Posted BY: Jeffrey Folks
Twenty years ago, I interviewed a young woman for an entry-level position at the prestigious university where I taught. I had read the candidate’s Ph.D. thesis, with considerable reservations, and was eager to ask about her scholarly interests. She stated that she followed the approach called “critical theory” and that her interest was limited to whatever was abnormal, perverse, and antagonistic. She despised everything that was conventional, decent, or good.
As a person who had devoted his entire life to promoting what was conventional, decent, and good, I was taken aback. Not that I was entirely surprised. Critical theory, with its antagonistic attitude toward ordinary society, had been gaining ground for decades. I myself had attended the first National Endowment seminar, at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1988, focusing on critical theory, and I did not like what I heard.
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It turned out that I was the only member of the hiring committee to vote against the young candidate. Her other qualifications were sterling, and apparently, the others on the hiring committee saw nothing wrong with her fascination with the perverse. As it was, the abnormal was well on its way to becoming normal, as it now is in almost every university in America and much of the West — and in high schools and elementary schools as well. The so-called academic discipline of critical theory is the source of most of the social conflicts that are now arising — everything from transgender “rights” to slavery reparations to sanctuary cities to no-bail policing. It all derives from misguided sympathy with what appears to be marginal, outcast, and oppressed, but what actually constitutes a new class of privilege.