Will There Be Any Academic Refuges In A Woke Purity Spiral?

Will There Be Any Academic Refuges In A Woke Purity Spiral?

How bad will it get? It can get pretty bad. It’s pretty bad now (see this thread about whiteness in physics). But will it get worse?

We recall that in the Chinese Cultural Revolution certain localities took to practicing cannibalism. Not because of lack of food, either. Well, so much is expected in demonic frenzies.

Will the woke undead zombie army become that hungry? Or will it instead find some comfortable bottom and content itself with feeding solely on souls? Will sanity return in some modified way? Will this be the end?

Maybe it be like the Communist Revolution in Russia, with distinct periods of madness, the bloodlust eventually sated, the madness fading, then the dissolution.

I shall remain agnostic on these questions. But let us suppose, perhaps not only for the sake of argument, that the wokeward trend accelerates in a vaguely Communist Revolution way. This assumes we escape, for the interim, WWIII—or worse.

These are assumptions we’re making for this post, so do play along.

Figuring what will happen everywhere is too big a question, so I want to peel off, for a thought experiment, one area only. Academia. What is an aspiring thinker to do when the woke demands you DIE? (DIE = Diversity, Inclusion, Equity.)

Many Russian academics when they were enslaved under communism turned to math. It was, then, a subject with no real political connotations. This was also true, to a lesser extent, in physics. But physicists, because they are closer to engineers, naturally had a harder time than mathematicians sticking to their subject.

Communism and the Cold War was, in a sense, responsible for the creation of a cadre excellent Russian mathematicians and good physicists. Out of evil good shall come.

We were reminded of this from an article at Karlstack, which brings us up to date on wokeness in Western math. It’s worth spending a little time on this before we come to our main subject.

Some will recall UC Davis mathematician Abigail Thompson wrote an op-ed in the WSJ and another in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, in late 2019, in which she came to the same realization our side did years before that. DIE oaths, she said, “amount to a political litmus test for hiring.”

She got some support from older academics who remembered “similar required statements in Soviet bloc countries, which they encountered earlier in their careers”. But, naturally, the woke reacted as Dracula viewing a crucifix.

Three letters were written in response to Thompson, with over 1,400 signatories. Being mathematicians, these letters took on names, A,B, and C, and even inspired one hilarious formal analysis on arxiv.org.

Letter A was woke, the signers wanting all to DIE. Letter B wan’t against DIE per se, but spoke of bullying and intimidation. Letter C was old school, the signers not wanting mandatory oaths. Some signed more than one letter.

Karl contacted signers of B, many of whom responded, including several Russians who waxed nostalgic, as above. One thing of interest in the analysis was this histogram of “PhD ages” (post degree age) of the signers, which was gleaned from published papers.

There’s no surprise: the younger the woker. Worse, the mostly tenured signers of C are on their way out, to be replaced by the undead coming up through the ranks.

Karl finally describes how those with the most corrupt souls have already compiled an enemies list of non-woke mathematicians. They’ve made the list public. Go and read his article on all this.

This bears on our assumption. Math is woke and going woker.


It’s not just math.

Physics, having been discovered by the feminists, has long been out as a refuge. Geology? Out. Engineering, out. One plaint after another about the dearth of women and other Victims. And again, this thread on whiteness.

Yes, hard-science fields are holding back the woke stronger than the Inhumanities, because there’s more money and those on the outside wanting Reality-based results. But these fields are still crumbling. And, we are supposing, will continue to crumble.

Let’s think about refuges in the softer sciences. Sociology? Please. The only surprise is that academics in that field aren’t requiring colleagues to wear “Down With White Supremacy!” pins to work. Psychology? Not a chance. Medicine? Are you prepared to say women have penises? Education? It was never a field to begin with. What it is now is unspeakable. Sports? NYC Mayor Eric Adams says put women in baseball.

There will be no positions for Team Reality professors in any of the Inhumanities. Go into your favorite Architecture department, stand in the hall and say, “Let’s stop making ugly, frail buildings.” Try the same in Literature, but say “Sodomy is disgusting and cannot be countenanced in a civilized society.” Make sure you have your life insurance papers signed first.

No. There is nothing. The academy, save for the handful of isolated outposts, will be lost in the near future we are supposing.

There’s really only two choices for those wanting to contribute their intellectual efforts: (1) Go foreign; (2) Become independent.

There are posts to be had in non-Western universities. The advantages are obvious, as are the practical disadvantages. One you might not have thought of is that these places often envy Western schools, and attempt to emulate them. Wokeness is much worse in the States, less so in Europe, and it does crop up in Asia. Yet many places on distant shores may stay unwoke. Still, this solution amounts to exile.

