Patterico's Pontifications

9/30/2020

This Week in Depressing and Unwarranted Self-Abasement

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:27 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Last week, two academics from the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University — sorry, The Ohio State University — addressed the national crisis of an autumn which thus far has been deprived of college football in the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences. Professor Matthew J. Mayhew and PhD candidate Musbah Shaheen, writing in Inside Higher Ed, welcomed the recently-announced return of tOSU Football by arguing that “college football may be an essential element of our functioning democracy,” suggesting that love of one’s Dear Old Alma Mater was a force that unified Americans across racial and political lines. While acknowledging that “it pains us to admit that college football may play a starring role in the political theater of American life,” the authors managed to insist that athletic departments provide the student-athletes both the highest level of safety possible as well as a platform to peacefully protest all of the unjustness which bedevils our society at every turn. The essay was a bit overblown and trite, but the arguments seemed pretty mainstream.

And then apparently all hell broke loose.

First, various social justice “experts” took to Twitter to bemoan the “privilege,” the “center[ing] of whiteness,” the benefit to “the owning class,” the whiff of “white racial authority,” and the lack of emphasis on “empowering minoritized [sic] communities” by “individuals and organizations in positions of power who do not value their lives or actively seek to limit their rights.” Goodness me! What also really set these 280-character warriors alight is that the authors apparently ignored contrary conclusions from research done by academics at some of our nation’s premier third- and fourth-tier institutions. (Yep, that’s very churlish of me to write, but for fun note how many of these pseudo-intellectuals describe themselves as Democratic Socialists or experts in Marxist theory.)

This led to a long-winded (and believe me, I’m an expert on long-winded) letter to the editor from a history professor at Dallas College taking great umbrage with the idea that anyone with a keycard to the faculty restroom would promote the idea of college athletics, especially that middlebrow (his word, not mine) sport of football, as a positive force. He bemoans the fact that alumni will give generously to athletic programs while playing cheap with academic departments (here’s a hint, professor: perhaps it begins with faculty members not haughtily insulting the interests of donors). Contrary to the Mayhew/Shaheen thesis of football being a unifying presence, our dissenting history professor in Dallas sees the game as — stop me if you’ve heard this one — an exploitation of black bodies for the amusement of white audiences. This message has unfortunately thus far failed to make its way to the exploited athletes themselves, who spent much of the end of summer begging their conferences to resume play.

So in a sane world, Professor Mayhew and Doctor-to-be Shaheen might have replied to the letter (and, by extension, to the tweets) with a defense of their article. They could have pointed out — I will reiterate it — that college athletes overwhelmingly wanted to play this fall, undercutting the Sandersian rubbish that these youngsters are “indentured servants” or “Roman gladiators.” They could have outlined the economic impact to the athletic department and the university of playing versus not playing, and how the potential cancellation of the season was already wreaking havoc in athletic departments, even if some of that havoc was mere pretext. They could have doubled-down on the idea of sports being a unifying force which allows us to rally around something other than our ethnic/racial/tribal/political instincts.

But no, Professor Matthew J. Mayhew of The Ohio State University chose to capitulate, and did so in such a disgraceful and contemptible manner as to beggar belief. In a follow-up piece in Inside Higher Ed, he describes himself as “uninformed, ignorant and harm inducing,” before stooping to grovel:

I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.

I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.

I can hardly bear to share any more of his Maoist self-criticism except to let you know that he makes an impressive attempt to shoehorn in every single buzzphrase from Critical Race Theory:

I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, [blah, blah, blah] positions student athletes as white property. [blah blah, blah] I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day [blah, blah, blah] the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. [blah, blah, blah] words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.

[blah, blah, blah] my love for Black athletes on the field doesn’t translate into love within the larger community [blah, blah, blah] I have taken pleasure in events that ask Black athletes to put their bodies on the line and take physical risks. [blah, blah, blah] Black men who often are conditioned by society and structural racism in ways that lure them into athletics [blah, blah, blah].

