Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power.

22. The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

Yes, erasing Washington, Jefferson and the Founders would be worse, and thanks to craven administrators like Salovey, we are inching closer to that result. The Times article tells us that students are protesting the residence hall named after Benjamin Franklin, because he once owned slaves (before he formed the first abolition organization in the colonies). I’d say eliminating Franklin’s honors—is there a more essential American in the nation’s history?—would be worse, and Yale shows no reason to believe that it won’t agree to that, too.

25. The Coercion Myth: “I have no choice!”

No, there is always a choice for people of integrity.

40. The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”

The refrain of the leaders who will abandon all in order to keep power he has no idea how to use responsibly.

44. The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s not the first time”

Oh, that’s true. Ethics Alarms noted last June,

Next step: anyone who ever defended slavery. South Carolina’s Senator John C. Calhoun was one of the three legislative giants, along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, who dominated the nation’s policy debates in the pre-war period. In Minnesota, activists are demanding that a lake named after him be renamed.  If Calhoun is to be dishonored, why wouldn’t the same logic sweep out Clay, who crafted the compromises that allowed slavery to creep into the territories, or even slave-holding Presidents like Polk, Jackson, Monroe, Jefferson and George Washington?

Working forward, surely Woodrow Wilson can’t escape historical airbrushing off the scene.

Sure enough, Princeton has begun its non-personing of its former professor, Yale president, and President of the United States by removing a wall-size photograph of Wilson from a dining hall, saying that “Its size and prominence in the Wilcox Dining Hall has seemed to us ‘unduly celebratory’ and not in keeping with the spirit of Wilson College’s founding wish to have Princeton be a place that is truly diverse and inclusive, and one that embraces, respects, and values all its members.” Princeton will keep Wilson’s name on various building and the Wilson Institute, for now.

45. The Abuser’s License:  “It’s Complicated”

It’s not complicated. We do not measure the worthiness of past leaders and statesmen by the standards of today’s culture, because to do so does them an injustice, and leaves us with a distorted understanding of history.

50. The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”

It is true that few will be willing to stand up for a Senator whose career is barely taught in schools. Ignorance is the mother of ethics rot. One would think, however, that ignorance as a justification would not be sufficient to win the day at Yale…and one would be wrong.

The New York Times certainly does its usual job of obscuring and slanting the issues here. Describing Calhoun as a” 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina” is misrepresentation and deceit. Virtually all statesmen, industrialists, farmers, bankers, writers, professors, ministers and citizens who were white in 19th Century America were white supremacists, including Abraham Lincoln. Calhoun was a champion of states rights (when it was not just a euphemism for segregation) and the importance of maintaining a democracy in which minority interests and positions wer not dominated by the majority. Slavery was only one of many issues in which he asserted and fought for this philosophy, and his words and writings on the topic might prove valuable to Democrats and progressives today, if they had the wit and depth to understand them.  Biographer Irving Bartlett wrote:

“What he had to say about the need in popular governments like our own to protect the rights of minorities, about the importance of choosing leaders with character, talent, and the willingness to speak hard truths to the people, and about the enduring need, in a vast and various country like our own, for the people themselves to develop and sustain both the civic culture and the institutional structures which contribute to their lasting interest is as fresh and significant today as it was in 1850.”

That is, if one is interesting in learning about the nuances of government, which protesting Yale students are clearly not.

If one is outraged over Andrew Jackson’s hostility to Native Americans, Calhoun was the anti-Jackson (they hated each other.) As Monroe’s Secretary of State, Calhoun had responsibility for management of Indian affairs, and promoted a plan to preserve the sovereignty of the eastern tribes by relocating them to western reservations where they could (he thought) avoid interference from state governments. Calhoun supervised the negotiation and ratification of 40 treaties with Native American tribes, and opposed the invasion of Florida launched in 1818 by then General Jackson during the First Seminole War.

