Note to Black Lives Matter: Literacy Made Civilization

Over the past several decades, many of us who were associated with the humanities noticed, within the ranks of its academic practitioners, an incipient displeasure with Western civilization taking hold and gradually developing into outright hostility.

This attitude was at first manifested by a growing reluctance to engage with the vast literary output of Western man, whose creative strivings were summed up dismissively as the work of “dead white males” and consequently deemed irrelevant to the late twentieth century and beyond.  If “educators” had their way, those geniuses would be silenced, for as white men, they have nothing to contribute, and therefore they had no reason to continue their conversation with the world.

Eventually, the literary achievements of the entire West were under assault (as well as the attainments in most other fields of creative endeavor), which meant that the prodigious accomplishments of European women were now included in the body of work that had become anathema to modern “scholars” ensnared by the fashionable allure of the current zeitgeist.  The position women held on the intersectional totem pole was not enough to offset their inescapable association with the European colonizer.

This trajectory of shifting values is something the general public became cognizant of only gradually and with varying degrees of alarm.  But it has been analyzed in depth by intellectual giants as far back as 1987, when Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind.  Roger Kimball of New Criterion has canvassed the development of this antipathy to the Western tradition in both the latter publication and his own books.  But despite the erudition that these and other great thinkers have brought to bear on this subject, the dismantling proceeds apace.

A recent headline from Seattle provides evidence for just how commonplace destructive ideas have become in our educational institutions as they have trickled down from the universities, reinforcing the truth of Allan Bloom’s assertion that “what is influential in the higher intellectual circles always ends up in the schools.”  A Seattle high school English teacher presented students with materials commonly found in anti-racism training manuals, in this case decrying the most important component of literary efforts (and civilizational progress): the love of reading and writing.  The pamphlet averred, among other things, that a love of reading and writing is a characteristic of white supremacy.  What interpretation could students glean from this assertion but that reading and writing should be viewed with mistrust or even avoided?

Decades ago, I found it shocking that anyone would openly disparage the staggering achievements of the Western literary mind, male or female, let alone that this assessment would become de rigueur in academia.  It was as if someone were attempting to wrench the great passion of my life right out of my arms.  Further, and more important, it had become obvious that the barbarians were dismantling the high points of achievement in civilization generally.

Now I am left numb with disbelief that any high school English teacher in the anglosphere could in all seriousness propose that reading and writing are activities “bad” by association with something our culture condemns.  This attack is directed no longer toward the “high points of civilization,” but rather toward the building blocks of civilizational development — and maintenance.

According to Jason Rantz from KTTH talk radio in Seattle, “as part of the Black Lives Matter at School Week, World Literature and Composition students at Lincoln High School in Seattle were given a handout with definitions of the ‘9 characteristics of white supremacy’” and were told that “Worship of the Written Word is white supremacy because it is ‘an erasure of the wide range of ways we communicate with each other.’”  According to this worksheet, white people “hyper-value written communication because it’s a form of ‘honoring only what is written and even then only what is written to a narrow standard, full of misinformation and lies.’”

If I were a smart-aleck, I would recommend that the illiterate agitators who come up with these ideas go back in time and say all this to the (white) Greeks, who for centuries listened to poets recite the Homeric epics.  Or tell this to the Sumerians, who, while also part of an oral poetic culture, invented writing for the practical purpose of record-keeping.  And then tell the Chinese.  And while you’re at it, the Mayans — the people of these last three cultures having each independently invented systems of writing.

Given the pervasiveness of these vacuous ideas under the reigning educational regime, we must ask, why the institutionalized attack on reading and writing, and why under the aegis of Black Lives Matter at School?  When I searched the phrase “the invention of writing,” I couldn’t help but notice forums devoted to disputing the widely accepted claim that no sub-Saharan country ever invented a writing system.  Well, if any one of them did, why don’t black educators and their white allies in DIE encourage study of these African accomplishments in celebration of black history rather than condemning a system of communication that was invented by brown and yellow people to enable them to transact business?

Or could it be that this particular ill chosen cudgel is simply useful for beating white people over the head — for being white?

Jocelynn Cordes has published a collection of her essays under the title “Critical Musings from a Traditionalist.”

Image via Pexels.

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