Will We Ever See the End of the Liberal College Professor?

A guest post by Richard Cocks:

There is a pathology responsible for many seemingly unrelated problems besetting higher education: liberalism. Once we understand the liberal mindset, we can identify the cause of the problems and what can be done about it.

One problem involves standards. Less and less is expected of students. So many different things contribute to this that it may be regarded as ‘over-determined;’ i.e., any one of these things might be enough to have the same result. The liberal mind, however, doesn’t even have the necessary tools to address the problem. For many liberals the idea of a canon itof great works is anathema. It is seen as elitist. The canon typically gets replaced with books regarded as politically, not literarily, worthy – designed to highlight issues of gender, class and race. Thus, students are not primarily being asked to understand difficult, challenging books that provide a source of cultural literacy, but mostly to parrot back the liberal political views of their teachers.

Even though it is Western culture alone that was responsible for recognizing the problem of racism and provides the tools for discussing it, Western culture comes under fire as, for instance, being the reason poor countries are poor; or for being patriarchal, sexist and racist.

If they see Western culture as evil, liberals are hardly going to see it as their job to teach it to their students. Instead, they see it as their job to teach liberalism, and liberalism is hostile to standards because standards rest on differences, rankings and hierarchies – all antithetical to the liberal.

The good news is that liberalism represents a stage in development. Its problems can be solved if its adherents climb beyond it. Clare Grave’s MEME theory points the way. Clare Graves was an American psychologist and developed his theory in the 1950s. He did it by asking people to describe their conception of a successful person. The result was a developmental hierarchy consisting of an indefinite number of levels. The levels involved particular ways of looking at the world, with which we are already familiar. Beck and Cowan color coded the resulting levels in their book aimed at business people called Spiral Dynamics.

Beige is the first level. Survival is the main focus here – sex, food and shelter. It’s basically animalistic. A successful person is a survivor. Purple MEME goes beyond mere survival and introduces storytelling and dance: human culture and a magical animistic worldview. Red MEME views the successful person as strong and courageous. He overcomes obstacles and can play the role of protector. Blue MEME is the lawgiver and law-follower. If one follows the rules, the true believer will go to heaven; the others, to hell. One gets a Manichean division between the saved and the damned. Orange MEME is the scientific materialist; rational and meritocratic in principle. All men are created equal. Our founding fathers would be primarily Orange. Green MEME is the liberal.

The notion of Green MEME is helpful for understanding the liberal mind. The good intentions of the Green MEME can quickly turn rancid and persecutory. Its chief characteristic is an interest and concern with equality. Men and women are equal. The races are equal. This commonly becomes a hostility to the existence of differences.

The key to understanding all the permutations of Green MEME is its antipathy to hierarchy. Because it is false to claim that someone is superior or inferior merely on the basis of skin color, Green MEME tends to imagine all notion of hierarchy is evil. So, the liberal mind tends to respond to every question with the same answer – what can be called ‘leveling.’

Once this disease has been diagnosed it makes liberals painfully predictable. What do you think about the notion of a canon of great works? It’s elitist. How about the professor teaching his students? I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. We are a student-centered campus. Are some people better looking than others? Beauty is a social construct and we all differ in what we find attractive. Are cultural habits to blame for some minorities failing while others succeed – in fact out-performing the majority? The notion of cultural habits is a stereotype and all cultures are equal. Is a stone-age preliterate culture with slavery and ritual cannibalism, where people die at thirty as good as literate post-industrial cultures? Yes. You weren’t paying attention were you?

Even when it comes to truth, the extreme post-modern liberal mind claims there are ‘different ways of knowing,’ all of equal validity, including a committee of elders for deciding matters of fact. When I was told that by one head of department I wondered if she would continue to espouse this view if she got cancer and was trying to decide upon her course of treatment.

Once one understands the game, all the liberal’s answers are predictable. One doesn’t need to take the class in post-colonial studies to know what is going to be taught or where blame is going to be assigned.

The good news is that there is a solution to Green MEME. It teeters on the edge of Yellow – the first second tier MEME. As second tier, Yellow is the first MEME that doesn’t see itself as the pinnacle of human cultural evolution; that knows there is further to go and doesn’t have all the answers. Yellow does not demonize all hierarchy. It can embrace the notion of a canon and that some cultures are better than others. It can try to understand men and women without insisting on the answers in advance.

