The Outstater

March 14, 2024

No, Dr. Whitten, We’re Not Equal

“We are not the party of identity politics, you utter idiots.” Ann Coulter critiquing the GOP response to the State of the Union.

READING THE WORDING in the 74 bills that Gov. Holcomb signed into law this week, you were struck by the hypersensitivity to offending even slightly any segment of the population that might feel the tiniest bit unequal. 

Peripherally, nothing in the bills or in the press announcements was allowed to imply that any class of persons — children of intact, nuclear families, for instance — performed exceptionally or contributed inordinately and thereby deserved encouragement.

No, everything in legislative land is hunky-dory egalitarian. Nobody is better than anybody else, except of course the legislators themselves who now are singularly permitted to carry firearms in the Statehouse to defend themselves, one supposes, against their unarmed constituents.

Even the commendable attempt to reform university tenure was cast as good for everyone equally. It wasn’t of course. It was only a token “win” for white males, who have been beaten down by the system for three generations now. More like simple justice, you should say.

Tiptoeing around anything that hinted at that, the sponsor of the tenure bill meekly suggested it would cause only “minimal disruption” in how universities now operate, which is to tyrannically crush academic careers that don’t fit the favored human-resource profile. Rather, he described his bill in the ideology-washed terms of ensuring more “diversity” and more “equity.”

Pamela Whitten, president of Indiana University, was apoplectic nonetheless. She was joined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in saying that the measure would impede recruitment of faculty (or at least those who share her political outlook) and threaten the prestige of state schools.

But the columnist Ann Coulter, canceled during a visit to IU two years ago, is surely right that modern etiquette requires that “no policy be criticized unless it can be shown that it harms someone other than whites, men or Americans.” Thus, for example, reform of the immigration system is promoted illogically as being good for illegal immigrants, U.S. citizens be damned.

Being careful not to mention the hundreds of students and faculty and dozens of guest speakers who have been canceled on state campuses this last decade, the governor spoke vaguely of “intellectual vibrancy” and “differing viewpoints.” In any case, each university is left to work out the details themselves. The governor has faith they will do so “equitably.”

Nobody wants to say the obvious, that in certain fields white and Asian males outperform others by magnitudes. Moreover, to purposefully discourage such groups (can you spell D.E.I) is perverse and will bring one’s society to disaster.

Wait, somebody did say that — said it presciently a generation ago. 

Arnold Toynbee was at the time Britain’s preeminent historian. He was here for the summer of 1961 teaching at the University of Pennsylvania when he wrote this to American alumni:

“There is at least one current notion about democracy that is wrong-headed to the point of being disastrously perverse. This notion is that to have been born with an exceptionally large endowment of innate ability is tantamount to having committed a large pre-natal offense against society. It is looked upon as being an offense because, according to this wrong-headed view of democracy, inequalities of any and every kind are undemocratic.”

The great man reminded subscribers to alumni magazines throughout the nation that In a constitutional republic, even one governed democratically, no individual is equal except in one sense: He is given an equal opportunity to develop his unequal capacities. 

Toynbee’s heroic work, “A Study of History,” argues that societies arise from a challenge and response. If the challenge is overcome it is always by the response of a small number that Toynbee calls the creative minority. These can be anyone of creative spirit from illiterate farmers to nuclear physicists. He says that the individuals in this minority can be varied in demography, class or race but warns that they must be both protected and encouraged if the society is to prosper.

What would be the odds, Toynbee might ask, that the creative minority now needed to save American society be made up entirely of persons approved by Pamela Whitten and the AAUP or anyone not white, not heterosexual or not male?

Toynbee’s theory, need it be said, is no longer favorably reviewed on American campuses, if it is taught at all. — tcl



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