How to Tell We’re Making a Difference

As a proud member of the Art Pope Puppet Show, I was delighted to read the Independent Weekly‘s breathless, near-paranoid account of “Art Pope’s conservative empire.” Of particular interest to me was this bit about the Pope Center (since I work here, naturally):

“A perennial complaint from the Pope Center is that the UNC faculty, with support from university administrators, indoctrinates students with radical ideas, including ‘diversity’ courses in which the views of women, minority and gay scholars are considered instead those of the great white male thinkers like, say, philosopher John Locke.”

It is difficult to imagine misstating our case more dramatically, other than possibly saying “the Pope Center hates women, minorities, and gays.” Of course, Mr. Geary, the author of the piece, pretty much says so already.

Confucius: not part of the "diversity" curriculum.

The whole point of reading the “best that has been thought and said,” works that shaped Western civilization as we know it–such as John Locke’s philosophy–rather than an ode to multicultural victimhood such as I, Rigoberta Menchu has nothing to do with the gender, race, or sexual orientation of the author. The works the Pope Center and other conservative critics of higher education prescribe are simply better.

If UNC faculty members wanted students to focus on works written by non-whites that have objective merit, like Confucius’ Analects or Tagore’s Gitanjali poems, rather than works by non-whites that promote the idea of white guilt, such as The Color Purple (that I had to suffer through) or any standard African-American studies textbook, that would be fine.

Accusations of racism aside, the very last two paragraphs of the Geary story are perhaps the most puzzling of all four Indy articles on Art Pope:

“It also hacks him off, he said, that the media is obsessed with the money he pours into conservative causes, but never looks at progressive organizations and their funding: Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem and moderate business leaders like Jim Goodmon of Capital Broadcasting. Amass all these groups, plus the N.C. Justice Center and the others ‘on the far left’ he said, outspend Pope-funded groups. (According to Philanthropy Journal, the value of two trusts operated by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation totaled $470 million in 2007, but dropped during the recession.)

‘A lot of what I have tried to start and initiate,’ Pope said in exasperation, ‘is simply an effort to keep up.'”

To sum it all up, the Independent Weekly seems to think Art Pope is evil, conservative, and very influential… though still not as influential as competing liberals. But certainly still scary.

Duke Cheston

Writer/reporter for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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