[blah, blah, blah] I have harmed communities of color with my words. [blah, blah, blah] — my uninformed, careless words — often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. [blah, blah, blah] my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. [blah, blah, blah]

[blah, blah, blah] another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance. [blah, blah, blah] the scores of others whose pain I didn’t fully see, [blah, blah, blah] the tears and emotions I’ve experienced being caught in an ignorant racist moment.

I’ll hold out faint hope that this was in itself a performative act, with the professor gamely trying to tweak the academic grievance community by mindlessly repeating their banalities back to them, but I am guessing that these are the legitimate thoughts of Professor Mayhew, now that his mind has been reoriented to Goodthink. I wish him the best, though I don’t think his professional (or for that matter personal) life is going to get any better from here.

– JVW

40 Responses to “This Week in Depressing and Unwarranted Self-Abasement”

  1. My biggest fear in electing Joe Biden is that there will be no one in an authoritative position to push back on this bullshit, and it will only continue to get worse.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  2. lol at Joe Biden pushing back on anything.

    Double lol at him nominating SCOTUS justices who will push back.

    This is the new fascism and has nothing to do with Republicans or white supremacy.

    Electing Biden/Harris just accelerates Portland for everyone.

    Remember, their history says that they promise solutions but all they ever deliver is a bigger share of misery while the party elites blame freedom.
    __

    harkin (ab264c)

  3. My biggest fear in electing Joe Biden is that there will be no one in an authoritative position to push back on this bullshit, and it will only continue to get worse.

    Because Trump is doing such a spectacular and effective job?

    Why should the federal government involve itself in these Talmudic disputes among pointy-headed intellectuals in journals nobody else reads, anyway?

    [Fished out of moderation. Sorry, I have cussing privilege as a guest blogger/moderator, but you aren’t supposed to repeat my potty mouth. – JVW]

    Dave (1bb933)

  4. There are a few things that a full professor can get fired for. Moral turpitude, as currently defined, includes thoughtcrimes like disputing the supremacy of diversity in college activities, or anything that a credentialed diversity expert (e.g. any person of color) deems to be such an act.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  5. When you are forced to do something similar in a year or two to keep your livelihood, remember that we don’t have Trump in the White House. That ought to make you feel really good in your humiliation.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  6. This is the kind of thing that makes me wish that Trump was not such a turd. Biden’s Department of Education will be the heart of evil.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  7. Woody hayes is doing some kind of capoiera out there

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  8. Again, as I’ve said elsewhere, the ONLY remaining way to stop Biden’s election is for Trump to resign immediately and let Pence try.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  9. You want these people to run your life, go ahead vote for biden,

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  10. @1. Did you see him today staggering on a stage babbing, ‘where’s my mask?’ and it was literally in his hands in his prepared text folder he’d just closed?

    Escape to Trek, JVW. I’m doin it more and more lately.

    Everybody manages to get along aboard the Starship Enterprise.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  11. Why should the federal government involve itself in these Talmudic disputes among pointy-headed intellectuals in journals nobody else reads, anyway?

    Not legislation, Dave, but bully pulpit. This kind of nonsense should be relentlessly mocked, and it ought to be mocked by someone high up on the food chain, not some podunk guest blogger.

    Don’t make me defend Trump, but at least he had the sand to stop the nonsense of making federal employees go through whatever critical race theory training is all the rage these days. No way Biden would ever do that.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  12. @11 I haven’t seen that one. It sounds like he’s got a bad cough though.

    frosty (f27e97)

  13. I still haven’t gotten past “Human Ecology”. And trust me, JVW, I’ve tried. Hard. I like your posts.

    nk (1d9030)

  14. I still haven’t gotten past “Human Ecology”.

    Ah nk, I knew I liked you for a reason. I too spent a few minutes meditating on how an academic department comes to be named “Human Ecology.” I still haven’t figured it out.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  15. @13. Yeah. It’s not a smokers hack, either. CSPAN ran the series of his whistle stops an I was genuily sad- fragments fom his debate peppered with the names of the towns he stopped at. Alliance, Pgh… talking about unions, etc. Small crowds… It’s like a rerun of a nameless 1977 TV mini-series.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  16. You want these people to run your life, go ahead vote for biden,

    Not going to. But I also won’t vote for Trump for the same reason. The sooner Trump is gone, the sooner sane people can have a turn.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  17. This sort of behavior by academics erodes confidence generally. Are there any experts on anything anymore? We’re constantly being told to trust the science and that really means trust the scientists which really means trust just these guys with credentials standing behind me. Ignore that those credentials were granted by people just like Mayhew.

    frosty (f27e97)

  18. Nice post, JVW!

    I agree. Professor Mayhew’s follow-up piece comes across as satire.

    norcal (a5428a)

  19. Kevin M (ab1c11) — 9/30/2020 @ 10:23 pm

    the sooner sane people can have a turn.