I myself, my friends and family have all moved from following many of the Green MEME’s values in our youth to Yellow or beyond in our maturity. Thus, I have empirical proof that it is possible.

The bad news is that there is a special feature of Green MEME that makes it hard to transcend. This feature is its hostility to hierarchy and thus development. All development implies hierarchy. Like all first tier MEMEs, Green insists that it represents the peak of human development, while also maintaining that development does not exist. Hence, Green is often a path back down to things like magical beliefs to be found in New Age religion. Education is the major route to further development but liberals are hostile to standards and requirements that push students to do better. Green MEME short-circuits the educational process and because it is so conformist, hiring and promotional decisions are based on adhering to Green MEME tropes. The more we hear of ‘diversity,’ the more conformist and predictable we know things are getting.

Green MEME liberalism represents the average level of development of college professors. Moral support is necessary to step beyond the norm. Articles like this one contribute to that moral support but one’s paycheck speaks pretty loudly too. It’s unfortunate that the Green MEME has special characteristics that make it so hard to transcend by individuals at institutions like colleges.

The ultimate ground for hope is that most Green MEME liberal assertions are false or contain woefully partial truths. Green mostly does not care about truth if it seems to run counter to liberalism and even denies the existence of truth in its post-modern variant. But the definition of truth is what is the case regardless of what we think. We can continue to hope that reality must ultimately prevail one way or another. We should continue to offer that moral support missing from the academy and hope for the best.

24 thoughts on “Will We Ever See the End of the Liberal College Professor?

  1. Pingback: Will We Ever See the End of the Liberal College Professor? | Neoreactive

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  3. Read further by Prof. Cocks here:

    http://www.popecenter.org/commentaries/article.html?id=2733

    We’ve had some good discussion here at the Orthosphere recently regarding “higher education,” and I hope that it continues, if only because it’s agreeable to read comments by like-thinking people who’ve experienced the sort of thing one has oneself in the field. One is not -quite- alone.

    Orthosphereans would find a nice array of Prof. Cocks’ favorite books at Goodreads — Russian masterpieces, mostly.

    • Dear Wurmbrand,
      Thank you for reading and for your kind words. I do find great comfort in Dostoevsky and Plato and regard them as friends.

  4. I would like to welcome my friend Richard Cocks to The Orthosphere. I should be gratified to know whether Professor Cocks can cite the two or three most significant events or realizations that led him from Green MEME to Yellow MEME. I suspect that other Orthosphereans would also take interest in a few autobiographical details.

    Dare I say “everyone” – but at any rate almost everyone – writing and commenting at The Orthosphere is a convert from the liberal-conformist worldview. It is enriching, I believe, for us to share our stories.

    Another point of curiosity: Is it possible, does Professor Cocks think, for an individual modern Westerner to bypass Green MEME altogether; or is it an unavoidable and necessary phase?

    • Conversion stories are indeed fascinating. I wonder whether we should set up a page where readers can post their stories, and they will be always available.

      I should like to know more about the second tier of memes. Specifically, what distinguishes the yellow from the beige, if anything other than the realization that one does not yet know everything?

    • Dear Tom,

      Thank you for reading. It might be possible to miss a step. Just empirically/anecdotally, I have one friend who says he never at any point had any liberal beliefs – but who I would not regard as lower than me developmentally. I’m not going to insist that the theory must trump that. I have personally found Ken Wilber’s version of MEME theory helpful for understanding the world, but I advise my students to bear it in mind only if it seems useful on a particular topic or category of thought.

      Regarding my personal conversion from Green to Yellow, perhaps it started right when I arrived in the US in 1990. I realized that the media seemed to imply that if one had any hesitancy concerning abortion, one hated women. That didn’t make sense.

