Letters

Seth Forman

To the Editor:

In “The Children of Political Correctness” (Fall, 2019), H.S. Schwartz says that "political correctness has its roots in feminism." But I think the problem originates in something much broader and deeper—the leveling effect of democracy, working in concert with human nature. The democratic spirit is being used for ill by the PC generation not so much to lift up and "render equal" the marginalized, but to bring down the powerful.

A person can feel a delicious sense of moral superiority in the leveling process, especially a young person. We now have a society (and in fact, a Democratic Party) dominated by loud, demanding women and “beta” males. Bold men are constantly brought to a state of abject apology for their insensitivity, not to mention their "shameful" state of male privilege.

This problem goes back not so much to feminism, as to our human natures. We all want to feel morally in the right, and we have a natural tendency—unless curtailed by conscience and religion—to delight in bringing down the powerful. Secular young people, in particular, fall for this temptation, with a social justice idealism that is tempered strongly with envy and power seeking.

I think of a recent letter in the Wall Street Journal which described a middle-aged college professor who told his class he would write larger on the blackboard to help out "aging eyes." A student reported him for "racism"—for singling out Asians as a group for mockery! What a sense of empowerment this young woman must have had as she made the complaint. She could get her (male) professor called on the carpet for a PC violation!

Women as a group tend to be communitarian and intuitive, and less logical and judgmental than males. Our entire society is now dominated by this emotional-intuitive perspective, and a reluctance to think systematically and logically. Our country is now in desperate need of salient—i.e. both strong and good—men. But being constantly warned about their "toxic" masculinity (with no mention of toxic femininity as a problem in its own right) and their "privilege" as males, young men are not being raised up for leadership roles. They are falling quietly and obediently into the background.

Nothing has transgressed against PC so violently and insensitively as Trumpism. Trump simply doesn't care if he offends. And so he has become the devil—hated with a vehemence perhaps never before seen in American politics.

But there is still another anti-male force working in this primordial soup of anger. Homosexually oriented men, many of whom have experienced an attachment loss from males as a result of a malattunement with their fathers (see the book Shame and Attachment Loss by my late husband, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi) bear a simmering sense of grievance against men, especially Alpha males and insensitive, self-confident, narcissistic types like Trump. And so gay men, too, are driving the revolution to feminize the culture and "get even" with the father figure who marginalized them and (as they perceive it) excluded them from the world of males.

Linda Ames Nicolosi

Thousand Oaks, CA

To the Editor:

In John Rosenberg’s AQ summer, 2019 essay, “Harvard Hoisted on its own Petard,” the author sees “the Harvard Plan (Asian discrimination) as the reincarnation of Harvard’s anti-Semitic holistic admissions developed in the 1920s.” Although this is frequently and enthusiastically cited by many, it is incorrect. In 1922 the Jewish freshman student population at Harvard had reached 21 percent, a threefold increase since 1900. Harvard President Lawrence Lowell proposed a 15 percent quota in Jewish enrollment to forestall student conflicts and future anti-Semitism.

The earlier matriculation of German Jews in significant numbers as students and then as alumni caused no reaction at Harvard. Even the pre-1920s arrival of Eastern European Jews went unremarked. It was when the numbers exceeded 20 percent, primarily from an influx of Russian Jews, that their collective style brought a negative reaction, even from some German Jewish alumni, some of whom supported some kind of limitation short of quotas.

Lowell’s proposal was discriminatory, but was not European-style anti-Semitism, and drew an immediate response from Jewish leaders, including Justice Louis Brandeis, calling for admissions based upon merit. Harvard’s Jewish student organization, the Menorah Society under Harry Starr, organized student resistance, with the Boston Press in full support. Harvard’s Board of Overseers then created a thirteen member committee that included three Jewish members to determine admissions policy. They issued their report in 1923, and it repudiated any quota system, restated Harvard’s position of “equal opportunity” to all regardless of religion, and upheld the non-discrimination principle. Also, any “novel process of screening” or “covert devices” were rejected. In searching the American Jewish Historical Society no evidence of “character assessment” of Jewish students was found for this period, unlike that of Asian students in 2000. The Jewish enrollment in Harvard’s freshmen classes remained at less than 18 percent due to changes in focus, for example, from the urban northeast (e.g., Boston Latin School) to the western states (Wyoming). By 1940 Jewish enrollment had returned to 25 percent.

It is worth mentioning that many prominent Jewish families did not perceive Harvard to be anti-Semitic. In 1924 the Lehmans, Sachses, Strauses, and Warburgs, prominent Jewish families, contributed generously to that year’s Harvard Campaign. Harry Starr remained loyal to Harvard and presided over many generous gifts to his alma mater over his career, including the current Harry Starr Fellowship in Jewish Studies.

The post-1923 Overseers report remained the mostly merit-based admissions policy until 1933, when James Bryant Conant became Harvard President (1933 to 1953). President Conant enhanced the merit basis for admissions in 1935 by requiring all candidates for admissions to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SATs), after he helped to develop what became the Educational Testing Service, which was instituted in 1947. President Nathan Pusey (1953 to 1971) furthered the outreach beyond New England private schools to the public schools, using the SATs.

The important point here is that it is incorrect to portray the current anti-Asian (and anti-white male) discrimination as just another demonstration of Harvard’s discriminatory inclinations. Rather, it represents a dramatic change into overt racial and gender discrimination that has had serious consequences in the university functions of academic freedom, curriculum, scholarship, and culture.

George Seaver

Cataumet, MA

Independent Researcher, NAS Member

President, SeaLite Engineering, R & D in Ocean Sensors

To the Editor:

The fall 2019 article by Craig Evan Klafter (“Good Grieve! America’s Grade Inflation Culture”) gave a valuable historical perspective on grade inflation, but I think it understates the problem. Meritocratic grading is diametrically opposed to progressive ideology. Here are some examples of my colleagues’ thinking:

“When a student's work is sub-par, it’s not their fault—it’s the fault of social injustice, so it would be unfair to penalize the student.”

“When one essay seems better than another, it’s unconscious bias against a diverse voice.”

“I just want to give them degrees; I don’t care how they get them.”

“From each according to his/her/its/their ability.”

It is hard to see how merit-based grading can be restored to institutions that embrace progressivism as their guiding principle. With teacher education programs thoroughly immersed in ideology, how can K-12 teachers grade realistically? The only solution I can see is to call the problem by its name—to verbally acknowledge when the public mission is being subordinated to progressive politics. It is easy for people to pretend that this is not happening when no one says it openly.

Thank you for contributing to this painful but necessary process.

Loretta G. Breuning

Professor Emerita

Dept. of Management

California State University, East Bay

To the Editor:

In his fall 2019 essay (“Academic Malaise: Bring Back the Groves of Academe”) Mohamed Gad-el-Hak attributes the current academic malaise to the decline of “shared governance” and “faculty participation in academe’s affairs,” and rising costs. My research shows that the general mood of discomfort and unease on campus is a secondary effect of the promotion of diversity in the student body at the expense of merit, the weakening of the faculty’s tenure, and the discriminatory way in which new faculty is selected. For example, Harvard University instituted a new plan to accommodate “neurodiverse students” (ADD, Dyslexia, etc.) to solve an immediate “malaise” problem. If you go back far enough, its cause can be seen as the rejection of merit in admissions.

George Seaver

Cataumet, MA

Independent Researcher, NAS Member

President, SeaLite Engineering, R & D in Ocean Sensors

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