PROF JENKINS: Claudine Gay debacle shows rejecting Western values has real consequences

These self-styled 'progressives' are in reality trying to reverse four centuries of progress, taking us back to a time when a small cadre of elites ruled the world and everyone else basically lived as a serf.

However else we might define “wokeness”--using terms like “leftist,” “Marxist,” or “progressive,” all of which are accurate enough—it is without question anti-Enlightenment, an explicit repudiation of Western, Judeo-Christian values.  

That is unfortunate. We call it the “Enlightenment” for a reason. Humanity emerged (in Europe, at least) from 1500 years of moral, intellectual, and spiritual darkness, where the vast majority of people lived short, brutal lives devoid of anything resembling personal freedom.  

The Enlightenment changed all that, albeit gradually and imperfectly, by elevating reason and the idea of individual worth. Today, Westerners enjoy previously unimaginable liberty, privilege, prosperity, and comfort—all made possible by the very values the “woke” left rejects.  

Indeed, these self-styled “progressives” are in reality trying to reverse four centuries of progress, taking us back to a time when a small cadre of elites ruled the world and everyone else basically lived as a serf.  

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They do so by rejecting foundational Western values like merit, the pursuit of truth, and the primacy of reason, rebranding them as “white supremacist” because they supposedly favor people of European descent—which is, of course, nonsense.  

Just ask any Asian or African immigrant who has come here and succeeded by embracing those very values.  

In place of Enlightenment ideals, woke “progressives” offer vague and essentially meaningless concepts like “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “identity,” none of which requires any effort on the part of the beneficiary or signals any degree of achievement or competence.  

The problem is that the ascendency of this mindset, especially in academia but also in the corporate world, has real consequences. Exhibit A is the President of Harvard University, Claudine Gay, who as of this writing still has her job despite being unmasked by journalist Chris Rufo as a serial plagiarist.  

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gay also has a checkered history as an administrator, as reported in 2022 by Christopher Brunet. According to Brunet, as dean, Gay covered up wrongdoing by a “favored” scholar while at the same time persecuting a truth-speaker who dared question her biased assumptions. 

But even that’s not the worst of it. Because what Gay does NOT have—as Brunet also notes—is a record of achievement commensurate with being named president of (arguably) the most prestigious higher education institution in the world.  

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Not only is her “scholarly output” flawed, due to the aforementioned plagiarism; it’s also meager, with only 11 peer-reviewed publications over a roughly 25-year career. A top researcher in her field (political science) would be expected to have at least twice that many.  

This means Harvard—and Stanford, where Gay “earned” tenure before jumping ship—elevated Gay’s status as a black woman over long-standing academic standards. They rejected the Enlightenment ideal of merit in favor of the Marxist concept of “equity.”  

In short, Gay is the quintessential “identity hire.”  

If this problem plagued only the Ivory Tower, we might just shake our heads and tsk-tsk. But what starts in our universities eventually spreads to the rest of society. That is exactly what is happening and has been happening for some time.  

All over the country, in virtually every industry, people are being credentialed, hired, and promoted based on who they are or what they look like rather than on their abilities or achievements.  

That’s bad enough when it’s the president of a major university. But what about when it’s your doctor or the principal of your kids’ school? Or when it’s the scientists and engineers who design our cars, build our bridges, develop our vaccines, and determine how best to meet our energy needs?  

Can a society long endure when people in such positions are not actually qualified?  

Obviously, it cannot. Barring our return to an Enlightenment-inspired, merit-based system, civilization as we know it is doomed. Our grandchildren will inhabit a new Dark Age, with far more difficult lives than ours and precious few prospects for the future.   

And perhaps that is exactly what the anti-Enlightenment wokesters have in mind—provided they’re the ones in charge. Since they can’t rule based on ability and competence, which they clearly lack and don’t believe in, anyway, they’ll just do it by elbowing aside anyone who actually possesses those qualities.