    Where are these sane people and why aren’t they stepping up now? How are they going to take charge if that requires some immaterial construct like time and wishful thinking?

    frosty (f27e97)

  20. Professor Mayhew’s follow-up piece comes across as satire.

    I would love to think that were the case. Three cheers to him if it is indeed, though I just can’t see it.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  21. This sort of behavior by academics erodes confidence generally. Are there any experts on anything anymore?

    That’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Popper tells us that science needs to be falsifiable, but Critical Race Theory is structured so that any counter-arguments can be sloughed off as white privilege or uninformed and disconnected whiteness or blindness to historical suffering or any other postmodern catchphrase from the word salad of the field. It is to rationalism what gonorrhea is to shore leave, and it is making academia look craven and foolish.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  22. I don’t know how to respond to this post, JVW, except to say that I agree academics have lost their collective minds.

    However, I think the salient point is that college football is big money. Really big money. In fact, college coaches at certain programs get paid more than pro coaches in the NFL. Heck, there were college championships in the 1930s, the middle of the Great Depression, that had larger attendance than any Super Bowl to date. And it remains true to this day–college football is bigger than pro football. So is high school football, by the way. There are high school stadiums in Texas, mainly in the Permian Basin, that have larger attendance than Jerry World.

    It’s a young man’s game, meant to teach boys how to become men, learn teamwork, and how to accept a loss, then grow from it. American football is the ultimate team sport.

    Of course the players wanted to play. That’s their livelihood. That’s their access to the draft and their opportunity to play as a pro.

    It is true that these schools and colleges exploit these student athletes. It is true that they make big money off them. It is also true that most schools and colleges could not survive financially without athletics.

    So what are we to do about it?

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  23. Not going to. But I also won’t vote for Trump for the same reason. The sooner Trump is gone, the sooner sane people can have a turn

    I sympathize with your point.

    But don’t lose sight of the fact that whoever is elected president brings along a coterie of admininstrators who implement policy. The federal government today is so vast, that no one person, even the president, completely affects how the government impacts our lives. Who the president picks is as important as the president’s own personality.

    In the case of this post, who runs the Education Department has the most impact. Betsy DeVos is a sane person, unlike the president who picked her. She has been doing a credible job in resisting and even trying to push back on the insansity in academia.

    The person Biden would nominate to replace her will be very different, and if anything will help increase the insanity. See the Obama Administration for proof.

    So IMO, that is something in the plus column for Trump. He may be a doofus, but many in his admininstration are sane and competent, and far better for the country that who the other guy will put in.

    Bored Lawyer (7b72ec)

  24. Because Trump is doing such a spectacular and effective job? – Dave (1bb933) — 9/30/2020 @ 6:46 pm

    Yes, Dave. Trump is doing a spectacular job in pushing back at a great deal of the bullshoi flying around. Judging by the reaction to his efforts (you can call it bullshoi as well), it is also highly effective.

    For all those who are “disappointed” at Trump’s perceived failure to do [whatever a garden variety pol is expected to do when asked], just remember that any and all acquiescence to his opponents is just an invitation/permission to apply greater requirements/expectations, with the ultimate goal of getting them to “bend the knee.” Trump is highly aware of this morphology, and it has served him well enough to become POTUS against the considerable headwinds arrayed against him in the past and currently. Call it stubborn, call it mulish*, call it perseverance.

    [begin rant – let those with ears hear]

    Past Presidents may be likened to racehorses in that they have all had to be broken to reach their potential in serving their party. Trump, in contrast, will forever remain an @$$. And thanks be to God, Who Himself was born into Jerusalem on an @$$.

