To the Editor:
My former colleague at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Paul Griffiths, who has recently resigned amid a political correctness fire-storm at Duke Divinity School, is like me a white, working-class expat from Britain (“Duke Professor Resigns After Facing Discipline for Challenging Diversity Training,” The Chronicle, May 9). I share Professor Griffiths’ indignant resistance to the political correctness that is sweeping our universities. And I believe our shared class origins go a long way to explaining our resistance to the new orthodoxies that are strangling debate and free speech on the U.S. campuses. In the United States, race has trumped class and diversity has trumped equality to such an extent that they have become Orwellian mantras that actually denote their opposite: for “diversity,” read “uniformity,” for “Ministry of Truth,” read “Ministry of Propaganda.”
The privileged, upper-middle-class faculty and administrators who enforce these new orthodoxies clearly don’t give a damn for equality or for the working class. To this extent diversity is the last thing they are really invested in. What concerns them above all is uniformity and conformity. Like a latter-day Soviet nomenklatura, they wish to recreate the world in their own utopian image. As a student in Czechoslovakia in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I saw with my own eyes how these types of people operated. Substitute “Marxism-Leninist indoctrination” for “diversity training,” and you will see how Orwell’s insight in his great novel 1984 — that totalitarianism can proceed from the far Left (Ingsoc) just as much as the far Right — is as relevant today as it was during the Cold War.
Professor of English
University of Illinois at Chicago