Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 10, 2007

Indoctrination at the University of Delaware

A conspicuously embarrassed University of Delaware abandoned its residence life education program last week after details of its curriculum were made public by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). At issue was the training manual prepared by Shakti Butler, a diversity training specialist with a national practice, who has conducted facilitator training sessions for Shell Global and the Kellogg Foundation. Butler’s Diversity Facilitation Training manual was meant to guide the university’s resident assistants in their meetings and training sessions with students (a one-on-one meeting with the RA was mandatory).

The manual begins with a fascinating glossary, according to which all whites, without exception, are racists, while non-whites cannot be (“by definition,” it explains helpfully). To read the entire glossary is to take a nostalgic journey into the identity politics of a generation ago (in fact, it is a 1995 revision of an even older document). For example:

A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists . . .

A NON-RACIST: A non-term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called “blaming the victim”) . . .

Read More

A conspicuously embarrassed University of Delaware abandoned its residence life education program last week after details of its curriculum were made public by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). At issue was the training manual prepared by Shakti Butler, a diversity training specialist with a national practice, who has conducted facilitator training sessions for Shell Global and the Kellogg Foundation. Butler’s Diversity Facilitation Training manual was meant to guide the university’s resident assistants in their meetings and training sessions with students (a one-on-one meeting with the RA was mandatory).

The manual begins with a fascinating glossary, according to which all whites, without exception, are racists, while non-whites cannot be (“by definition,” it explains helpfully). To read the entire glossary is to take a nostalgic journey into the identity politics of a generation ago (in fact, it is a 1995 revision of an even older document). For example:

A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture, or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists . . .

A NON-RACIST: A non-term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called “blaming the victim”) . . .

Although the University of Delaware program was spectacularly inept, it is hardly the nation’s only residential life program that includes ideological indoctrination. Such programs have become rather common, although this will be news to most adults over thirty. In fact, the emergence of these residential life programs in the past decade is a sociological phenomenon of considerable interest, and marks a great swing of the generational pendulum.

Fifty years ago, it was still understood that colleges would exert some sort of moral control over the lives of its students—through such institutions as parietal hours and compulsory chapel. Such prudery was soon swept away everywhere, and by the 1970’s, colleges no longer presumed themselves to be acting in loco parentis. Their scope of moral action had been reduced to that of a policeman at Woodstock: act in a life-threatening situation and otherwise look away.

But in the past generation, colleges have rediscovered their moralizing potential—at first reluctantly and then, in many cases, eagerly. In large part, this was the result of anxiety over underage drinking. With the drinking age raised to twenty-one, and with dire financial consequences for alcohol-related deaths, colleges began working diligently to reduce any legal liability they might incur. But once administrators were hired to monitor student life, they soon widened their purview—moving from what students drink to what they think. In an ominous essay, John Leo offers a tantalizing hypothesis as to how this happened: “highly ideological freshman orientation programs are now widespread and meet so little resistance, the temptation to extend the brainwashing to all four years of college may seem irresistible to eager ideologues.”

When the celebrated architect Louis Kahn was hired in 1960 to design a dormitory at Bryn Mawr College, he was told that the rooms were not to have locks on the doors. The women students might lock their valuables in closets, but they were not to be able to lock their doors. Today’s students no longer need worry about guarding the privacy of their rooms. As for the privacy of their minds, that is another matter.

Read Less

Gates the Inoffensive

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded his week-long trip to North Asia. Although the issues he handled in the three capitals he visited were markedly different, he approached all of them in a similarly low-key approach. In Beijing, he shied away from confronting Chinese leaders on the issues he came to talk about, such as their nontransparent military buildup. In Seoul, he avoided saying anything that might have influenced the presidential election to be held next month and even adopted a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea than his dovish hosts. In Tokyo, he used the mildest words possible to influence the various political parties that are in the midst of an intense internal debate on the nation’s security posture. He managed to not upset anyone in the region. But did he accomplish anything?

Gates partisans can say that he avoided the controversy that followed his predecessor everywhere he went in Asia and that he even undid some of the damage of the Rumsfeld years, especially in South Korea. This positive assessment is correct. Yet the test of American defense policy in East Asia is not merely assuaging hurt feelings at this particular moment; it is establishing an enduring security architecture that both protects the interests of the United States and its allies in the region and encourages the creation of free markets and the institutions of representative governance. Gates has gone about these crucial tasks by downplaying the threat of resurgent authoritarianism and employing virtually every bromide and anodyne statement formulated since the end of the Cold War.

“The major challenges facing the region—such as North Korea and nuclear proliferation—cannot be overcome by one, or even two countries, no matter how wealthy and powerful,” the defense secretary said as he addressed students yesterday at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “They require multiple nations of shared interests to come together to deal with a number of key challenges—areas where each partner can bring its unique capabilities to bear for the common good.”

Unfortunately, North Asia is full of zero-sum contests among competitors who do not share Gates’s notions of common good. There are, for example, border disputes aplenty—China and Japan, for instance, maintain competing land and sea claims. Japan and South Korea are squabbling over a set of islands in the sea that separates them. Pyongyang and Seoul dispute waters off their western coast. Even South Korea and China have a latent border dispute. Then there are other pressing concerns. Chinese military vessels regularly violate Japanese waters with impunity. North Korea not only threatens to proliferate the most destructive weapons on earth, its government is engaged in various forms of criminal behavior, sometimes with Chinese support.

