Our nation is clearly in the midst of a culture war. The most important battles are not being fought in Washington, D.C., but in our media, churches, schools, civic organizations, youth groups, and universities. Western civilization, as we have known it, and America, as we have known it, are losing. Much of the time, the losses come about by default. Few people seem willing to take a principled stand against the onslaught. Most Americans retreat before a shot is fired. They think, evidently, that they can escape—and they can, for a time—having to deal with the changes wrought by the globalists, the social engineers, the postmodernists, the deconstructionists, and the socialists. But that escape is, at best, a dereliction of duty, and, at worst, cowardice in the face of the enemy. The enemy, meanwhile, is emboldened, gains momentum, acquires fresh troops and new bases of supply, and launches new offensives.
The battleground where people are least likely to dig in and fight is the university. The liberal professor of the 50’s and 60’s has given way to the authoritarian, cultural Marxist professor of the 80’s and 90’s. Few conservatives can be found, and they are generally notable only for their silence. Most university departments were cleansed of conservatives long ago. More recently, a drive was launched to cleanse the departments of liberals, many of whom dare to cling to old bourgeois standards of objective inquiry and scientific methodology. The most vehement criticisms of faculty by other faculty that I saw during some 15 years of teaching at UCLA were not of conservatives by liberals but of liberals by cultural Marxists. Those liberal professors who did not morph into politically correct professors were excoriated. Their lives were made miserable, and they eventually accepted early retirement or left for another university.
One professor who left in the early 90’s was one of the most dynamic lecturers and finest scholars on campus. After teaching for some 25 years at UCLA, he is now at a major New England university. His troubles began when he objected to a demand for relaxed standards in the doctoral program in history. Simply stated, too many of the pet students of the politically correct professors were failing the written exams for the Ph.D. The exams were ultimately dumbed down. I thought the relaxation of standards outrageous until I learned that, during the last two decades, several universities had abandoned the written exams altogether.
The same professor got more grief when he wrote an article arguing against the establishment of a Chicano Studies department on campus. He correctly noted that the courses demanded by Chicano activists were already being taught by several departments and that the effort to establish a new department was more about money and power than scholarship. Responses to his argument included name-calling and threats. Perhaps it is de rigueur on campuses, but, nonetheless, it is ironic that the professor, a Jewish boy from New York, was called a “Nazi.”
An even bigger ruckus occurred, however, when the professor wrote an article questioning the wisdom of having several professors whose specialty was some aspect of “women’s history” when the department had few or no professors whose specialties were constitutional, diplomatic, or military history, Jacksonian America, or Civil War and Reconstruction. After seeing the article on the history department’s bulletin board, one female professor screamed, slammed doors, and tore down the article. She was only one of several who helped to make the professor’s days at UCLA ever more unpleasant. When he finally left for greener pastures, UCLA lost one of its most nationally prominent and distinguished scholars.
While an undergraduate, I heard a good deal about freedom of speech and academic freedom. When I was just beginning my graduate work, UCLA hired Angela Davis as a professor. She did not have a Ph.D., major publications, or significant teaching experience. No matter:?She was black, female, and Marxist. Her hiring created quite a stir off campus. It seems almost quaint today—howls of protest over the hiring of an unqualified radical—so conditioned have we become to accept such practices without the slightest dissent. Back then, more than 30 years ago, several regents of the University of California and a good number of politicians voiced objections. The UCLA faculty, for the most part, defended her appointment. It is simply a matter of freedom of speech and academic freedom, cried her faculty supporters. I discussed the issue with several of those professors. They all swore they were defending her not because she was black, female, and Marxist. Oh, no! They were defending the principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom. The university is the free marketplace of ideas!
Not too long after the furor over Angela Davis, the UCLA faculty voted to ban William Shockley from speaking on campus. Shockley was merely a distinguished professor of physics at Stanford, the inventor of the transistor, a Nobel laureate, and the reason there is a Silicon Valley today. His scientific genius had revolutionized the 20th-century world. However, he had made the mistake of noting that the average black scores 15 or more points lower on IQ tests than the average white. This is simply a matter of record, but it was not to be mentioned. Moreover, Shockley argued that the great disparity in IQs was not the result of environment but a consequence of genetic inheritance, like eye color. Shockley also identified an ominous trend in America: Those at the lower end of the IQ scale, be they black or white, were having the most children, while those at the upper end were having the fewest. How many generations before America was dumbed down? While all of this should have made for a provocative speech and stimulating discussion, it was not to be.
I asked the same professors who had defended Angela Davis why they had voted to ban William Shockley from speaking on campus. “He’s racist,” came the reply.