The best advantage to being on your own is that you can work on what you want. This is also a disadvantage if you never receive criticism to keep you sharp. The pay and security are not to be envied, but perhaps this separation will generate fresh ideas, much needed in fields in which development has slowed—or stopped.

Really, all academia needs an overhaul, from “peer review”, to publish or perish, to too many Experts, far too many students, too much money. This can happen from the inside. Some colleagues and I area working toward this, the details of which I’ll announce soon.

And then maybe our assumption is wrong, and the woke burns itself out in a few years. Funny things happen.

On the other hand, our assumption can be too optimistic. What then? I have some ideas on that later.

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  1. Joy

    Briggs, this post is a bit tone deaf at about a third to a half way down. I suppose that’s deliberate? One can never tell. There are people starving to death and dying of cold, bodies lying in the streets unburied. People of all ages and political persuasions, incidentally. Those refugees are true refugees. Truly persecuted en masse.

    As Boris said, correctly,
    “we don’t need to be woke, we can just be free”
    So true

  2. John Carter

    Regarding your two options, I have come to the same conclusion. In the pre-corona era, I was leaning towards Asia or Eastern Europe as a possible refuge. Now that everywhere seems to require the clot shot, and with WWII apparently breaking out besides, that option no longer looks so appealing or even plausible.

    Which leaves option 2, go independent. However, from what I can see most scholars who go that route don’t actually do much in the way of research, but due to market forces become more akin to political and cultural commentators. Patreon users don’t have much interest in original scientific research, and the hustle of making one’s living online rather precludes the investment in time required to devote oneself to advancing science.

  3. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Briggs: ”Some colleagues and I are working toward [reform], the details of which I’ll announce soon.”

    Bravo. It is good to build alternative structures, however modest, outside the cancerous grasp of woke. There are good people doing that now. The old American pioneering spirit still lives.

    ”…the woke burns itself out in a few years.”

    Of course it will, since woke is as cancer in a body, or fire in a forest — destruction. It is entirely parasitic and so when finally there’s nothing left to destroy, or it is defeated by doctor or fireman, it dies. How much damage it does in the meanwhile remains to be seen, but there’s a lot of dry, dead timber in the forest right now.

  4. Joy

    Speaking of alternative structures:
    1:48 Boris Johnson’s school of truth, which has already got him in trouble with the retainers and the left
    1:56 Re energy independence and laugh out loud funny, most of the rest of the way if your’e British
    2:02 lugworms…obviously
    Free press:
    “if Putin had the BBC he would have known the truth!…well a version of it”

  5. Joy

    Retainers? yes and no, but re[main]ers, (even the spellcheck thinks it’s a bad idea)
    See Boris’s “Multiversity” in Lancashire

  6. Baron von Redsdhield

    It’s clear that the Academy is completely infested with dry rot; it’s terminal, and will spread to the tip of every branch and the whole thing will crumble and collapse.

    But clearly, something is needed in its stead. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and without some kind of framework to pass on the knowledge our ancestors built up about Reality and Logic and Truth… much will be lost. I suppose a lot of the knowledge that used to be the sole preserve of universities is now widespread and easily accessible, but hard to discover and unstructured.

    Interested to hear about the overhaul you mention.

  7. JohnK

    >too much money. … Some colleagues and I area [are] working toward this

    I see what you did there.

  8. Incitadus

    It’s the oldest playbook in the world of divide and conquer and it follows the
    Bolshevik model to a T. Same progenitors…but then why reinvent the
    wheel. Grievance, moral decay, economic collapse, police state, then you
    get to build back better and own everything just like the Soviet, handing out
    spoilage to your friends along the way. The hoi polloi who were instrumental
    in the Bolshevik revolution’s success were returned to a state of slavery the Tsar
    would have envied.

    Layer on that Klaus Schwab’s dream of an immortal elite in complete control of robotic
    production and a robotic military and police coupled with biological crowd control,
    and an approximation of the future slowly emerges. Sounds crazy I know but
    globo-homo-pedo world is dawning, you see it every day now though your senses reel.
    The only thing that will be left to feel will be helplessness just like China today. China
    which they’ve built with untold sums of your money and industry.

  9. Kathleen

    >> The academy, save for the handful of isolated outposts, will be lost in the near future we are supposing.

    It seems pretty well guaranteed.

    It’s good to see that you’re looking at creative alternatives.

    It’s really the only logical response at this point and it’s even somewhat encouraging to see this type of muscular response starting on a few fronts.