Even when these three nations share objectives, there is no agreement on tactics and strategies. North Asia is volatile, and unlike the Middle East, potential adversaries maintain large militaries and have the present capability to inflict real harm. None of the Chinese, Koreans, or Japanese holds any of the others in high regard, and the first two groups bear historical grudges while the third is developing one.

None of this will be solved with clichés that the West developed in the heady days after the fall of the Soviet Union. American leadership, realistic and strong, is required. And judging from Gates’s performance earlier this week, it is in limited supply.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded his week-long trip to North Asia. Although the issues he handled in the three capitals he visited were markedly different, he approached all of them in a similarly low-key approach. In Beijing, he shied away from confronting Chinese leaders on the issues he came to talk about, such as their nontransparent military buildup. In Seoul, he avoided saying anything that might have influenced the presidential election to be held next month and even adopted a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea than his dovish hosts. In Tokyo, he used the mildest words possible to influence the various political parties that are in the midst of an intense internal debate on the nation’s security posture. He managed to not upset anyone in the region. But did he accomplish anything?

Gates partisans can say that he avoided the controversy that followed his predecessor everywhere he went in Asia and that he even undid some of the damage of the Rumsfeld years, especially in South Korea. This positive assessment is correct. Yet the test of American defense policy in East Asia is not merely assuaging hurt feelings at this particular moment; it is establishing an enduring security architecture that both protects the interests of the United States and its allies in the region and encourages the creation of free markets and the institutions of representative governance. Gates has gone about these crucial tasks by downplaying the threat of resurgent authoritarianism and employing virtually every bromide and anodyne statement formulated since the end of the Cold War.

“The major challenges facing the region—such as North Korea and nuclear proliferation—cannot be overcome by one, or even two countries, no matter how wealthy and powerful,” the defense secretary said as he addressed students yesterday at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “They require multiple nations of shared interests to come together to deal with a number of key challenges—areas where each partner can bring its unique capabilities to bear for the common good.”

Unfortunately, North Asia is full of zero-sum contests among competitors who do not share Gates’s notions of common good. There are, for example, border disputes aplenty—China and Japan, for instance, maintain competing land and sea claims. Japan and South Korea are squabbling over a set of islands in the sea that separates them. Pyongyang and Seoul dispute waters off their western coast. Even South Korea and China have a latent border dispute. Then there are other pressing concerns. Chinese military vessels regularly violate Japanese waters with impunity. North Korea not only threatens to proliferate the most destructive weapons on earth, its government is engaged in various forms of criminal behavior, sometimes with Chinese support.

Even when these three nations share objectives, there is no agreement on tactics and strategies. North Asia is volatile, and unlike the Middle East, potential adversaries maintain large militaries and have the present capability to inflict real harm. None of the Chinese, Koreans, or Japanese holds any of the others in high regard, and the first two groups bear historical grudges while the third is developing one.

None of this will be solved with clichés that the West developed in the heady days after the fall of the Soviet Union. American leadership, realistic and strong, is required. And judging from Gates’s performance earlier this week, it is in limited supply.

Read Less

Norman Mailer, 1923-2007

Norman Mailer died early this morning. Mailer had a six-decade career as a novelist, opening with his best-selling debut The Naked and the Dead and closing with The Castle in the Forest, his meditation on the life of Adolph Hitler, and producing influential works in the emergent genre of “New Journalism”—The Executioner’s Song, Miami and the Siege of Chicago—along the way. Whatever his faults as an artist may have been, he remained an enduringly provocative figure throughout his lifetime. Below, you can read a free selection of writings on Mailer’s work, along with pieces from his own hand, from the pages of COMMENTARY.

John Gross on The Castle in the Forest (March 2007)

Thomas L. Jeffers on The Spooky Art (April 2003)

Peter Shaw on Miami and the Siege of Chicago (December 1968)

Richard Poirier on An American Dream (June 1965)

Midge Decter on The Presidential Papers (February 1964)

William Barrett on Barbary Shore (June 1951)

Raymond Rosenthal on The Naked and the Dead (July 1948)

By Mailer:

The Battle of the Pentagon” (April 1968)

Modes and Mutations: Quick Comments on the Modern American Novel” (March 1966)

Norman Mailer died early this morning. Mailer had a six-decade career as a novelist, opening with his best-selling debut The Naked and the Dead and closing with The Castle in the Forest, his meditation on the life of Adolph Hitler, and producing influential works in the emergent genre of “New Journalism”—The Executioner’s Song, Miami and the Siege of Chicago—along the way. Whatever his faults as an artist may have been, he remained an enduringly provocative figure throughout his lifetime. Below, you can read a free selection of writings on Mailer’s work, along with pieces from his own hand, from the pages of COMMENTARY.

John Gross on The Castle in the Forest (March 2007)

Thomas L. Jeffers on The Spooky Art (April 2003)

Peter Shaw on Miami and the Siege of Chicago (December 1968)

Richard Poirier on An American Dream (June 1965)

Midge Decter on The Presidential Papers (February 1964)

William Barrett on Barbary Shore (June 1951)

Raymond Rosenthal on The Naked and the Dead (July 1948)

By Mailer:

The Battle of the Pentagon” (April 1968)

Modes and Mutations: Quick Comments on the Modern American Novel” (March 1966)

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.