and Homophobia in American Culture," and Oberlins "Queer Acts" in which the course description reads: "Drag will be encouraged, but not required."
Those who champion such fields often throw around buzzwords like "tolerance" to justify the politicization of scholarship. So we should probably ask ourselves what it is that we are being asked to tolerate?
The very first essay in The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader, the Bible of this emerging field, demonstrates just what it is that faculty activists want us to "tolerate." Anthropologist Gayle Rubin writes, "Like communists and homosexuals in the 1950s, boy lovers are so stigmatized that it is difficult to find defenders for their civil liberties, let alone erotic orientation." She complains of a "savage and undeserved witch-hunt" organized by the Post Office, the FBI, and local police departments "to wipe out the community of men who love underage youth." The feminist anthropologist goes on to state that opposition to "sadomasichism," "transsexuality," and "cross-generational encounters" have "more in common with ideologies of racism than with true ethics."
Perhaps the most tireless champion of sex between children and adults is the New York University Press. In NYU Press Lavender Culture, Gerald Hannon blasts what he sees as two "archaic concepts": #1. "the innocence of children" and #2. "the potential harmfulness of sex." Hannon argues that gays must "proselytize" in order to "abolish repressive, ageist legislation." By this he means: "reaching young people with the message" that "they should get out of their families as soon as they can" and that "its all right to be having sex." And this is a reoccurring theme in many of the gay and lesbian studies books that NYU publishes.
Because Gay and Lesbian Studies is admittedly political, it puts forward claims that have everything to do with an agenda and very little to do with true scholarship. I want to back this claim up, briefly, with a few examples from history, literature, and science.
University of Massachusetts-Boston Professor Charley Shively claims that Abraham Lincoln had numerous gay affairs. "For his taste in men," Shively writes, "Lincoln was clearly an ass rather than a crotch man." Whats Shivelys evidence? Well, Lincoln, it seems, shared a bed with his law clerk Joshua Speed for a time a practice that was common and not thought much about in the 19th Century. Shivley claims that George Washington was gay as well. Shivleys "scholarship" would be laughable, however, the LA Unified School District based on his work instructs teachers to inform homosexual youth that Lincoln was "gay" to boost student self esteem.
By reading "gay" issues into the literary canon, claimed Richard Zeikowitz at this years Modern Language Association meeting, "male\male friendships are not only strengthened but eroticized." Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, because they are friends, are now read as having an even stronger friendship. "Homosocial" relationships where two men compete for the same woman argued the City University of New York professor, are actually manifestations of homosexual feelings between male characters. Thus, Jay Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, by virtue of their competition for Daisy Buchanan, are read as gay by many English literature instructors.
The third example I want to employ is that of Alfred Kinsey.
Fifty years ago, Indiana University Professor Alfred Kinsey launched what was perhaps the first salvo in the Sexual Revolution. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the work of Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy, and Clyde Martin, hit post-war America like a sucker punch. Claiming that 85% of American males engaged in pre-marital sex, 70% had paid for sex with prostitutes, and between 10% and 37% were homosexual, the Kinsey Report revolutionized American law, culture, education, and a host of other areas. Critics of the report, the media informed America, were to Kinsey what the church was to Galileo. Kinsey was, after all, a "scientist."
At mid-century, Kinseys fame rivaled the likes of Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur. Today, he is perhaps best known for putting forward the idea 10% of the population is gay this "10%" figure has become something of a mantra for gay activists and is often repeated as fact in news reports and in sociology text books. Im sure youve encountered it before.
The Kinsey that has been passed on by college texts and popular histories is that of the disinterested scientist, whose research is unimpeachable. In David Halberstams The Fifties, Kinsey is "prudish," "old fashioned," and "the very embodiment of Middle American square." Rutgers University Professor William ONeil praises Kinsey in American High as a "hero of science"; those who pressured the Rockefeller Foundation to cut his funding won "a victory for small mindedness." William Manchesters Kinsey in The Glory and the Dream is "an objective investigator," "a stickler for explicit detail," and a "disciple of truth." "As a scientist," Manchester informs readers, "he had naturally played no favorites."
Kinsey, as we know now, was a very different kind of "scientist." A homosexual, a wife-swapper, a sado-masochist, and, perhaps, a pedophile, Kinsey was much more involved in his work than the keepers of the tablets would have us believe. For Kinsey, biographer James Jones writes, "the personal was always the political."
Taken alone, Kinseys bizarre personal life only provides a motive for why he attempted to uproot the sexual mores of mid-century America. A close examination of his sample group demonstrates just how he did this.
