Tom Klingenstein on Cancel Culture and 1619

National Association of Scholars

Over the past few decades, America has seen the rise of a number of movements meant to disturb or disrupt American life. Multiculturalism, political correctness, cancel culture, Antifa, Black Lives Matters. The list goes on. What these movements share is an abiding belief in the corruption of the American system and a desire to undermine American institutions in order to achieve “change.”

In higher education, the National Association of Scholars has long been a bulwark against this insidious type of change, which usually results in students being poorly educated, angry, and primed for revolution against our national memory and the heritage that has been passed down to us from the Founders.

Tom Klingenstein, a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Scholars and chairman of the board of the Claremont Institute, recently gave a public address in which he discussed this precise issue.

For the multiculturalist to change traditional values and principles they must destroy, or radically restructure, the institutions that teach those values and principles. The most important of these institutions is family, but also very important is religion, education (which they have mostly destroyed already) and community life, replacing the latter with government bureaucrats. It is here—in these value-teaching institutions—that we see the underpinnings of the Revolution.

In higher education and K-12 education, we see this taking place through the introduction of The 1619 Project curricula, which teach students that American history can only be seen through the lens of slavery and that we today must acknowledge our “complicity” in “systemic racism.” Across the nation, this mis-reading of history has inspired protests, some of which have turned violent, and the destruction of monuments, including such instances as the vandalism of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The founder of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, proudly claimed these as “the 1619 riots.”

Klingenstein is unsparing in his critique of these events.

[T]he taking down of statues is not about removing a few confederate generals; it’s about destroying America’s past, as is the New York Times 1619 Project. The rioters… are tearing down the statues even of people like Frederick Douglass who fought against slavery. This is not an accident. It is not collateral damage.

The damage is ongoing, especially in higher education, where many of these attitudes are nurtured, grown, and then released into the broader culture. In this environment, dissent cannot be tolerated. Klingenstein notes how “political correctness and cancel culture,” of which we have had many examples in recent months, “brutally punishes apostates.”

The issues that cancel culture presents are not new, but they are powerful in a way that we haven’t seen in generations. Complacency is, unfortunately, not an option. Tom’s speech is an excellent reminder of that in a difficult and tense time.

Tom Klingenstein's speech is also a political endorsement. NAS takes no position on that. We present the speech for its illumination of the issue of multiculturalism and The 1619 Project.

As you listen to or read through his remarks, you may find yourself in strong agreement or in strong opposition to either his critique or his proposed solutions. That is to be expected and is welcomed. NAS takes no position on any candidates or parties, but we do believe that Tom has offered an analysis of issues that bears heavily on the current national moment, of which higher education is a central part.

The National Association of Scholars is a broad tent. We have members across states, countries, backgrounds, political orientations, races, and religions. As with any broad tent, we are held together by shared ideals—in our case, the pursuit of truth, the preservation of citizenship in our republic, and the promotion of rigorous scholarship. However, when it comes to specifics, we find a vast number of views represented among our members. That is one of the beautiful and valuable aspects of a true academic community—one in which ideas can be debated openly, honestly, rigorously, and with good humor.

Image: David Schultz, Public Domain

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