18 Oct 2016

Re-Writing History at Yale

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calhouncollege1

When Yale established the residential college system in emulation of the independent colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, one of the then ten colleges established was named for Class of 1804 alumnus and one-time Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of War, illustrious Senator and political theorist John C. Calhoun.

Wikipedia puts it blandly:

Because of his political, military, and intellectual achievements, Calhoun was venerated as an illustrious Yale alumnus beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. He was the only Yale graduate to be elected to a federal executive office in the school’s first two centuries, until the election of U.S. President William Howard Taft in 1909.

But the reality is, Southerner and intellectual father of the Lost Cause though he was, John C. Calhoun, in the era preceding the radical left’s Long March through the Culture and the Universities, was universally regarded as one of the three all-time giants of the Senate, and the single most important American statesman and political thinker to have ever graduated from Yale.

Last April 27th, Yale President Salovey announced that the University was declining to comply with demands from snowflakes of color that Calhoun College be renamed. This rebuff was, however, accompanied by other payoffs: the traditional title of “Master” for the distinguished senior faculty member who presided over a Yale residential college would be henceforward changed to “Head,” lest some dimbulb darkie confusing an ancient academic title with a reference to Antebellum Slavery be offended, and one of the two new residential colleges under construction would be named for some African-American leftist dyke whom no non-communist had ever previously heard of.

The fate of John C. Calhoun’s college seemed to be settled, but, no! it turned out that Salovey was a welsher. Just a few months later, when August rolled around, Salovey announced the formation of an Orwellian “Committee to Establish Principles of Renaming.

The membership of that committee included a variety of individual SJWs, all obviously keenly committed to contemporary political perspectives intensely hostile to the culture and institutions of the Antebellum Southern United States and passionately opposed to the sectional and anti-egalitarian views of the late Senator Calhoun. There will be found on that committee not one single conservative, one defender of the Southern perspective, one admirer of Calhoun, or even one Old Blue traditionalist. The renaming committee is still currently holding meetings, but to say that its ultimate report is a foregone conclusion would be an massive understatement.

1997 alumnus Alexander Zubatov is the kind of graduate who ought to be in charge, but is not. Zubatov writes indignantly:

[T]he very name, “Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming,” …sounds like something Josef Stalin would have come up with while attempting to whitewash Soviet history of references to tsars, saints and that sort of thing. The act of erecting a one-issue litmus test for whitewashing American universities of references to slavery is equally myopic and dystopian. Undoubtedly, those immersed in the committee’s mission would believe the difference is that they are doing the good Lord’s work in furtherance of a just cause, and yet, wouldn’t they have to concede that Soviets visionaries and bureaucrats surely shared that view?

This nation has become obsessed with race, racism, slavery, discrimination and the cancer of regressive, zero-sum, winner-take-all identity politics, with the result that ideologues on the left and right are ensuring Americans are divided, polarized and pitted against each other based on their most superficial identifications. Yale, like many institutions of higher education in America, appears to have lost sight of the fact that part of the mission of an educational institution should be to avoid trend-hopping and to remain above the fray, to stand back from the dust cloud of our present-day turmoil and avail itself of the more nuanced and distanced vantage points conferred by academic disciplines such as history and philosophy, which further deep reflection rather than shallow proclamations and knee-jerk actions. By contrast, a university that is constantly bobbing and weaving in fear as a response to every whim of impulsive students who have not yet acquired the ability to stand back and think is a university that has lost sight of its educational mission. It is a university being run by spineless technocrats and cynical profiteers afraid of losing a few dollars for a few days on account of being branded “racist” in some hysterical student screed, YouTube video, or viral Tweet.

I have no doubt whatsoever that those who act most rashly today will be judged most harshly by history tomorrow. What we need today is not the renaming of buildings but a re-framing of the entire debate so that the question is not under what conditions we should or should not rename buildings, but rather, why it is that we have come to a point in our culture where so many people have become so over-determined by what Max Weber referred to as their “status groups” (races, gender affiliations, sexual proclivities, etc.) that they are blinded to the common good of our society as a whole.

Read the whole thing and shed a tear for Yale and another for the late Senator from South Carolina.

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5 Feedbacks on "Re-Writing History at Yale"

eli

“There will be found on that committee not one single conservative, one defender of the Southern perspective, one admirer of Calhoun, or even one Old Blue traditionalist.”

In the end, these types couldn’t be bothered to rebuff the efforts of the politically correct crowd.

Could they? Is that the fault of the SJW’s?



Seattle Sam

I am waiting anxiously for the demands to rename the university. As an official for the East India Company in Madras, Elihu Yale presided over an important part of the Indian Ocean slave trade. This is arguably a much greater “offense” than anything Senator Calhoun ever did.



Mark

Since New Haven, in which Yale is located, is a sanctuary city where federal immigration laws are not enforced, I would think that Yale would be proud of the legacy of Calhoun, the father of Nullification.



JDZ

Roger Kimball pointed that out.



JDZ

None of those types have a Chinaman’s chance of teaching or having an administrative position at Yale or, if a student, getting on such a committee. Yale has lots of conservative alumni. Those alumni have no say or influence.



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