“So what?” I asked. “I thought it was the principle of freedom of speech and academic freedom you were defending.” I discovered that some facts are not to be mentioned, and some ideas, not discussed on campus—the putative bastion of free speech and free inquiry. Years later, when teaching my own classes at UCLA, I discovered that simply giving a factual narrative of U.S. history can create controversy.
Looking back, it is easy to see the transformation that academe was undergoing during the 1970’s and 80’s. At the time, though, what is now identified as “cultural Marxism” or “political correctness” was not so well understood. One day in the mid-80’s, I had an epiphany: Political correctness is a religion—a secular religion. There can be no dissent, no difference of opinion. Heretics are burned or banished, executed or exiled. Until my moment of enlightenment, I had difficulty understanding why some professors went into a rage when anyone disagreed with them. (I relish a good debate.) I had not yet realized that the politically correct simply could not accept a difference of opinion. Once I understood that they were religious zealots, I realized how naive and foolish I had been. Debate or even reasoned discussion was not an option.
This is why so many history departments have been cleansed of the politically incorrect. There is no diversity—of the intellectual and political variety—in these departments. The history department at the University of Colorado, located in a state where registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats, is a good example. According to a study published a few years ago by the Rocky Mountain News, 28 members of the department were registered voters. Twenty-seven of those were Democrats, and one was Republican. That was something of a victory since there were no registered Republicans in the English, psychology, philosophy, or journalism departments. In the university’s 13 liberal-arts departments, there were 190 professors—and 184 were Democrats. The University of Colorado is not atypical. Similar statistics were found at Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford—in fact, at nearly every university subjected to scrutiny.
The cleansing begins whenever the cultural Marxists gain control of the various committees in the department. Often, their actions are subtle and, as a consequence, more insidious. The politically correct zealots might find that their more moderate or conservative colleagues have large enrollments in their classes, excellent student evaluations, and a solid list of publications. Unable to attack such professors directly, the zealots instead concentrate on controlling the hiring of new faculty or revising the course description in the college catalogue. A professor cannot be told what to say in his classroom, but he is required to teach a course according to its description in the catalogue.
For example, the politically correct find a professor teaching the American West in the Turnerian tradition—the westward march of American pioneers across the continent, carving a civilization out of the wilderness and establishing democratic institutions—particularly odious. However, by every measure, the professor is highly rated. What to do? Change the catalogue course description. The course now becomes a study of issues concerning the interaction of different races and cultures, genocidal wars, American imperialism, the oppression of women and people of color, and environmental devastation.
The professor must now restructure his entire course to fit a politically correct agenda and ignore or treat with a jaundiced eye the Boones, Crocketts, and Jacksons crossing the Appalachians; the buckskin-clad mountain men planting their traps in the beaver streams of the Rockies and Far West; gold-fevered prospectors exploring every nook and cranny from California to Colorado and from Mexico to Alaska; pioneers struggling across deserts and mountains to the Pacific Coast; cattle barons grazing their beeves on the High Plains and declaring themselves masters of all they survey; the Pony Express racing through mountain blizzards, scorching deserts, and hostile Indians; teamsters cursing their way over the Santa Fe Trail; construction crews laying gleaming rails across the continent; gunfighters dueling in the streets of boom towns; highwaymen calling out to stagecoach drivers, “Throw down the box!”; and the 7th Cavalry riding out to battle with the regimental band playing “Garry Owen.” All such topics would have to be ignored or discussed only in relation to a politically correct agenda.
That, of course, is the point. The cultural Marxists believe there should be no time to discuss such Americans and such events for their own sake. Those frontiersmen and those epic events are too romantic, too heroic, too inspiring. It is now the duty of the university to teach students to hate America and to teach white males to hate themselves. Meanwhile, we Americans are financing these perversions with our tax dollars and our donations. We are financing our own destruction.
Committees controlled by the politically correct also determine which graduate students get stipends or assignments as teaching assistants. Any openly conservative or libertarian student had better have a job off campus. During my years at UCLA, such students were rare. Most graduate students in the liberal arts were well to the left of center, and some were already politically correct zealots. I really had my eyes opened in 1987. One week into a new quarter, I was called upon to replace an ill professor and teach a lower-division U.S. history survey course in addition to the upper-division American West and California history classes that I normally taught. Six teaching assistants (T.A.’s) had been assigned to the class, which had an enrollment of some 300 students. I knew none of the T.A.’s; one of the six was female. After my initial meeting with the teaching assistants, the female T.A.—I shall call her “Sheri”—said to another T.A., “I’ll have the prof in bed before the end of the quarter.”