Although the total number of men used for the Male volume is in dispute (estimates range from 4,100 to 6,300), we know that 1,400 members of the sample group were prison inmates. For Kinsey and his fellow researchers, basing their survey on the inhabitants of an environment that is a notorious breeding ground for perversion was still not enough to skew the data to their satisfaction. By developing key contacts in the urban gay subcultures of Chicago, New York, St. Louis and other big cities, Kinsey was able to interview hundreds of homosexuals managing to tilt his data and procure sexual liaisons for himself all at once.
This same kind of statistical trickery is pervasive throughout Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Prostitutes, for instance, were reclassified as "married women" to portray American wives as more promiscuous than they really were.
Attempting to prove that humans are sexual from birth, Kinsey collected data on at least 324 (and perhaps as many as 2,000) children. Infants, as young as five months old, said Kinsey, achieve "orgasm" after being stimulated from those he called "partners." Symptoms of sexual climax for young children, claimed Kinsey, often included "sobbing," "violent cries," "loss of color," and an "abundance of tears."
Kinsey and his apostles have made contradictory claims concerning the number of child-molesters employed to produce this data. It is quite possible that Kinsey who privately condoned child-adult sexual encounters and served as a longtime counselor for such groups as the Boy Scouts and the YMCA was a prime "observer" and source of information.
From Thomas Jefferson to J. Edgar Hoover, the sex lives of prominent Americans have been obsessed over by modern academics. Yet Kinsey, the very man who would merit such an investigation most, has been largely ignored. Academics, feeling an ideological kinship with Kinsey, have balked at attempting to uncover information that might undermine the work of a figure they hold in such high esteem.
Using "science" as a means to promote ones political objectives is certainly not a phenomenon that is confined to homosexual academics. Environmentalists, too, shout "science" when they are attempting to fulfill an agenda. It seems the more obvious the agenda, the louder the shouts of "science" become.
Stanford University Professor Paul Ehlrichs The Population Bomb, twenty-nine years after it was first published, is still one of the most frequently assigned texts at the college level. "The battle to feed humanity is over," he apocalypticly asserted. "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Like Malthus 180 years earlier, Ehlrich was wrong. Yet, the Stanford professors belief that an increase in human beings inevitably leads to an ecological disaster is taught as fact at so many colleges and universities.
Like the "population bomb" that never happened, "global warming" is a theory that has trouble playing itself out in practice. Over the past two decades, weather satellites show that the average global temperature has actually cooled. The global warming point is especially interesting when you discover that many of the same so-called "scientists" who argue that the earth is heating up argued the very opposite thing 25 years ago. In 1971, Dr. Stephen Schneider warned that there will be "a cooling of the earth" and of the potential of what he classified as a coming "ice age." Today, Schneider is a professor at Stanford and the author of the frequently assigned, Global Warming.
According to academic environmentalists, our forests are being depleted. Yet, through reforestation and advances in fire-fighting technology, America has more trees than at any point this century. As John Tierney points out in a recent New York Times Magazine article, "Yes, a lot of trees have been cut down to make todays newspaper. But even more trees will probably be planted in their place. Americas supply of timber has been increasing for decades, and the nations forests have three times the amount of wood today than in 1920."
I want to take a few minutes to examine feminism specifically its academic arm, womens studies.
Thirty years ago there were no womens studies programs in America. Today, there are more than 600 degree-granting programs in the subject. The American Council on Education states that of the more than 3000 institutions of higher learning in America, 2000 offer womens studies in one form or another. Every Ivy League college, with the exception of Princeton, now offers more courses in womens studies than in economics.
Why is this?
The proliferation of feminist inspired courses does not stem from student interest. When I examined Harvard in 1996, for instance, I found that there were 540 economics majors and yet there were only 52 economics classes listed in the schools program of study. Compare this to womens studies, where a mere 13 students majored in the field, yet had over 60 courses to choose from. The Cornell Review found that the average womens studies course at that institution had four students enrolled. The story is much the same at other universities. Economics majors have less courses to chose from despite outnumbering students majoring in womens studies by 28 to 1 at Yale and 23 to 1 at Penn. Clearly it is supply and not demand that is fueling the onslaught of the politically correct curricula.
Students know that just about the only jobs one can secure as a result of majoring in a field like womens studies is either to become a professional activist or to stay in education and teach the same womens studies classes that one enrolled in as an undergraduate.
The few students who do enroll in fields like womens studies often do so only because they are coerced it fulfills a "diversity" or "third world requirement," or they are drawn to the field through the allure of attaining an easy "A."
What, exactly, is it that students typically learn about in womens studies?