      I think the major event was Wilber putting me on to Warren Farrell and his The Myth of Male Power, among other books. I realized that I had started to hate myself for being a man after the paranoid slander against men in the 1990s in particular, where to be a man was to be a pedophile or a rapist. There was a fashion for therapists to convince their female clients that they had been raped by their fathers but had repressed the memory. Unaccompanied children were not allowed to sit next to men on aeroplanes by Air New Zealand, among other airlines. The fact that it would most likely be a man who pulled you from a burning building, or operated on you, was not mentioned. Farrell cited one fact after another – almost all of which are in fact common knowledge – that challenged the ‘all men are evil’ hatred. I became aware that even though the facts Farrell mentions are true and nearly everyone knows them to be true, and if they don’t, they can verify them with a simple Google search, that it really didn’t matter. Expressing sympathy for women was more important than truth in the eyes of most of my peers, though for instance, men far outnumber women as victims of violent crime.

      Academic feminism and a desire for self-preservation of the mental/ideational variety probably provided the primary impetus for my conversion. Ken Wilber diagnosed and articulated the problem of the mean Green MEME for me and solidified Yellow insights. Writers like Thomas Sowell in books like Conquests and Cultures also helped. So some of it would also have come from you, Tom!

      • Dear Richard: Thank you for replying. It interests me how luck plays a role in these changes-of-mind, specifically the luck to read something not on the reading-list, that fortuitously crosses one’s path. One of the stages in my change-of-mind involved reading Walter Ong’s book Orality and Literacy at just the time when I began teaching at Central Michigan University, in a department dominated by extraordinarily bigoted “composition experts.” I saw quite suddenly that what the compositionists insisted on doing in their classrooms would not only not produce a higher literacy useful for college students, but it would actually degrade the literacy of students, and it was doing so. The pedagogical ideologues – they were all ferociously leftwing – could see the results of their curriculum and obviously cared not a jot about the destruction that they were wreaking. I concluded then that liberalism was an assault on civilization. (Tom)

        PS: Having tripped my own memory, I must record another telling incident connected with my Michigan decade. In the early 1990s Central Michigan University had to endure a spate of bad publicity because of a rash of scandals involving sexual dalliances between faculty members and undergraduates. The administration proposed a simple rule: No faculty member could enter into a “romantic relationship,” as it was called, with any student currently studying under his or her supervision. The practical implications of the proposed rule were minimal. The horny professor needed only to wait until the semester was finished to entice the coed into letting him diddle her. The rule would not come into force, however, until or unless approved by the Faculty Senate. The vote was scheduled and occurred – and by a large margin the Faculty Senate rejected the proposed rule. What this told me, in a way that shocked me, was that these people, liberals to a man and woman, were unwilling to impose on themselves the most minimal of moral restraints. What they were saying, by unavoidable implication, is that, by God, if any one of them had the itch, he was going to scratch – appearances be damned. (T)

        PPS. While proof-reading the PS, I had a good Beavis-and-Butthead laugh over the phrase “faculty member,” which I seem to have used, more or less inadvertently, with particular philological accuracy. (T)

      • I’m going to amend my own post. Upon further reflection I think the friend who never entertained any liberal ideas is perhaps Orange or Blue MEME and not higher. His beliefs are fanatically aligned to one particular political party and he seems to think if this one party prospered in the polls and got in power that goodness would prevail upon the Earth. I don’t imagine too many Orthosphere readers would subscribe to that view. So I might now say that I know of no exceptions to having to go through each MEME level to get to the higher levels – which is not to insist that there can be no exceptions I don’t know about.

  5. Dear Tom – I think Kristor is right that these conversion stories are most interesting. As I went to sleep last night I suddenly remember reading and enjoying ‘The Closing of the American Mind’ by Allan Bloom in early 1990 in preparation for coming to the US. New Zealand had not yet adopted cultural and moral relativism, so the book was quite helpful. From what I remember, the book is written from a Yellow or beyond perspective, so it seems I must have at least been on the cusp at the time.

  6. Or… we see the University System for what it actually is: A seminary for the priestly caste which happens to run the entire Western world. I.e., the reason college professors are liberal is because that is the religion of the rich, fashionable, and powerful—an unofficial, but not by this less powerful, State Religion.

    • So then to see the end of the stereotypically Liberal College Professor, one merely needs to imagine the disestablishment of liberalism as state religion. Or, the creation of another polis immune to its thought patterns.

      • Nick – this is one of the most difficult things for people to understand, even those who have gone a considerable distance in the critique of the standing worldview: Liberalism is not reformable; it can only be abolished.

