Literature, Indoctrination, and DEI, Oh My

Kali Jerrard

CounterCurrent: Week of 3/13/23

The humanities are too often ignored and disparaged. We’ve been taught to pragmatically pursue the college degree that will most elevate our societal status, or make us the most money, rather than study the good, the true, and the beautiful. Literature, history, music, and more have been cast to the wayside by both conservatives and classical liberals alike, leaving the door wide open for far-left diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) enthusiasts to push their agenda in colleges and universities, all while we blindly look the other way.

In his recent article on Minding the Campus, Eric Graf identifies literature as the supposed “Blind Spot of Higher Education” and explains how the DEI agenda is making its way onto campuses through the humanities. Graf points to institutions like American University, a premier research university in the D.C. area with a solid track record. A recent job posting from American looks like an impressive one-year appointment at a top university, but there is a deeper problem lurking:

American University invites applications for a term faculty appointment in the Departments of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies and Literature for Academic Year 2022-2023. Successful applicants will be able to teach interdisciplinary, intersectional courses at both introductory and advanced levels about American culture, power dynamics, and social change. Of particular importance is the ability to teach an advanced writing seminar, CRGC 360, entitled “Knowledge and Power: Critical Interdisciplinary Theory and Method.” Development of courses for the AU Core undergraduate curriculum will also be expected. Rank will be dependent on experience and stature in the field. The appointment is a 9-month term position and will commence on August 29, 2022. The position will require the incumbent to teach three courses per semester in Literature.

The surface-level takeaway is this: American University is dual-hiring faculty to teach in the Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies (CRGC) and the Department of Literature. This may not raise an alarm at first glance, but it is troublesome for many reasons. The deeper issue is that by adding pro-CRT and pro-DEI faculty to its literature department, American has opened wide the floodgates of the “jargon-filled critical studies department” and has hopped on the fast track to a full DEI takeover. As Graf explains,

It’s no coincidence that literature is such an early and consistent target for critical studies and other grievance-based initiatives. Programs and departments like African studies, Hispanic studies, gender and sexuality studies, or indigenous studies can be leveraged to great effect on today’s campus. Once a few of these are established, a critical studies department can be easily justified and the takeover of humanities completed. Next up are more traditional departments such as history, economics, chemistry, and math.

If we back up a step further, another problem with higher ed’s hiring process becomes clear: the inclusion of diversity statements to vet applicants. If you don’t know, diversity statements are “short essays that express one’s past contributions to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and future plans to advance the cause.”

To use or not to use diversity statements in faculty hiring processes is an ongoing battle in higher education. Many colleges and universities across the country have added diversity statements to their applications and faculty review processes. Rather than looking at the qualifications of potential hires or current faculty (because that would be too clearcut), you must first and equally assess whether the applicant/faculty will contribute meaningfully to advancing DEI on campus. The message is clear: great teaching is inextricably tied to activism.

In a recent article, National Association of Scholars Senior Fellow and Director of University Policy John Sailer explains how diversity statements skew the pool of faculty applicants. Texas Tech University’s diversity statements, for example, have become “functional ideological screening tools,” where applicants are ranked equally for their contributions to DEI and their ability to research and teach. Emory University has enacted a similar policy in its faculty applications. Sailer explains: “[f]or the Emory search, the job application required a diversity statement, and the hiring committee began by narrowing down its initial applicant pool from 585 to about 45 candidates by scoring three categories equally: teaching, research, and contributions to DEI.” Evidently, this is a non-biased hiring process that only selects the most qualified professors for the job—I mean, qualified activists.

Sadly, Texas Tech and Emory aren’t the exception—they’re becoming the norm. The University of Missouri, Ohio State University, and more have begun using diversity statements to hire new faculty, much to their own detriment.    

Ignoring the humanities is a major oversight. We can no longer look the other way as our colleges and universities are overrun by DEI policies, faculty, and hiring processes. It should also go without saying (but is, sadly, necessary to state) that a great professor is not one who pushes wokeism, but is, rather, one who draws out the good, the true, and the beautiful in students and leads institutions toward greater things. If we continue to assume that the humanities are a lost cause and not worth saving, we will face a bleak future. The humanities, specifically literature, are a first line of defense against a one-track mindset and the loss of critical thinking abilities. Don’t ignore reality any longer—take action to preserve the very pillars of Western Civilization against DEI before it’s too late.   

Until next week.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by the NAS Staff. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Photo by Hert Niks on Unsplash

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