AAUP Defends Sham Scholarship in the Interest of Ideology

Recently, the American Association of University Professors’ Committees on Academic Freedom and Women in the Academic Profession issued a statement titled “The Assault on Gender and Gender Studies.” While criticizing the Hungarian government for defunding university gender studies programs, its main aim is to derail the Trump administration’s proposed clarification of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination to not include gender identity. It could hardly have been a more classic example of twisting scholarship in the interest of promoting the very thing that corrupts true scholarship: ideology. In this case the ideology is sexual libertinism, and most specifically transgenderism and the broader homosexualist agenda of which it is a part. The statement even has the temerity to proclaim the fantasy—maybe lunacy is a better word—that “a biological basis for gender … has been thoroughly discredited by over fifty years of feminist, trans, queer, and critical race research and by lived experience.” This claim illustrates how ideology has crowded out genuine learning in many disciplines leaving instead only corrupt imitations of real scholarship.

The reality, of course, is that serious scholarship across the board takes into account common sense (which is routinely brushed aside by the ideologically driven academics of today) and, yes, “lived experience” when it recognizes the biological fact that men cannot become women or women men. The person who truly embraces reality knows that there are few things more obvious than this.

The statement makes false and delusional claims while characterizing opponents as enemies of truth when, by every rational yardstick, they are its enemies. The bitter irony is that these authors are post-modern proponents of epistemological skepticism who deny our ability to ever know the truth. They start by insisting that “gender” should not be “narrowly defined” as immutable and determined at birth, and claim that to say otherwise is “part of a broader attack on civil rights.” Besides never specifying what the broader attack is or providing any evidence that it exists, they never trouble themselves to explain how using biology to determine sexual identity is a violation of civil rights. It certainly doesn’t occur to them that such a “narrow” definition might just be part of the nature of things—but, then again, many intellectuals have long since embraced the view that man has no nature and that he is infinitely malleable. “Lived experience” thus justifies whatever life one wants to live regardless of how much of reality must be twisted to accommodate it.

The statement claims that scholars in biology, anthropology, history, and psychology “have repeatedly shown that definitions of sex and sexuality have varied over time and across cultures and political regimes.” It, of course, provides no evidence of this and could not. Who could think of a time when a culture believed that men and women were interchangeable? Maybe they have in mind “scholars” such as Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey whose claims about sex practices and human sexuality, upon closer examination, have been soundly discredited. In fact, some of the things that Kinsey said in his books are now so embarrassing that the institute that bears his name and holds the copyright to his works frequently refuses to allow authors to quote from them. Even Mead and Kinsey, however, didn’t go so far as to claim that the sexes were interchangeable. The fact is that biological science does not support the ideological claims of gender studies professors. This is why AAUP cannot cite any mainstream medical studies for support.

 

The statement excoriates the Trump Title IX initiative as “state-enforced preservation of traditional gender roles,” which is “authoritarian” and aiming “to protect patriarchal family structures.” The truth is that it signifies nothing more than public policy recognizing reality. It’s likely that the AAUP wouldn’t call out any of the more truly oppressive governmental initiatives that conform to its ideological agenda as authoritarian. When was the last time that the AAUP criticized statism or overcentralized governmental authority? Their predictable deployment of the “patriarchy” bogeyman underscores how eager they are to substitute ideologically charged rhetoric for the genuine scholarship they pretend to favor. It goes without saying that they provide no evidence for their patriarchy claim, nor do they even define what the term means—much less provide any analysis of why the nuclear family with the traditional roles of husband-father and wife-mother is problematical or defective. They go on to rebuke attempts by government to disfavor “nonnormative households,” like the “same-sex” ones “that deviate from established nuclear family norms.” They claim that on such things the policymakers’ “motives are ideological” pure and simple. The latter are “attempting to override the insights of serious scholars” and are acting “without factual support” and “for purely political ends.” This could be a case of the pot calling the kettle black except that the Trump administration has established law on its side since the Department of Health and Human Services is simply proposing to reverse the lawless policy impositions of the Obama administration.