    [end rant]

    * you know why mules are preferred over horses in certain situations, such as transportation in hazardous environments?

    felipe (023cc9)

  25. #24, the problem is that we’ve moved from the A-team to the B-team and are now onto the C-team in many critical positions in the Trump administration. Positions that we count on to compensate for Trump’s ignorance, mood shifts, and recklessness. The Attorney General position now resembles that of a mob lawyer. We’re one temper tantrum away from making serious national security gaffes and killing more mutually beneficial trade agreements and alliances. It seems unwise….and certainly not conservative….to risk calamity and the further erosion of confidence in basic institutions…in order to have a decent education secretary. Biden is awful…..but Trump is a norm buster who is not replacing those norms by anything that I can be proud of…..it’s a lot of paranoia….hubris…..pettiness….all to fluff a guy who is not worth any of it. Team Republican built this…..and chose not to give me a credible alternative this year. I’ll wait for a non-clown-car candidate….

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  26. #23, college football certainly is big money, but a free education and an opportunity to train with great coaches at elite facilities with maximum exposure is not exactly exploitation. Would a player like Joe Burrow really have emerged on the national stage without playing for a big program against some of the best competition? Maybe but maybe not. Nothing forces these players to do any of this. It’s a simple calculus of risk versus reward. Going down the road of paying (some?) college athletes seems like a slippery slope of who should or shouldn’t be paid and sacrificing any sense of competitive balance. Competitive balance is already kind of a joke…I’m not in favor of making it even worse….

    AJ_Liberty (a4ff25)

  27. Hosanna, all y’all! Glory, glory, halleluia, too, man!

    Trump took the core argument of atheists, that religion is the cure for imaginary ills of the priests’ own creation, and put it into practice. He got people to believe that he is the cure for America’s imaginary ills of his own creation.

    nk (1d9030)

  28. You want to be in caves of dawn mode, vote biden.

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  29. A blunt instrument nothing more, mothing less, like a crowbar.

    Bolivar di griz (7404b5)

  30. My biggest fear in electing Joe Biden is that there will be no one in an authoritative position to push back on this bullshit, and it will only continue to get worse.

    JVW (ee64e4) — 9/30/2020 @ 6:28 pm

    What a terrible lack of imagination.

    My biggest fear is that the left uses the vast levels of disgust at Trump as a mandate, adds DC and PR as states, appoints 10 new judges, etc etc.

    I think your fear is unlikely btw, this was so dumb that I doubt it’ll ever be taken very seriously by people who don’t chatter for a living.

    Time123 (b4d075)

  31. The sooner Trump is gone, the sooner sane people can have a turn.

    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 9/30/2020 @ 10:23 pm

    I don’t see how Biden is sane, but I understand your sentiment.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd)

  32. This sort of behavior by academics erodes confidence generally. Are there any experts on anything anymore?

    That’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? Popper tells us that science needs to be falsifiable, but Critical Race Theory is structured so that any counter-arguments can be sloughed off as white privilege or uninformed and disconnected whiteness or blindness to historical suffering or any other postmodern catchphrase from the word salad of the field. It is to rationalism what gonorrhea is to shore leave, and it is making academia look craven and foolish.

    JVW (ee64e4) — 9/30/2020 @ 11:36 pm

    Just a quick poll, has anyone had this crazy stuff impact their real life? I’m fine with taking this seriously on principle and I’m not trying to dismiss concerns. But I just took my company mandated annual diversity training. If was very much common sense.

    -Can’t make fun of people based on stuff that puts you in a protected class. BTW I can get disciplined if I tease someone too much about totally OK stuff and it upsets them.
    -Don’t make assumptions based on stereotypes. Women with high pitched voices can be leaders / work in sales. Introverts can be leaders. Look at results not style. Minorities/Young ppl/women/poorly dressed people could all be customers.
    -Pestering someone to start a personal relationship isn’t OK. If they make it clear they’re not interested 1 time you have to stop.
    -If someone comes to you with a complaint you need to take it seriously and work to resolve it.
    -No retaliation

    All really common sense stuff.