In Williams Colleges "Practicing Feminism: A Study of Political Activism," students perform "fieldwork at community agencies" so that they "might raise awareness of feminist issues in the community." The University of Massachusetts-Amhersts "Women of Color and Activism," "Moves beyond representations of women of color as storytellers" and seeks "to establish groundwork for future activism between women of color and other women." And this comes directly from the course catalogs.
Perhaps more alarming than the political grunt-work students are asked to do are the pseudo-scientific theories that are expounded throughout womens studies.
Womens Ways of Knowing is the title of a book and of numerous college courses. It is also a growing philosophy which states that logic and reasoning are mens ways of knowing, and feeling and intuition are womens ways of knowing. Now if a man were to say this a few decades ago, he would be rightfully condemned as a sexist. Today it is self-proclaimed feminists who are preaching this nonsense.
Im sure youve heard it said on campus that one out of every four women is raped. Every time Ive been on a college campus for more than a few hours, Ive come across this statistic somewhere. Its a constant reminder in womens studies textbooks, dormitory halls, campus literature, and at "take back the night" rallies. Implicit in this statistic is not just that millions of American women are victims, but that millions of American men are rapists. University of Michigan Professor Catherine MacKinnon, along these same lines, claims that all heterosexual sex is rape. The "one in four" statistic is based on a Ms. magazine survey of college-age women. Amazingly enough, a full 73% of the women that Ms. categorized as being the victims of rape actually told Ms. that they believed that they were not raped. Feminists constantly remind us that every time a woman says she is raped we should believe her. Judging from the Ms. survey, when women say they have not been raped we should disbelieve them. This is a little confusing considering that feminists are the ones saying we should always believe women. Yet in their own surveys, feminists do not trust women.
In a heavily publicized case at Georgetown this past school year, two female undergraduates were denounced by classmates and college officials for exposing the untruthfulness of such feminist myths in a publication they produced. The pressure was so great that the girls roommates even denounced them. Said one student, "if one women is not raped by publishing false statistics than that justifies it."
The final category I want to talk about is multiculturalism.
At its core, multiculturalism is Marxist. Economic Marxism takes money earned by the wealthy and gives it to the poor. Cultural Marxism or multiculturalism seeks to debase the achievements of the majority group while exaggerating the accomplishments of so-called "victim groups."
Multiculturalism is not about trumpeting other cultures. It is about debasing our own. If so-called multiculturalists were serious about studying other cultures we might expect to see campus takeovers of buildings in the name of more foreign language courses, protests calling for expanded student exchange programs, or petitions circulated to bring back Will and Ariel Durants 11-volume Story of Civilization. Needless to say we dont. Instead we get mobs shouting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho. Western cultures got to go."
A common practice of multiculturalists is to highlight the sins and failings (both real and imagined) of Western Civilization. When this fails to make the achievements of all groups appear relatively equal they often invent a new "history" to enhance the esteem of minority groups.
In They Came Before Columbus, Rutgers University Professor Ivan Van Sertima argues that Africans, not Columbus, discovered the Americas. Despite no credible evidence to support these claims, the Rutgers professors work is widely cited in Afrocentric circles as proof of the African discovery of the New World.
In Exemplar of Liberty, professors Donald Grinde and Bruce Johansen claim the political philosophy of Native Americans was a key influence on the Founding Fathers. "Someday," state the authors, "when the dominant society becomes more concerned about reciprocity and less concerned about superiority and domination, we may all be able to join hands and celebrate the diverse roots of American democratic tradition without the blinders of indifference and cultural arrogance."
Afrocentrism holds that ancient Greek thinkers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, stole their ideas from "black" Egyptians and the Library at Alexandria. This theory has been touted as fact by leading Afrocentrist Molefi Assante of Temple University among many others. Well, it must have ruined Mr. Assantes day when he found out that the Library at Alexandria was built after Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle were dead and gone. Facts rarely get in the way of a good story, however, and this myth is still taught as the truth at many institutions of higher learning.
However ridiculous these three examples may seem, we should remember that theyre taught as fact in hundreds of college courses throughout America. The notion that Indians were instrumental in our Founding somehow made it into the Clinton Administrations National History Standards. The idea that Greeks stole their knowledge from black Egyptians is taught within the book African-American Baseline Essays which is part of the public school curricula in Portland, Oregon and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Still, you may say: "Flynn, I know theyre teaching this stuff, but I doubt any sensible person is stupid enough to believe it." This criticism may be valid, so let me offer up one example of how multiculturalists have cooked-up a series of events and have had tremendous success in passing this invented history off as fact.
The example I will use centers around Japanese internemnt during World War II a story that Im sure most of you have heard about in any class youve taken on American history in the 20th Century.