History and our evolving wisdom about human rights have proven Calhoun wrong about a great deal, almost everything, in fact.  Because nations evolve, and society’s knowledge and standards evolve, being “right,” a designation that is always shaky at best and often ephemeral, can not be the basis on which we recognize and honor our most influential predecessors. In 1957, a Senate committee chaired by Senator John F. Kennedy selected Calhoun as one of the five greatest United States Senators in history. Why? He was a great orator; he was a prodigious theorist and thinker, he was renowned for being professional and collegial always, and he represented his state with passion and effectiveness, which was his job. A Senator from South Carolina in Calhoun’s era would not and could not be other than an advocate for slavery.

I wrote in June that a friend, lawyer, and Democrat had chided me on Facebook for suggesting that the frenzy to make America a safe place for anyone troubled by the opinions and actions of American patriots of the past could reach as far as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and accused me of engaging in wild hyperbole. Soon thereafter, the Connecticut Democratic Party purged the names and images of Presidents Jackson and Jefferson from its annual dinner, in order to kowtow to progressive activists. In November of last year, hundreds of University of Virginia students and faculty members demanded that President Teresa Sullivan stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, because doing so “undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.” You know, quotes like,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.

I believe it is fair to say that I was right to be alarmed, and my friend was wrong. (I’m still going to leave the statue of him in my backyard stay there, though.)

The cultural ethics alarms are sounding, as the toxic combination of the ignorant, the cultural bullies and the cowardly brings the United States closer to an Orwellian society where the past is remade to suit the perceived needs of the present.  Yale’s treatment of Calhoun redoubles my conviction that I expressed last year more than once. We have to honor what deserved and deserves to be honored. If we do not, history becomes political propaganda, useful only to support current political agendas. A nation that does not  honor and respect its history has no history.

And a nation that has no history is lost.

32 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Race, U.S. Society

32 responses to “Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

  1. Rick M

    Maybe the next step is a Taliban type destruction of offensive monuments and symbols? Start with Washington Monument.

  2. Mercy me! This doesn’t bode well for my Alma Mater, the U.W./Madison. If this ‘looking backward’ becomes a thing? Fugeddaboudit!

    Were alumni/current students, especially of the Post-Modern Neo-Lefty perpetually aggrieved type, to look into what was all the rage on campus in the early 1900’s?

    Professors Richard T. Ely, John R. Commons, Charles Van Hise, et al, (committed Progressives all) were enamored, with the express approval of their own consciences, of the scientific approach to things deemed of great societal import.

    (Disclosure: My Dear Brother attended Van Hise Grade School, I attended classes at Van Hise Hall, and I’ve frequented many “Commons”)

    The top of that list?

    ”Race suicide,” which could only be safeguarded scientifically with race purification/race hygiene efforts, which would lead to better racial “stock,” which could only be decided by real real smart academic people who had…um…the best interest of the future in mind.

    These were men of vision, it’s clear they wanted the best for everybody.

    Everybody like them.

    • Other Bill

      Well Paul, let’s not forget the name of the town. I’m sure Madison did all sorts of terrible things when he was alive. They could rename the town Marcuse. Surely no one would object to that.

      • Recumbent driver

        Better yet, given the inhabitants, name it ‘Yagoda,’ after the poor unfortunates of the past. (Ho-ho)

      • “Surely no one would object to that.”

        You must not be acquainted with the…um…workings of The 77 Square Miles Surrounded By A Sea Of Reality, which proudly boasts the plastic Pink Flamingo as the official city bird and the bike paths get plowed before most city streets.

        Your earnest recommendation, or nearly all others for that matter? My home town would simply reply: “No, now what’s your question?”

        Anywho, while those UW nabobs didn’t blaze the “Master Race” trail, they sure cleared away most of the brush making it easier for others to follow.

        Including a failed Austrian artist, who embraced it and kicked it up another notch.

        • Other Bill

          Must be quite a place.

        • luckyesteeyoreman

          Texas has islands like those “77 Square Miles” – “blue zoos” (of political anti-diversity) – with apologies to fans and personnel of the U.S. Air Force Academy for misappropriating that term.

          • “Texas has islands like those ’77 Square Miles’ ”

            I used to live in Houston and have been all over that great state!

            That said, does it have islands that boast the following?

            Madison’s Bassett Street (where I lived Junior year 77-78) came within one CommonSenseLess Council vote of being renamed Ho Chi Minh Trail in the early 1970’s as a protest against the Viet Nam War.

