The Radio Derb transcript is up for January 20—go here to read or listen. Sample below.
If you've been around in the world for a few decades, you have a mental photograph album of places that have some emotional coloring for you.One of the places in my own mental file is the library at SOAS in west-central London. SOAS stands for The School of Oriental and African Studies, one of the numerous institutions gathered under the heading "University of London." In the academic year 1979-80 I was studying Chinese at a different London college, with the idea to write a book about China. My instructor got me a reader's card for SOAS library.
I spent many happy hours browsing there — a marvelous place, a temple of scholarship and quiet academic inquiry. The Chinese section had for example all 24 dynastic histories — shelves and shelves of them, stretching away into the remote past. No, I didn't read them, life's too short; I only admired them. My reading was mostly memoirs of Western travelers and missionaries in China, from Marco Polo down to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Well, with that picture in my mental album I naturally pricked up my ears, or whatever the internet-browsing equivalent is, at this story in the British press.
The students' union at SOAS has put out a lengthy report, nearly four thousand words, with the title "Degrees of Racism: Attainment Gap Report Summary." What's it about? Well, the key words there are "attainment gap." Actual quote from the report, quote:
There has been a gap between the degree attainment of white and BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) undergraduates at SOAS, with a greater proportion of white students attaining either [an upper-second] or first class degree.What, in the opinion of the students' union, is the reason for the gap? What do you think? Racism!
To spare you any further quotes from the report, here's a summary: Blackety-blackety-blackety black. Black black black blackety-black. Blackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblackblack.
The SOAS students have been demanding that dead white males like Socrates, Descartes, and Kant be dropped from the syllabus and replaced by African and Asian philosophers.
Some academics are on board with this. A mulatto chap named Kehinde Andrews, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Birmingham City University, told a British TV audience on January 9th that the Enlightenment was racist. Listen:
[Clip: Of course the Enlightenment was racist. It's built on the idea that there is a special knowledge from Europe. We think about someone like Immanuel Kant, who is still revered, comes up with the idea of the taxonomy of the races, which is so important to how we understand that I wasn't deemed to be a person by Immanuel Kant when he was writing. If that's not racism, I don't know what it is.]To people like me — bookish, thoughtful types who respect and admire real scholarship — the most tragic aspect of our civilization's decline is the ongoing degradation of higher education: the infiltration of the student bodies by whining ignoramuses like the authors of the SOAS report, and the appointment to academic positions of illiterate clowns like Professor Andrews.
What, I wonder, has happened to that beautiful library at SOAS since I last browsed in the stacks there 35 years ago? Probably it's been turned into a crack den, or a gay bath-house. Or perhaps the students have just burned it down. Nothing would surprise me; nothing about the academy does any more.