In the widely assigned American history text The Enduring Vision, it is explained that during World War II, "The worst abuses of civil liberties was the internment of 112,000 Japanese Americans" in what the authors label "concentration camps." This injustice, states the book that is read by "hundreds of thousands" of students, occurred despite the fact that "military intelligence had [not] uncovered any evidence of disloyal behavior by Japanese Americans."
There is a slight problem with this official version. And the problem is its not true.
It is claimed that more than 100,000 Americans were interned during World War II. The true figure is 31,265. More shocking than this is that of all those who were interned, half were European-Americans.
Historians dont dare question the loyalty of Japanese Americans. To do so would be to undermine their thesis that internment was unnecessary. Yet it is an undisputed fact that more than 5,600 Japanese Americans renounced their citizenship following Pearl Harbor and an additional 20,000 joined the Japanese war effort. Nor do historians bring up the internment of Europeans. This inconvenient fact de-legitimizes the idea that internment was racist.
If America is truly a racist country, why then, is it that we only hear about Japanese internment in the history books? Why was it that the federal government paid $20,000 in restitution in 1988 to Japanese-Americans who were interned or forced to relocate and European-Americans who endured the same thing got nothing?
It is true that tens-of-thousands of Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate from the West Coast. This is why, presumably, historians have cooked-up the figure of 112,000 for the total number of Japanese interned.
It is also true that thousands of Italian- and German-Americans were forced to relocate. The family of New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio, for instance, was forced by the government to relocate from San Francisco. Like the Japanese, the Europeans were free to move to any of the 44 states outside of California, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington. Unlike the Japanese, however, Germans and Italians were not given the luxury of having the option of relocating to government funded centers that offered free food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education. Europeans who were forced to move had to fend for themselves.
These government centers, that historians have derisively labeled "concentration camps," had the lowest infant mortality rate and the highest life expectancy rate during the war. Living in the centers was optional 35,000 Japanese chose to live on their own elsewhere and when the war ended the Japanese American Citizens League protested to keep them open.
Im willing to go out on a limb and say that none of the inhabitants of Kolyma or Auschwitz protested to keep those real concentration camps open. Only in America I guess.
The story of Japanese internment, like so much of what is taught in our educational institutions, is a lie. For the purpose of promoting political ideologies feminism, gay rights, environmentalism, and multiculturalism academics have disregarded their original mission: the search for truth.
The generation that told us to "question authority" three decades ago now is the authority on Americas campuses. Questioning authority, however, is the last thing they want students to do today. John Stuart Mills community eccentric who bucks the norms of society for societys sake is public enemy number one at many leading colleges and universities.
Students who question the prevailing campus orthodoxy are often shouted down in class by their peers and graded down on tests by their professors. For academics, the punishment for this "mind-crime" is much worse. The chances of a professor who doesnt subscribe to "identity politics" gaining tenure at a top college or university are very slim. Allow me to illustrate this with some numbers.
Recent surveys of the political affiliations of college professors demonstrate the degree to which a monolith of opinion is present among faculty members. At Dartmouth, Democrat professors outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 25 to one. Cornell professors also shun enrollment as Republicans by 25 to one. At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Democrats yield a greater than ten to one advantage. A 1994 study showed that among Stanford professors in the humanities who were members of the two major parties, nine out of ten were registered Democrat. A similar study conducted by the Rocky Mountain News, revealed a 31 to one Democrat\Republican ratio at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
In the history departments of the five schools combined, for instance, there were 137 Democrats and only three Republicans. In English, the combined total was 159 to 6.
When it comes to intellectual diversity, our leading colleges and universities are bankrupt. The very institutions where we would want the marketplace of ideas to be the freest are the places where it faces the greatest hostility. Speech codes, sensitivity training, newspaper thefts, and the banning of controversial speakers are aspects of university life that have lead to a climate of suppression at hundreds of schools.
I do want to close on a note of optimism. Although true diversity intellectual diversity is virtually non-existent on campus, things can, and I think will, change. In the communist world, leaders often referred to their nations as "democracies" even though they plainly werent. They also utilized democratic rhetoric to support their plainly totalitarian ends. It shouldnt have surprised us that after years of hearing about democracy, people in these nations rose up and said, "Hey, this democracy thing sounds pretty good, how bout a little for me?"
On campus, the situation is much the same. For years, university commissars have preached diversity while presenting students with a sham diversity based on superficial characteristics. We should be encouraged, and not a bit surprised, when students start saying, "Hey, this diversity thing sounds pretty good. How bout a little for me?"
(Daniel J. Flynn is executive director of Accuracy in Academia and editor of Campus Report)