            • Other Bill

              THAT’s crazy. Santa Fe is the other “surrounded by sanity” town I know of. I’m guessing Austin, TX is in that category as well.

              • Other Bill wrote“THAT’s crazy. Santa Fe is the other “surrounded by sanity” town I know of. I’m guessing Austin, TX”

                I think Austin’s “surrounded by sanity” area is larger than the Madison’s; however, those Texans do a dandy job of containing the “surrounded by sanity” virus within the limits of that “surrounded by sanity”. 🙂

            • Does [Texas] have islands that boast the following?

              Well, we have Austin, which has voted to raise taxes for ‘civic improvements’ to the extent that they cannot pay their property bills…

              From the link:

              …“I have voted for every park, every library, all the school improvements, for light rail, for anything that will make this city better. But now I can’t afford to live here anymore. I’ll protest my appraisal notice, but that’s not enough. Someone needs to step in and address the big picture.”

              Not a clue that SHE caused this problem.

              http://hotair.com/archives/2014/06/02/liberal-austin-homeowners-surprised-to-find-they-have-to-pay-all-the-taxes-they-voted-for/

              • A little off topic here, but to your “taxed out of our homes” ($8 large on a $350,000 home here) comment, a ‘cautionary tale’ response from a woman addressing my railing on Madison’s civic stupidity.

                “I was born in Milwaukee, raised on the East Coast, and now am desperately trying to escape the Seattle metro area and complete life’s circle with a return to Wisconsin in 2017.

                “Having witnessed the clusterf— of Seattle’s City Council throwing money at speculative reports and proposals on how to ‘fix’ the innumerable problems ranging from transit to homelessness and beyond, I’d like to point that out as a prime example of what could happen to Madison.

                “Although the hubs and I are shopping for the most real estate bang for our buck and likely won’t live in Madison proper, I hope that more people realize that extreme, SJW-centered thinking will leave the city spinning its wheels in the years to come and could, like in Seattle, lead to skyrocketing property taxes, sales taxes, and administrative charges (e.g., car registration fees) as the city–aka the stoned wood nymph dance party–looks for funding.

                “Folks should keep an eye on what happens in the PNW (Vancouver, BC is also struggling with substantial increases in not only homelessness, but housing costs) and take notes as these cities show the world what *not* to do in these situations, most importantly.”

                • Paul W. Schlecht wrote, “A little off topic here, but to your “taxed out of our homes” ($8 large on a $350,000 home here)”

                  You also have that gorgeous botanical garden surrounding your house that you should be charging admission to to help cover those excess taxes. 🙂

            • luckyesteeyoreman

              [Reply to Paul W. Schlecht Feb 13 at 12:39 pm]

              So far as I know, Texas’ blue islands have not yet gone fully Ho. Austin is one of those islands, as a couple of commenters have said. Houston is getting bluer by the day; they’re out of money to pay their employees’ pensions, but Mayor Turner assures that the city remains a sanctuary, so I guess the feelz are so good about that plus the recent Super Bowl hosting, the town’ll soon have a fiscal surplus for centuries looking ahead.

              The blueness of other Texas people-magnet zones like El Paso and Dallas-Fort Worth is less well-known to me. I have lived in “red Texas” too many years, so I have failed to pay enough attention to the blue-ing (actually, the re-blue-ing, or “Californication”) of the state overall. But I don’t doubt that a blue wave is coming, a fucking tsunami of blue statist shit that’ll eventually take away everyone’s cars, trucks, guns, non-electric lawn mowers and other power tools, farting cows, single-family homes, brick-and-mortar churches, brick-and-mortar fast food outlets, and most retail merchants – leaving Texas as the continental leader in mobile solar-powered water-boiling dispensers, feral hogs, PortaPottys, and crawfish-rationing.

              • luckyesteeyoreman

                How could I forget to mention San Antonio?! (likely to be re-named Ciudad de Castros within one generation) There is still a lot of military around that town, so there is a mix of red and blue. But one or two Congressional elections from now, you can rest assured they’ll get BRAC-fucked out of existence, and converted into refugee re-settlement centers for the breeding-like-rabbits and raping-like-incubi Sharia class. I give the Alamo less than 10 years before every fucking brick of it disappears.

