Minimizing the Influence of Wokeness and Identity Politics
at International Schools Worldwide
The following Article does not reflect the views of ISR. Written and submitted by an ISR site member who requested anonymity, we open the following Article to discussion.
The Coddling of the American Mind by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukinoff outlines three great untruths in their seminal book that have stunted university students in the last several years. The first untruth is that whatever does not kill you makes you weaker. The second is that your feelings should always be trusted and validated. The final untruth is that life is a morality struggle between good and evil.
Coming of age in the 1980s and1990s when political correctness first began, I recall that phase as being primarily instigated by administrators at universities. A few students were involved, but most were indifferent. Now political correctness has gone into hyperdrive, and a minority of vocal students are now demanding that they be protected from other people who see the world differently. Think of all the terminology and ideas associated with the illiberal desire to demand conformity to certain ideas: social justice, wokeness, identity politics, critical race theory, intersectionality, equitable spaces, safe spaces, triggering, trigger warning, microaggressions, cancel culture. The list goes on and on…..
The ideas they bring with them are starting to affect all institutions, but international schools in particular have been disproportionately affected. The result is inevitable: emotional excess, moral vanity and exhibitionism, and avoidable conflicts that should be molehills but become mountains because of the greater proclivity for younger teachers to seek out reasons to be outraged and offended.
Does your lunchroom have young teachers who feel the need to correct the language that others use? Are you or your students taught to adopt identity politics, which means the most important thing about you is your race and gender? Are there ideological litmus tests where one must accept these ideas at trainings and seminars? Have you ever been afraid to speak out against a policy that seems wrong to you but has been justified under the guise of diversity, equity and inclusion?
All ideas have a heritage and a past. These ideas have an unseemly past, rooted in two major schools of thought. The first is Marxism, which was supposed to usher in a grand new age in the 20th century, only to fail in every single culture across the planet and lead to, oh let’s see here, over 100 million deaths. It seems that the suffering and failure that Marxism produced has not changed its adherence from many intellectuals, even though one would think these people are supposed to care about empirical realities.
The second school is postmodernism. I remember being attracted to this worldview at first, because it seems to offer a view of freedom and emancipation from old assumptions. But that’s not what postmodernism is. Postmodernism, rather, is the believe that we are nothing more than representations of power of our unchosen groups (race and gender), and life is nothing more than a power struggle, as there is no other reality to the world than power.
These ideas have stunted the emotional and intellectual development of a whole generation of students, and now many of these younger students have now entered the workforce and seek to impose the worldview they learned in college on the rest of society, and of course, international schools.
They are not appealing or accurate ideas. They have a lot of surface appeal, but it does not take much time to see these ideas inevitably lead to a totalitarian dystopia They represent all of reality in a two-dimensional (dare I say binary?) way where there are only good people and bad people, and all people should think of themselves as merely a member of a group in order to be considered “good.” At a time in their lives when their own personal development is so critical, students are now taught that who they are doesn’t matter; feeling the right way and settling for the role as victim.
To the extent that my views are political, I am doing nothing more than impugning and insulting the totalitarian left, because a world without free speech, free expression and individualism can never be compromised, both at international schools or anywhere else. As educators, open and free inquiry and self-expression have to be the cornerstones of our practice, free from ideological and social coercion.
Any argument that this article promotes white nationalism in the slightest is libelous. But I expect and welcome strong dissent to what is written here. I am challenging the core beliefs of many people, so I welcome criticism.
But can I make a request? Please, pretty please, with sugar on top, don’t proclaim your precious privilege. All of us are fortunate by almost any standard to have careers in international schools. But that is gratitude, not privilege. My experience is that those who proclaim their privilege are doing the following: aligning themselves with the oppressed on the cheap, proclaiming their moral superiority on that basis, and then using this unearned virtue as a means of telling other people what to do.
Which is why when I hear someone announce how privileged they are, I can only say, “You’re right.”
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