"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, April 26, 2024

Yale's Swan Song - The Pathetic Demise Of Excellence

Harper Fielding's father and all forbears had gone to Yale - the old Yale, that is.  Skull and Bones, Fence Club, the upper crust, Gentlemen's 'C', summers on the Vineyard, winters at Gstaad, a sinecure at Bear Stearns, and a wedding with a Cabot or Lodge on Nantucket. 

Things had not changed much over the years since Great Grandpa went there, interrupting his education to fight the Hun at Ypres and receive a Distinguished Service Cross; or since Granddad spent four years there, shuttling between New Haven, New York, and Smith College in a happy Fitzgerald-esque whirlwind of social affairs; or even since his father, stellar student of Maynard Mack, Harold Bloom, and Vincent Scully, all stars in the academic pantheon, illuminating the likes of Blake, Hamlet, and the great temples at Cnossos. 


The erosion of that idyll which had continued since the days of Elihu Yale and John Davenport, had begun when Inslee Clark, new Dean of Students, opened the floodgates to all comers - the best and the brightest were no longer from St. Marks, St. Paul's and Groton, but from Stuyvesant, Thomas Jefferson and Carver High.  If its social viability went down, its academic reputation went up.  Always a place of seriously higher learning, Yale with the matriculation of these smart Jews from Crown Heights and Italians from Bay Ridge, became a magnet for achievers.  Out were the days of a 'well-rounded' education, and in were the days of all-nighters in the laboratory or in the carrels of Harkness. 

Even that halcyon of high academic interest and rigor, however, had its day. When the university opened its gates not to the best and the brightest, but to anyone who had a gripe - victims of white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, and economic exploitation - down crashed the ivory tower.  In its place was a hodge-podge of comers from every closet, ghetto, and Appalachian hollow.  It was a jamboree of the 'newly privileged', the leftovers and left-outs who finally were having their day. 

Out too were the classes of Bloom, Mack, and Scully and in were a wide range of offerings dealing with the same oppression, victimization, and alienation experienced by those students recruited and admitted under the university's new DEI policy. 

So, when Harper Fielding stepped up to carry on in the footsteps of his father and his father's family, he was greeted not with the generous welcome he expected - after all the Fieldings had contributed tens of thousands to the university - but with suspicion.  As a white boy from a wealthy, privileged Boston family, he was immediately suspect.  How would this legatee of racism fit in to a university in the process of expunging white privilege from every nook and cranny? 

The names of residential colleges which had been in place for centuries thanks to the preeminence, historical prominence, leadership, or early American patriotism of its founders, were being changed to those of minor characters as 'diverse' as the student body.  It simply wouldn't do for LaShonda Jackson from Anacostia to have to live in a residential college named for a bigot. 

Just as the overt signs, indicators, and memes of racism were being erased; and just as the academic offerings were reconfigured to reflect the interests and personal backgrounds of students, so did the nature and quality of discourse.  Gone were open inquiry, intellectual debate, logical exegesis, and analytical parsing, and in their place a gooey mix of expected outcomes.  Classes on the evils of slavery were paired with ones on the greatness of African culture.  Sociology courses on the white pathology of oppression were paired with those on the environmentally-attuned consciousness of the African and the higher order of his tribal religions. 


Logical inquiry, the very heart and soul of American higher education since the founding of Harvard and Yale centuries ago, was replaced by tautology and received assumptions. Slavery need not be studied as a socio-economic and historical phenomenon, dating back to the first Paleolithic human settlements, because it is, ipso facto, an evil institution.  In an ironic reminder of George Orwell's Animal Farm's meme, 'Four legs good, two legs bad', the University's 'Black is good, white is bad' was chilling but universally endorsed. 

Students of color had to get the lead roles in theatre productions, campus media, sports, and social clubs.  It wasn't just that the university was still trying to redress former wrongs, but to elevate one race over another because of its clear, unequivocal, absolute superiority.  

The same was true of gay men and lesbians.  They were promoted to the top of the heap not because of former insults but because they represented the new reality of fungible sexuality.  Gender was a choice, not a biological or genetic given, and those who chose to defy the patriarchal, homophobic, Bible-thumping ignorance of the past were heroes to be feted, honored, and respected. 

It gets worse. On the day that Harper was to visit Yale, the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic protests were in full swing in Beinecke Plaza. It was another Orwellian nightmare, with logic, precedent, and history inverted.  The Israelis were the genocidal murderers, not Hamas who for decades had preached nothing but anti-Jew hatred and called for the elimination of Israel and the extermination of the Jews.  


The Israelis were overlords, maniacal occupiers of sovereign territory, not self-defensive, legitimately protective national sovereigns who had to occupy, extend settlements, and create defensive perimeters. 

Despite thousands of years of the existence of the Jewish homeland, Jews had no claim to residence there because a few Arab goatherders were scattered in the Sinai.  Despite Israeli calls for peace and prosperity with only one proviso - that Hamas admit Israel's right to exist - the Palestinians have used every dollar of foreign aid, every Iranian rial to build an aggressive military infrastructure. 

A wild, feral mob. This was Yale? 

Indeed it was.  A cabal of students, teachers, and administrators had successfully promoted a woke culture on campus - a culture that determined admissions, courses, and school policy - and once in place, adopted, and endorsed, there was no turning back.  Nothing but the dismantling of the system would set things aright. From Board of Directors to students, a reversal of policy and nothing less would stop the ridiculousness, inanity, and downright destructiveness of the current situation. 

Harper's father was initially disappointed that the unbroken legacy of Yale attendance would now end; but he was no Old Blue codger.  He saw what was happening to this once storied institution, withdrew his substantial financial support, and cheered his son's matriculation at a far more sensible place. 

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