  10. Incitadus

    Sorry Briggs I didn’t address the central theme of you post but as I see
    it that’s all water under the bridge. When I was a boy back in school in the
    80s we had one professor of European History who would be labeled a
    moderate conservative by today’s standards. He was driven out by the
    administration and faculty and harangued by the students to the point of
    despair. The modern university has been owned by liberal capital elements
    and the government at least since then and if you’re not on board and willing
    to sign daily loyalty oaths you’re out. Where can you go? Underground literally
    and figuratively. I read your new book BTW it’s hilarious and all too true.

  11. Uncle Mike

    Private institutes are a good start. Teaching and testing can be done on line. Accreditation is rooted in the quality of the faculty. Some students, a growing number, will pay for the services.

    The difference between online learning and living in a college town, intermingling all day long, are significant and crucial. The lived experience is more important than the schooling to many if not most.

    Our universities are failing in both respects. The teaching is funky, bogus, and online since before WuFlu. The lived experience is increasingly oppressive and contrary to the social hopes and aims of the attendees.

    If private institutes could offer, enhance, and encourage healthy social interactions between students, and with their local communities (online okay, in person better), it might be very attractive to today’s students. Please keep in mind that their social needs are primary. Happy profiteering!

  12. Milton Hathaway

    I know you are focused on woke, but in my mind, academia has been going downhill well before woke really blossomed (putresced?). I put as an underlying cause the flood of money from government-backed student loans, which allowed academia to remain aloof from it’s rotting corpse. Woke is just the inevitable appearance of maggots feasting on the carcass.

    At one time, I thought that companies might ride to the rescue, insisting on more capable employees. But it slowly became obvious that companies (US companies, at least) were willing to accept less capable employees to save money, and use the savings to outsource work to geographies with much cheaper labor. Indeed, I think there has been a strong push by US companies to ‘de-professionalize’ some occupations (such as my own occupation, engineering).

    I do wish you best of luck in your efforts to overhaul academia “from the inside”. But if it’s already too late, and academia is already too far gone, is that really such a bad thing? Perhaps it’s time for academia as a formal teaching institution to fade away, to be replaced by a distributed learning model, where students learn on their own with online materials produced in a competitive environment. Such online learning materials continue to improve. Probably the biggest roadblock remaining is the formal recognition, the diploma. Perhaps universities and other schools should transition from teaching to testing the self-taught, and rewarding degrees with acceptance in the workplace.

    Whatever your plan, I encourage you to consider that small matter of accountability. Insufficient accountability equates to guaranteed failure, every damn time, no exceptions.

  13. Cloudbuster

    Joy: “Briggs, this post is a bit tone deaf at about a third to a half way down. ”

    If I were the charitable sort, I’d give allowances that this was a parody post, intended to demonstrate precisely the sort of idiotic virtue signaling with which wokeness is crushing academia.

    I’m not the charitable sort.

  14. Joy

    Did you ever think of teaching in India? I think you would like it, for a while anyway.
    There are many posts which are attached to missions and I think it might restore the old Briggs back to how he used to be before he was so grumpy

    There are posts in English universities, particularly in Maths, since they’re fast tracking candidates from engineering and other fields to become maths teachers, at sixth form and so at University level there must also be opportunity.
    There’s an East London university which isn’t known for high academic standards which has an overqualified maths professor teaching there. You could commiserate together about the quality of students referred of your teaching at high standards. I recall you complaining about that over ten years ago. Then, you used to say that the “slower” ones were your favourites. How times changed.
    I still think you could teach younger adults if you could learn to pretend to be pc, just a bit.
    Perhaps you could go to one of our finishing schools first to learn some woke manners?
    (trying to help)
    P.S. sir William and Cloudbuster,
    Misread the post at the top, and title, so it wasn’t quite as bad as first reading, which was really bad. Was it edited or was it me?
    Sorry, either way.

  15. Jan Van Betsuni

    Somewhere there is a old video of Nobel Prize Winners (NPW) from many nations sitting around a Round Table answering questions posed by a “famous journalist” for “general audiences”. In that video, one of the questions was: How are the most ingenious discoveries typically made? One of the NPW (from a small Soviet Block Country) raised a hand and volunteered an answer in broken English ~ to which a general nodding of other NPW heads seemed to imply natural consensus. The answer, succinctly put, was MOONLIGHTING. All these illustrious NPW (it seems) were engaged by institutions of some form which sought to directly control (even own) their powers of intelligence. Only by drawing upon resources of private time and independent curiosity could these minds to succeed in their novel discoveries. Conclusion: Institutions (in the main) can hinder (rather than foster) our quest for new knowledge.

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