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Campus Cancel Culture is out of Control


Very interesting happenings up at the Yale:

The Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy is one of Yale University’s most celebrated and prestigious programs. Over the course of a year, it allows a select group of about two dozen students to immerse themselves in classic texts of history and statecraft, while also rubbing shoulders with guest instructors drawn from the worlds of government, politics, military affairs and the media.

But now, a program created to train future leaders how to steer through the turbulent waters of history is facing a crisis of its own.

Beverly Gage, a historian of 20th-century politics who has led the program since 2017, has resigned, saying the university failed to stand up for academic freedom amid inappropriate efforts by its donors to influence its curriculum and faculty hiring.

The donors, both prominent and deep-pocketed, are Nicholas F. Brady, a former U.S. Treasury secretary under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Charles B. Johnson, a mutual fund billionaire and leading Republican donor who in 2013 made a $250 million donation to Yale — the largest gift in its history.

Read the rest, but the upshot is that the group of conservative donors who funded the Grand Strategy program are unhappy with the direction the program has taken. Gage introduced additional material on grassroots political strategy, and one of the other faculty members accurately described Donald Trump as a demagogue in a newspaper op-ed.

I don’t have much comment on the substance of the argument, other than to say that a) I think there’s great value in reading the “grand strategic canon” which includes Thucydides, Clausewitz et al, and b) that it’s still necessary to make some room for contemporary thinking on strategy that isn’t necessarily state-centric. Lawrence Freedman’s Strategy: A History is a very good model in this regard. I also don’t think that we can simply dismiss the unhappiness of the donors; this isn’t a case in which donors are applying pressure because a vague something is happening at the university that they don’t like, but rather a situation in which some people donated (and Yale accepted) a ton of money with a very specific understanding of the outcome. That doesn’t give the donors dictatorial rights over the program, but it does mean that their concerns need to be taken seriously.

The bigger issue is the extent to which a situation like this puts paid to concerns about “Cancel Culture” and the woke undergraduates who are ruining higher education. It should not surprise anyone to discover that wealthy conservatives wield an enormous amount of influence in culture and in higher education, but of course the Intellectual Darkweb has little interest in the activities of powerful donors, as opposed to the activities of nearly-powerless undergraduates. People who think that Critical Race Theory is a greater threat to democracy than the folks who are trying to outlaw Critical Race Theory should be taken seriously only insofar as we take seriously their destructive impact on American politics and society.

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