      • Dear nickbsteves,
        Thanks for reading. I agree with you. And also with Tom B. and Kristor. Nihilism must have a terminus. I just wish I could be around to see that end.

      • @Nick – Indeed, the entire educational system has an alternate function to just perpetuating the current unnatural economic structure, but churning out the next high priests of the Cult of Progress, working everywhere from the media to even scientific establishments.

        @Richard – Depending on how old you are, you just might see it.

  7. Dear Richard,

    I hope I don’t come accross as impolite if I say I have rarely read an article this wrong on a right-wing blog. To start with – do you seriously believe liberals care about equality? They want power – i.e. establishing a different hierarchy that puts them on top. This is absolutely ELEMENTARY and missing something this basic really means you need to learn more about this topic… for example, ask yourself why is it so that when there are multiple ways of helping a given Oppressed Group X liberals never choose the way that helps the target group without pissing off anyone else. They always go for the solution that goes hand in hand with grabbing power and smashing their enemies.

    (Note: this all-or-nothing aggressivity is a very specific feature to Anglo-American liberalism, it is not completely global.)

    And to be fair, a drive for power is not even a defining trait of liberals. It is pretty much a defining trait of humans. The primary difference seems to be conservatives being more honest and ultimately far less destructive with it.

    • Shenpen – You have misread Professor Cocks’ essay: He acknowledges that liberalism can only be abolished; he also acknowledges that it is a tyrannical monster currently in power. Implicitly his argument looks to the long term, just as the very earliest Christians looked to the long term, as they began to nourish conversion to a new view of things. “This wrong”? No. Richard gets it absolutely right.

    • Dear Shenpen,

      I am all too painfully aware of who has the power and what they do with it. Certainly liberals want power. Liberalism is a tyranny but I don’t know how many tyrants see themselves that way. They preach open-mindedness but vigorously suppress anything other than their own view.

      Leveling and equality are tendencies of thought and rhetoric of the Green MEME liberal and is part of their self-identity. The MEMEs are partly about self-perception and overt ideals, and partly about understanding how to identify and talk to people at whatever level they are at. Liberals are typically blind to how oppressive they can be. It’s very much conformist and group think. Like many of us, they are hypocrites – they think equality and diversity but practice slash and burn politics.

      I imagine many liberals believe their motivation is pure; lying for a good cause and all that. Unfortunately, their avowed love affair with ‘equality’ has proved to be compatible with a ruthless elimination of all opposing views, at least in the academy and to a large extent in the media. People with liberal views also dominate the elected governments of many Western democracies, e.g., ‘cultural diversity is good in and of itself.’ It’s a takeover. The liberal mindset must be rejected because of the nihilism inherent in its views and its tendency to create social chaos due to its fundamentally Gnostic disdain for reality wherever reality conflicts with their misguided ideals.

    • The liberals that honesty care about equality, and really thought Obama would be open and transparent, and are really impressed when the President walks to his Inauguration, and really mean it when they blame themselves even after getting mugged by reality, are known as useful idiots and true believers. They exist.

  8. Two or three years ago at The Orthosphere, I wrote these lines in one of a series of four essays under the title “T. S. Eliot on Education”:

    When Eliot wrote Notes towards a Definition of Culture, the besieging institutions were the political institutions, the parties and ministries; these had already become politicized beyond any requirement. The Notes function in part as a defense of education against the hyper-politicization of the institutions on which the schools, colleges, and universities depend. That defense, indifferently mounted, failed. Six decades later, all over the West, the single most politicized institution is higher education. Indeed, enjoying its monopoly over personnel in all other institutions, the contemporary university has become the central institution of the society. In quaint times, now irrecoverable, academics loudly and rightly proclaimed the necessity of keeping their departments and classrooms free from government interference. Eliot’s low-key but canny prose helps the contemporary dissenter to see how short-sighted the concern of the old professors was.

    As it turns out, the university threatens the branches of government far more than any branch of government threatens the university: The organs of the society alter their status to become organs of the university. The university itself becomes the ideological center of the increasingly rigid and intolerant society, with all the pernicious effects tallied in the foregoing three parts of this essay.

  9. Pingback: Cultural Diversity | The Orthosphere

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