- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2001

This week, as 15 million students arrive at college, many professors will begin another year of politicizing the curriculum. Shrewdly, they will focus on the mission of delegitimization. What will they delegitimize? Not just the Bush II presidency, though there'll be plenty of that. Try anything legitimate such as the virtues of the American Founding, and the greatness of certain dead, white European thinkers.

To delegitimize one's predecessors is the natural course of life. The young always fight against the authority of the old once they've assimilated their tricks. The old usually deserve some censure, but rarely obliteration.

The natural course also includes two extremes that would overturn nature. Some would obliterate the old; others would obliterate the new. Reactionary conservatives would change nothing. Leftist revolutionaries would change everything at once. Both views are shortsighted. But, unlike reactionary conservatives, leftist revolutionaries made their way to America's campuses, back in the 1960s, with the goal of shaping the minds of the next generations.

Having delegitimized the authority of the previous generation, the revolutionaries were anxious to prevent future generations from delegitimizing their authority. The best way to do this was to delegitimize the idea of legitimacy itself.

Look briefly at their achievements. In the 1970s, Deconstruction went as far as to delegitimize the authority of an author to know what he was saying. In the 1980s, cultural studies delegitimized Western culture on the grounds that it was "constructed" by dead, white European men. In the 1990s, gender and transgender studies delegitimized the differences between the sexes. The revolution began with chants about peace and love, but now professors of Renaissance culture delegitimize love itself: Everything is a social construction based on oppressive representations of gender.

As for basics, first-year composition courses delegitimize English grammar, and humanities courses delegitimize reason. There's also the more general problem of teachers delegitimizing the authority of teachers, those potential imposers of their views. The charge? Reason and authority are tools of oppression. Who is anybody to tell anybody else what's correct?

But there's something worse than delegitimizing the pursuit of truths the legitimization of lies.

Take the universities' recent celebration of "I, Rigoberta Menchu," the autobiography of a Marxist writer from Guatemala who describes the oppression of Mayan families, including her own, by Guatemalans of European ancestry. Miss Menchu's "true story" brought her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. But it was based on lies. She described her father's struggle against oppressive landowners. In fact, it was a feud within her own family. Miss Menchu claimed she had never been to school and could not read or write Spanish. But she did, and she could. Miss Menchu used such fictions to legitimize the use of real violence, including Molotov cocktails.

Uncovered in 1998 by Middlebury College Anthropology Professor David Stoll and revealed by the New York Times on page one, Miss Menchu's mendacity didn't keep professors from teaching her. They simply legitimized her lies. "Whether her book is true or not, I don't care," said the head of Wellesley College's Spanish department, Marjorie Agosin.

A college education should help young minds to become discerning and critical, not bind them in ideological fetters. Unfortunately, professors devoted to the revolution see the world as but a battle of lies. He wins who delegitimizes best. The method is clear: Delegitimize America and Europe; legitimize all others. Excoriate the past for every intellectual error; excuse the violent crimes of the present, including the practice of slavery in Africa.

The revolution has legitimized itself as political correctness. The incorrect is deemed correct for a political purpose.

This fall, many professors will teach responsibly, some brilliantly. But the decades-long campaign to politicize the curriculum will continue. One of its aims is to delegitimize America.




Marc Berley is president of the Foundation for Academic Standards & Tradition (www.gofast.org) and co-editor of "The Diversity Hoax."


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