Poisonous “Authenticity”

Heather Mac Donald, City Journal, April 29, 2008

The list of Afrocentric “educators” whom the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has invoked in his media escapades since Sunday is a disturbing reminder that academia’s follies can enter the public world in harmful ways. Now the pressing question is whether they have entered Barack Obama’s worldview as well.

{snip}

At the NAACP meeting, Mr. Wright proudly propounded the racist contention that blacks have inherently different “learning styles,” correctly citing as authority for this view Janice Hale of Wayne State University. Pursuing a Ph.D. by logging long hours in the dusty stacks of a library, Mr. Wright announced, is “white.” Blacks, by contrast, cannot sit still in class or learn from quiet study, and they have difficulty learning from “objects”—books, for example—but instead learn from “subjects,” such as rap lyrics on the radio. These differences are neurological, according to Ms. Hale and Mr. Wright: Whites use what Mr. Wright referred to as the “left-wing, logical and analytical” side of their brains, whereas blacks use their “right brain,” which is “creative and intuitive.” When he was of school age in Philadelphia following the Supreme Court’s 1954 desegregation decision, Mr. Wright said, his white teachers “freaked out because the black children did not stay in their place, over there, behind the desk.” Instead, the students “climbed up all over [the teachers], because they learned from a ‘subject,’ not an ‘object.’ ” How one learns from a teacher as “subject” by climbing on her, as opposed to learning from her as “object”—by listening to her words—is a mystery.

{snip} Embracing the notion that blacks shouldn’t be expected to listen attentively to instruction is guaranteed to perpetuate into eternity the huge learning gap between blacks on the one hand, and whites and Asians on the other.

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Mr. Wright also praised the work of Geneva Smitherman of Michigan State University, who has called for the selective incorporation of Ebonics into the curriculum in order to validate the black experience. Mr. Wright gave another shout-out to the late Asa Hilliard of Georgia State University, who told us, Mr. Wright said, “how to fix the schools.” Like Ms. Hale, Mr. Hilliard argued that disrupting the classroom through “impulsive interrupting and loud talking” is inherently black. His bogus Afrocentrism, propounded in his “African-American Baseline Essays,” metastasized in educational circles during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Hilliard argued that Western civilization was at once stolen from black Africa and crippling to black identity. As the late Arthur M. Schlesinger recounted in his 1991 alarum about multiculturalism, “The Disuniting of America,” Mr. Hilliard urged schools to teach black students that Egypt was a black country; that Africans invented birth control and carbon steel; that they discovered America long before Columbus did; that Robert Browning and Ludwig von Beethoven were “Afro-European”; and that the Atlantic Ocean was originally named the Ethiopian Ocean. {snip}

Approving of self-destructive behavior in school is just one part of the vast academic project to justify black underclass dysfunction. {snip}

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{snip} But the white elite’s desire to avoid charges of racism cancels out all reasonable reactions to dangerous nonsense when such nonsense comes out of black mouths. The coverage of Mr. Wright’s speeches beyond the Times has been just as silent about their crackpot Afrocentric pedagogy, meekly following the agenda that Mr. Wright set by asking instead whether the black church, and not Mr. Wright, was under attack.

{snip} It is imperative that someone ask Mr. Obama whether he, too, believes that the way to “fix the schools” is through Afrocentric curricula and double standards in student discipline, and whether he, too, believes that blacks only think with the “right side” of their brains.

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