. . . or so claims Allison Pearson in her Torygraph column below (click on screenshot). Granted, the paper leans right and, according to Pearson’s biography, so does she. But right-wing Americans warned us long before Tuesday’s elections that Wokery was playing into their hands, especially through the nature of their campaigns (viz., Youngkin in Virginia). It behooves us to pay attention.
And so we have the Tory version of James Carville, telling us about a British backlash against wokeness, which of course is just as prevalent in that country as in the U.S.
Pearson recounts several instances of people withholding donations from places like Oxford, Imperial College, and the University of Edinburgh as a way of expressing disapproval of cancellation campaigns. Some of this apparently works; Pearson notes that when Oxford was considering taking down the bust of Cecil Rhodes, charitable donations “collapsed”. As Pearson notes, ” Former students, who thought that a college dating back to 1326 should have the guts to stand up for its history, disinherited Oriel. Rhodes wobbled, but he did not fall. Instead, the college established new scholarships for African students using his fortune to enhance the future, not obliterate the past.
Just two notes, as you can read her piece for yourself—it’s free. Pearson addresses the opprobrium descending on the University of Edinburgh when it renamed Hume Tower:
Dozens of donors have cancelled financial gifts to the University of Edinburgh since it renamed the David Hume Tower over the philosopher’s comments on race more than 250 years ago. The presiding genius of the Scottish Enlightenment, Hume held views which now look either radical and laudably ahead of their time or discordantly ugly. An opponent of slavery, he helped his patron Lord Hertford buy a slave plantation. Guess what, human beings were as complicated and flawed back then as they are now. Edinburgh said it had to act to protect student “sensitivities”. Many alumni disagree. “Hume was cancelled in life by the Scottish universities for failing to fall in line with the religious tenets of his day,” wrote one, “so I admire him in death for having the same effect on the grandees of this new [woke] religion.”
Renaming Hume Tower is a supreme act of stupidity.
And, as I reported before, both Imperial College and Western Washington University are in the process of cancelling the great biologist and educator Thomas Henry Huxley (see here and here). That’s absolutely unconscionable if you know Huxley’s history (see Nick Matzke’s piece here). Pearson gives a quote that shows that, at least in one area, his thinking was well ahead of his time):
I suspect that graduates of Imperial College London will have a similar reaction on hearing that a building named after Thomas Henry Huxley, the great biologist and anthropologist who determined that birds descended from dinosaurs, is set to be renamed. A report by the university’s chillingly named “independent history group” has recommended that the name Huxley be excised because of his beliefs about human intelligence. The group cites Huxley’s essay of 1865, “Emancipation — Black and White”, which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, a belief system of ‘scientific racism’, legacies of which are still felt today”.
You have to hand it to old Huxley. He cunningly hid his racism by being a leading voice in the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yes, some of his observations make us recoil today. But, yesterday, I looked up that self-same “offensive” essay, and here is a very different sort of paragraph: “We find girls naturally timid, prone to dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man, or a sort of angels above him… The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male; that women are meant neither to be men’s guides nor their playthings, but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as nature puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.”
Over 150 years later, I feel almost tearful with gratitude coming across an establishment figure like Thomas Henry Huxley making the case, with such fierce logic and unrepentant eloquence, for my sex to receive the same education as the male. Do you think the Imperial College London’s independent history group weigh Huxley’s remarkable early feminism in its judgment to strip his name from a beloved building?
Of course not. The Inquisition seeks villains to burn retrospectively at the stake not human beings with the full complement of vices and virtues. They should christen Imperial’s Huxley building the Pol Pot Year Zero building, in memory of the cultural vandals who took him down, and be done with it. Come to that, how long will the college be allowed to call itself Imperial? Bit insensitive, isn’t it?
Now that is good writing, and appropriately snarky.
Pearson is warning about the effect of Wokeness on financial support of Universities, but this could hold for politics, too. Right now the UK has a Tory prime minister whom I don’t like at all, but if UK Wokeness keeps up, the Tories may continue to reign. Here’s her ending:
The self-righteous young mob thinks it can get universities to grovel with the threat of being cancelled. My generation is learning to beat them at that game: we just cancel the direct debit.
And it could work with votes and politics as well.