    Time123 (b4d075)

  33. Interesting but depressing post. This stuff is so hard to beat because of the nature of power in academia. Until the bubble bursts. They talk about student loan relief. I think we need a couple of online degree programs, job getters like Nursing and Engineering, that are tough to earn As in (so the degree is an accomplishment) and absolutely free. Textbooks, fees, all of it free. Then refuse any student loan relief and start getting out of the business of subsidizing college loans, since a free option is there for all. Let universities provide value by competing with that.

    I don’t see how Biden is sane, but I understand your sentiment.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd) — 10/1/2020 @ 7:28 am

    He’s going to surprise us with the problems he’s going to cause. I have a feeling about people.

    I still am going to vote for him. I would vote for Kanye if that were my only way to reject Trump.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  34. This stuff is so hard to beat because of the nature of power in academia. Until the bubble bursts.

    The bubble will burst soon. No one can afford to pay for a four-year college tuition unless you are a millionaire. Thanks to the pandemic, I believe more and more people will start looking at alternative higher learning institutions that will be cheaper.

    I’m afraid Biden won’t try to solve the problem, only make college “free” – which will give universities carte blanche to install lazy rivers and free-trade coffee shops everywhere on campus.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd)

  35. I’m afraid Biden won’t try to solve the problem, only make college “free” – which will give universities carte blanche to install lazy rivers and free-trade coffee shops everywhere on campus.

    Hoi Polloi (2f1acd) — 10/1/2020 @ 7:53 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to forgive tons of student loans, if Biden’s having trouble in four years and is running again. It would be infuriating to folks who spent ten years paying theirs off.

    I agree the universities have all kinds of absurd amenities and taj mahal facilities. And these days
    many overweight students spend hundreds each semester renting scooters to avoid walking between classes. Every day we get a little more like the Walle movie.

    Dustin (4237e0)

  36. so you want california and new york to rule you, that is the reality you demand,

    bolivar de gris (7404b5)

  37. It is true that these schools and colleges exploit these student athletes. It is true that they make big money off them. It is also true that most schools and colleges could not survive financially without athletics.

    But it’s also true that there are thousands of young men, a huge portion of whom are black, who would not be students at some of our top tier universities were it not for football (and basketball and baseball and track, etc.). Nor would they have access to free textbooks, paid tutors, or training facilities that prepare them for potential success on the professional level. If we were to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, what would become of them? Certainly there are some highly-motivated young men of all races who would still excel in the classroom and create a path to success for themselves, but what of that guy who isn’t all that interested in school and would not otherwise attend class were it not a necessary part of him pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL? I know there is a great deal about college football that ought to be reformed, but it is entirely wrong to view it as being grossly exploitative of young black men just because the sport can in many cases raise a lot of money for the athletic department.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  38. But I just took my company mandated annual diversity training. If was very much common sense.

    Just because your diversity training this year was sensible doesn’t mean that it will be sensible two, five, or ten years down the road. These things don’t just get stupid overnight; it’s like a leaky dam that continues to drip, drip, drip until the cracks very quickly begin to spread and next thing you know the dam has burst. Just five years ago we were laughing at all of the snowflakes who demanded safe spaces and continually claimed racial microaggressions on college campuses, and we used to say “just wait until they get out in corporate America where this stuff won’t be tolerated.” Only guess what: it turns out that they have been pretty successful in bringing their nonsense from the college quad into their office cubicles. So when we see what is happening to this guy at tOSU today, we have to strongly consider the fact that these people who have so successfully beaten him down are going to be the ones who control the racial culture in corporate America five years from now. That’s why it has to be pushed back on — and hard — starting now.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  39. JVW,

    I agree that my experience is neither guaranteed to last, nor is it necessarily typical. That’s why I was asking about experiences of others.

    Just five years ago we were laughing at all of the snowflakes who demanded safe spaces and continually claimed racial microaggressions on college campuses, and we used to say “just wait until they get out in corporate America where this stuff won’t be tolerated.” Only guess what: it turns out that they have been pretty successful in bringing their nonsense from the college quad into their office cubicles.

    But the large company I work at (with a lot of tech people) hasn’t gone nonsensical…trying to find out if that’s just good fortune for me or true for others.

    Time123 (d1bf33)

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