Among the Intellectualoids

Among the Intellectualoids

Placemats of the Ivy League

By 12.18.15

Remember Pajama Boy with a cup of hot chocolate in hand clad in plaid jammies? He was the bright-eyed twerp whose holiday gift in 2013 was the Gospel of Obamacare around the family fireplace.

Well, Pajama Boy has moved on but his Holy Spirit has not. And where better a place for evangelism and the propagation of faith than on laminated talking-points placemats in the legendary dining halls of Harvard College?

Colorful “Holiday Placemats for Social Justice” now provide a “guide for holiday discussions of race and justice with loved ones.”

Thanks to the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Freshman Dean’s Office, Harvard students can deliver Good News with ideological precision over winter break — we dare not call it Christmas vacation — to cretins in the family who resist their Glad Tidings.

The placemats provide post-Christian litanies and responses in four verses:

1. “Yale/Student Activism”

Among the Intellectualoids

Professor Raccoon Grabs the Bacon

By 10.7.15

Professor Raccoon is dismayed.

The enrollment period at Amerika University is coming to an end, and Raccoon has almost no customers. Only seven students showed up for his first class in Gender, Power and Sexuality. Only three showed up for the second. Raccoon sighs. The techno-capitalist society and greasy-whiskered STEM folks are at his throat yet again.

This morning’s call from the Dean has him worried. The Dean and Raccoon are old friends. They’ve been through the culture wars together and have lunch every month or so at the Faculty Club. The Dean is in a bind, however. Raccoon is not pulling his oar. The Dean hates even thinking this way, but the Department of Critical Studies is withering on the vine.

Raccoon’s “dynamic transdisciplinary space” used to be box office. He reigned for decades — his paws firmly on the bacon — pushing adversaries aside with vindictive ad hominem epithets and aristocratic disdain.

Among the Intellectualoids

White ‘Poet’ Plays the Game

By 9.17.15

It would be an understatement to say that poetry is considerably less than central to the contemporary literary experience of the English-speaking world. This has been true since before Auden breathed his last. It has been a long time since Wordsworth was “trailing clouds of glory” to the delight of Brits across the island. By the 1970s, it seems the only person interested in reading and reciting poetry was Horace Rumpole. (And didn’t Horace/Leo McKern do a fine job of reciting?) 

But just because hardly anyone outside the boundaries of the hundred thousand or so campuses that infest the USA reads poetry anymore, this appears to be no reason for university poetry workshops and MFA (master of fine arts) programs, poetry division, to stop churning out poet-wannabes by the thousands. This upside down state of affairs had led editors of the few remaining poetry journals to complain — not in jest — that they have more contributors than subscribers.

Among the Intellectualoids

Politi-speak: Who Needs Clarity?

By 8.24.15

I get paid to listen to people (mostly politicians) talk at length while saying as little as possible. They often hide behind mind-numbing words to obscure what they really mean. When I hear a politician promise “transparency,” he or she most likely means it as much as Barack Obama meant that his vaunted “most transparent administration in history” would be forthcoming and accountable. When candidates talk up “comprehensive immigration reform,” they don’t want to reform immigration law; they want to gut immigration law. When pols talk about leadership, they’re usually telling voters exactly what they want to hear.

Among the Intellectualoids

Texas Textbooks Under Mindless Attack

By 7.16.15

Five years ago, after months of biased reporting, millions of Americans learned — incorrectly — that Christian extremists on the Texas state school board had engineered a top-to-bottom overhaul of history standards that was destined to corrupt textbooks nationwide. “Texas Textbook Massacre: Ultraconservatives Approve Radical Changes to State Education Curriculum,” said a Huffington Post headline at the time.

Among the Intellectualoids

The Raccoon Problem on Campus

By 5.27.15

Prof. Raccoon, the chair of the Critical Studies Department, is scowling in the boxwood hedge.

It’s Commencement Day, but he ignores the Tiepolo blue skies and smiling faces, the folding chairs in a row and proud families in the quadrangle. His 2015 commencement season is fraught with anxiety. He is looking for a safe space.

White privilege, LGBT injustices, wars against women, trigger warnings, and assorted micro-aggressions cloud the horizon. The injustices at Amerika University are uncountable, and Prof. Raccoon’s opportunities for purification are unending.

Prof. Raccoon has made a tidy career celebrating diversity with new perspectives. He patrols vigilantly to make sure colleagues, graduate students, department policies, and his university press all conform to his virtue.

Yet he meets increasing skepticism and indifference from students, parents, alumni, trustees, and now, administrators. He is dismayed. Dismayed is one of Prof. Raccoon’s favorite words.

Among the Intellectualoids

They Heart Big Brother

By 4.24.15

Why are “liberals” or “progressives” great fans of big government? (I put the words in scare quotes because it seems to me that these people are, objectively speaking, illiberal and regressive.) There are, I suggest, four reasons.

Liberals feel the need to repair the damage their moral values have done in the last half-century or so. When I speak of damage, I am thinking above all of the breakdown of the married two-parent family, a breakdown — caused largely by the liberal-promoted sexual revolution — that has inflicted immeasurable damage on fatherless boys and girls.

This breakdown is greatest among our poorer social classes — and has contributed of course to their poverty. And it is greatest of all among poor African-Americans: in black ghettos the married two-parent family has virtually disappeared. But to reverse this breakdown, to begin a return to the married two-parent family, liberals would have to proclaim that there is something seriously wrong with the ethic of sexual freedom that they have been promoting since the middle of the last century.

Among the Intellectualoids

Tugging Hillary to the Left

By 4.20.15

The “progressive” (or ultra-liberal) wing of the Democratic Party is trying to push Hillary further to the left. They do this in a number of ways: by urging Elizabeth Warren to get into the presidential race; by threatening to support Bernie Sanders if he runs for president as an independent; by telling Hillary that they will not be able to support her with their work, wealth, and wisdom until she demonstrates that she has a truly progressive agenda.

For instance, Bill de Blasio, the progressive mayor of New York, an old friend of hers who was her campaign manager when she ran successfully for the U.S. Senate in 2000, was on Meet the Press recently and said he would not be endorsing her until she laid out a progressive “vision.”

Among the Intellectualoids

Hype and Change

By 4.8.15

Vying for control of the great uninformed masses are the rabid climate change “deniers” and the level-headed scientists. The latter have the inside line on what’s really going on, in the sky above and the earth below, while the former are moved by irrational disgust aimed at limousine liberals.

In this polarized and disheartening scenario, who best offers a sensible way forward? As it turns out, it’s other scientists: social scientists.

Or so says one academic. University of Michigan “Professor of Sustainable Enterprise” Andy Hoffman believes those with insight into demographics, religion, and the human psyche ought to be recruited to bring middle-Americans into the climate debate. Science alone won’t cut it. Cut carbon emissions, that is:

We must recognize that people have multiple motivations for being concerned over climate change, and most are not scientific. For example, Pope Francis speaks about climate change as an issue of faith and social equity.