Standard operating procedure for lower-division survey courses calls for the professor to lecture to the entire class two or three times weekly in a large lecture hall and for individual T.A.’s to meet with smaller groups of students once a week in “sections.” Problems began within a few weeks. One of the T.A.’s—I shall call him “Don”—confided in me that three of the T.A.’s were attempting to convince the others to file a complaint against me over my lectures. I expressed surprise because they had not said anything to me—and I had always encouraged discussion. “They don’t work that way,” replied Don. “They’re all members of the RCP.” The reference left me nonplussed. “What’s the RCP?” I asked. Don looked at me incredulously and, then, realizing that I was not kidding, said, “The Revolutionary Communist Party.” That explained what “RCP” stood for, but I was still at a loss concerning the organization. “It’s the Maoist branch of the communists,” declared Don, looking at me as if I had just fallen off the turnip truck.
My purportedly RCP teaching assistants did everything they could to undermine my lectures in their sections. They had one major problem, though—the facts. They were unable to challenge anything I said. In one of their conspiratorial meetings with the other T.A.’s, Don asked them if they could refute any of my facts. They grew frustrated, and, finally, one of them screamed, “There are some facts students just shouldn’t know.” Facts do have a rather inconvenient way of interfering with the imposition of Marxist models upon history. The screaming T.A. was Sheri. By now, she was convinced that I was a fascist pig. Nonetheless, she still had a strange attraction for me.
As teaching evaluations clearly demonstrated, most of the students greatly enjoyed my lectures. Several students even
noted that they were a refreshing change from the leftist propaganda of their other courses. There were a small number of politically correct zealots, however, whom I upset, angered, outraged. They finally resorted to bringing members of campus activist groups into class to monitor my lectures. This was especially fun—just the time to discuss black slave masters and the thousands of black slaves they owned, or the thousands of Irish immigrants who died doing jobs considered too dangerous for slaves, or the thousands of black slaves owned by the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw.
I tried to leave the politically correct activists dispirited and broken after each lecture. I was told that they had teams of students and professors checking my facts, thinking they would be able to contradict my statements. All of this led to the infamous statement, “There are some facts students just shouldn’t know.”
By the time I got to World War II, the activists were nearly hysterical. The politically correct proclaim that Japan was forced to go to war against the racist and imperialistic United States to defend her “unique culture.” I took my students back to the Japanese sneak attack on Port Arthur and the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese annexation of Korea, the Japanese participation in World War I to gain islands in the Pacific, the fortification of those islands against the League of Nations mandate, the invasion of Manchuria and the creation of the puppet state of Manchoukuo, the bombing of the Panay, the Rape of Nanking. I described the Japanese atrocities in China in gruesome detail. At the end of the lecture, a Chinese girl came up to me in tears and said, “Thank you, thank you, Professor McGrath. In all my years in school no one has ever dared to tell the story of Nanking.” (How different from when I grew up, when the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March were part of everyone’s vocabulary.)
For purposes of evaluating teaching assistants, a professor is required to attend each of his T.A.’s’ sections at least once. While at one of the sections, I listened to a student ask the T.A. why we dropped the bomb on Japan and not on Germany. Without blinking, the T.A. immediately responded, “Another example of racist America.” Later, in a private conference with the T.A., I asked if he might want to rethink his response. He stared blankly at me. The following dialogue then took place.
McGrath: “When did Germany surrender?”
T.A.: “I don’t know exactly.”
McGrath: “7 May 1945.”
McGrath: “Do you know when we first test-exploded the bomb?”
T.A.: “Not exactly.”
McGrath: “16 July 1945.”
The T.A. looked at me nonplussed. I was stunned. He either did not realize the incredible mistake he had made when responding to the student’s question, or he did not care. I explained to him that the bomb was not ready for actual use until more than two weeks after the first test explosion. Should we then have dropped it on Germany, I asked, three months after she had surrendered unconditionally? Again, no reaction. Wouldn’t most of us be horribly embarrassed by such an ignorant error? I further noted that the Manhattan Project was about producing a bomb for use against Germany, not Japan, and that we killed far more German civilians in the firebombings of German cities than we did in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It meant nothing to him.
This T.A. may very well be in a history department at a university today, lecturing to a new generation of students. Universities are turning out hundreds like him, believers in the secular religion of political correctness, facts be damned—if they are known. But, then, according to deconstructionists and deconstructionism, there are no facts. Facts are nothing more than artificial constructs of a particular culture, perspective, language, and consciousness. Please tell me that the deconstructionists dropped too much acid in the late 60’s, and their synapses have misfired ever since. In the meantime, I will stick to the facts.