Eggheads, Pointy Headed Intellectuals and the American Public

Posted on September 14, 2017

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There is a war on these days between the intellectual world and the rest of us.
Who are intellectuals? Basically, it is those who embrace and esteem the world of the mind higher than the common world most of us inhabit.

Merriam-Webster defines intellectual as someone chiefly guided by the intellect rather than emotion or experience; people given to study and reflection, engaged in the creative use of the intellect.

One of our former governors, George Wallace, observed that intellectuals were pointy headed college professors who can’t even park a bicycle straight. A former president, Herbert Hoover, noted that intellectuals demonstrate an “unbroken record of total abstinence from constructive joy over our whole national history.”

There are other equally entertaining views of intellectuals but this is a deadly serious business.

Intellectuals dominate much of higher education and what they think and write and teach will be passed on the generations coming into their own and eventually power.

A good example of how intellectuals work comes to us from Duke where the Divinity School (WSJ, 22 May 2017) basically ran out a moderate on their faculty for challenging diversity gurus in that school.

A faculty member, Paul Griffiths, challenged the activist agenda of a proposed seminar devoted to “constructions of identity, gender, and ethnicity, and traditions of violence and nonviolence.” For the intellectual community, these are code words for a highly subjective, often corrosive, and usually one-sided politically correct agenda.

Griffiths had the boldness to state that this seminar will be filled with “bromides [and] clichés” and furthermore the seminar speakers would reflect “illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies.” Griffiths added that the seminar would be “definitively anti-intellectual.” And by intellectual he meant an open forum for discussion and debate.

Faced with the Dean and a faculty member–one who upbraided him and the second who filed a complaint against him for “harassment,” — Griffiths quit.
The politically correct intellectual community is exercising power over the character formation of your college age children right here at Alabama.

A national search has just concluded with the appointment of G. Christine Taylor as a “Vice President/Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” to “establish a holistic and integrated vision that fosters a welcoming and supportive environment for students, faculty, staff, visitors and the community at large—regardless of cultural differences, beliefs, values, ethnicity, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, gender identity, or religion.”

If that sounds like a politically correct society’s agenda, you are right. What about truth, honesty, Christian values, integrity, responsibility, true liberty, a competitive environment, critical thinking, and wrap it all within the principle of “excellence,” rather than “diversity?”

While perhaps not up to snuff in football, the University of Tennessee just got rid of their diversity initiative. Is there something Tennessee knows that we don’t?

I have a son and a daughter, among three children, one of whom is a commercial jet pilot and the other is a surgeon. They got to the flight cockpit and the operating room because of skill, tenacity, and intelligence.

Do you want someone in the operating room or in the cockpit because of some other reasons, related perhaps to race, religion, ethnicity, cultural values, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, or even age? That is the very antithesis of what made this country what it is.

Intellectuals exercise a disproportionate influence on the American public in general since a lot of them staff the media, the think tanks, and the world of communications in general. BTW, intellectuals of the right, like George Wills for example, seem to have lost their equilibrium as well when faced with a populist like President Trump.

How about if the University sponsors a new college, call it Alpha College. It will not be devoted to diversity, but instead to excellence. Alpha College will equip our students to live in a world where the values of a true liberal (old fashioned definition of liberal) education is foundational.

What will Alpha College look like? That will be determined by people representing different interests—business, education, religion, languages, sciences, sports, etc. and add a poet or two for spice—all brought together by the President and given their charge by him. Engineers are well organized people.

I bet he would do a bang-up job and push UA to the forefront of programs built on excellence and competition, rather than diversity and equality. And I bet big changes in principles and policies coming out of Washington will support such a move.

Published as “Excellence Should Take Precedence in Academia” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday July 2, 2017.

Posted in: Education