            • Nah. Houston doesn’t have a Ho Chi Minh Trail. That move tried and failed; now the street is simply called “Pothole Lane”, or Richmond Avenue, for short. I would ;post a photo of the aggrieved area but I am afraid that my suspension system on my Panzer tank could take the punishment.

              jvb

  3. Wayne

    President Salovey exemplifies everything that is wrong about too many university administrators. Calhoun was a great man of his time who for one opposed the Mexican-American War. But this spineless administrator allows the pc renaming of a residential college under his watch. Probably nothing will happen to this careerist.

  4. Joe Fowler

    History has always been written (mostly) by the victors. The genius of the left since Marx is that they have managed to avoid the necessity of being victorious to rewrite history to fit their narrative. Most college students think Lincoln was a Democrat, and that the Republicans opposed civil rights in the 60’s. THAT would fit the liberal narrative, and the actual facts are as inconvenient for the left as the actual number of Sharia law supporters in the Muslim refugees heading west.

  5. Pennagain

    An open revolution would have been honest. But that would have required sane motivation and sober planning to begin with instead of hysterical* incitement to the destruction of minor, personal targets (small businesses, peripheral historical symbols, and other random unconnected ideas).

    Disorder of the Left
    *hysteria (clinical definition): a psychological disorder whose symptoms include conversion of psychological stress into physical symptoms, selective amnesia, shallow volatile emotions, and overdramatic or attention-seeking behavior.

  6. In our get-it-now, cell phone game playing society, few stop to listen to a complicated truth as opposed to the facile lie. If it takes more than a moment to get your point across, you have already lost the debate, with most low information voters.

    Saying, “Wait! This is what you asserted last time, and now you are saying the opposite!” requires thought, honesty and integrity on the other side if it is to make the point. Many across the political spectrum no longer care (or maybe have the attention span) to debate, nor the integrity to admit a point that is made.

    And we are poorer for that. This also got Trump elected, and leads to Civil War when unchecked.

  7. “important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor”

    That would be terrifying if that was what was happening. But that’s not what’s happening here. They’re not removing Calhoun from the history books, they’re not refusing to mention him in history courses. They’re renaming a building after a more recent historical figure, which is not an inherently unethical act.

    • ”They’re renaming a building after a more recent historical figure, which is not an inherently unethical act.”

      They’re renaming it to make it more relevant to today’s students, are they?

      If so, a few names to consider: Bruno Mars, Beyonce’, Adele, Starbucks, Pokémon Go.

      Old buildings and their names are generally revered, respectable even.

      Noah Cross (John Huston in ”Chinatown”) put it a bit more succinctly: “Course I’m respectable. I’m old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        Great movie (Chinatown), great quote! You, Steve-o, texagg04 and several others (even leftists!) are indispensable to my enjoyment of this blog.

      • “If so, a few names to consider: Bruno Mars, Beyonce’, Adele, Starbucks, Pokémon Go.”

        Bruno Mars, Beyonce’, and Adele never went to Yale, and the other two aren’t even people, whereas Admiral Hopper was a Yale grad who is a somewhat important figure in computer science and the computerization of our modern industrial civilization. She’s already got a US warship named after her, so I don’t think a campus building is a stretch.

        • Wayne

          No problem with naming a new campus building after her. She certainly made important contributions including being on the team that developed the UNIVAC computer. The real question is why in the world would anybody erase the name of a very important historical figure from a college campus?

    • I agree that it is not inherently unethical. The reason he is being removed makes it unethical along with the message it sends for a university to send it.

  8. Pretty soon these wackos will have amassed enough political power to erase every name from the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, all the Amendments, etc and every other government document signed by prominent politician that they can find fault with making all the documents null and void.

    These idiots will erase our history piece by piece until we have no history and no one knows what the hell our country stands for anymore.

  9. Other Bill

    Great article on this in the Wall Street Journal. I remember hearing Elihu Yale was a slave trader.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/yales-inconsistent-name-dropping-1486941233?mod=e2two

    I’m guessing eventually they’re going to have to rename the university after Noam Chomsky, or Bernadette Dorn or Herbert Marcuse.

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