It’s also interesting that after its full-throated condemnation of government authoritarianism in advancing a public policy that upholds the reality about males and females, the statement says that the same Title IX should be an “instrument for ending cultures of discrimination based on sex.” There is no hesitancy about using the full force of government for this purpose, and the context makes it clear that the sex discrimination to be eliminated would result in protecting homosexuality and transgenderism. The fact that it speaks about this in the context of encouraging universities and colleges to put gender studies and related programs, such as “queer and trans studies,” in place indicates that sexual libertinism is an important part of their agenda.

Further, the statement insists that these programs are particularly essential “for research into how differences are used to legitimize structures of power.” This seems to be another way of saying that they are needed to expose the supposed white male heterosexual power structure throughout society. With the left, it always seems to come down to power. True scholarship goes where the evidence leads but the authors are averse to such quaint notions as proof or facts. For all their crabbing about how policymakers who oppose gender studies have no scholarly credentials, there is no indication that this statement was authored by anyone interested in proving anything other than their own moral superiority.

For all its supposed concern with scholarship, one wonders what the AAUP’s reaction is to scholarship that shows—clearly, and with hard evidence—the value of the family as traditionally understood or casts any doubt on the claims of the homosexualists (i.e., the so-called “LGBTQ” agenda). They most likely would have no use for such sound carefully undertaken scholarship because its conclusions contradict their ideological agenda—as one would expect it would, since it confirms the wisdom of the ages and, yes, the human nature they want to deny. Has the AAUP defended the likes of Paul McHugh, Mark Regnerus, or Paul Sullins, who have faced ugly attacks for their research showing the harms of transgenderism and the damage to children of same-sex parenting? For that matter, in their zeal to defend alternative family forms, has the AAUP taken note of the consistent research across disciplines that has shown that children are more likely to thrive and grow up to be well-adjusted, responsible adults when they come from intact nuclear families (that is, the families that the AAUP identifies with the dreaded patriarchy)? Do they even take note of the diseases that evidence unmistakably shows active homosexuals are much more likely to contract? It becomes almost hilarious for the statement to say that the opponents of gender ideology—and, by implication, all that is related to it—are seeking to “impose their will in the name of a ‘science’ that is without factual support.”

Just as the statement was ready to invoke the evil of patriarchy, it also tossed out the left’s other ubiquitous snarl word, misogyny. As is typical with the left’s lexicon, such damning, indicting words are never defined. They are rhetorical tools with which to cast aspersion on people who don’t follow their party line. The correct definition of misogyny is a pathological hatred of women, something approaching a psychological condition. The fact that the AAUP is so ready to use words loosely and inaccurately further undermines its claim to be defenders of true scholarship. A serious scholar would not use terminology in dishonest ways for political purposes.

The statement also alleges that attempts to enshrine into public policy the reality of people being one sex or another from birth will cause “trans, intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people” to “disproportionately suffer.” Apart from the fact that these categories are all concoctions of the homosexualist movement and its allies—they ignore the fact that those who suffer from gender dysphoria will only find healing from professional counselors and not through the adoption of false identities. Too often, activists use these people to further their political agenda.

A final point in the statement betrays clearly how it hides behind “scholarship” to promote ideology. It compares the supposed threat to academic freedom posed by the legal recognition of what men and women are by nature to “attacks on climate change.” In other words, any criticism or evidence—including sound scholarship—brought forth against the left’s views on climate change is to be disallowed as an attack on academic freedom. The agenda of the left is sacrosanct and must be protected even if that requires the denial of other people’s liberty.

In a statement two years ago, the AAUP commendably criticized the threats to academic freedom and campus free speech by false and irresponsible accusations of sexual harassment on campuses and the failure to provide due process to the accused—even while it was careful to uphold the supposed value of gender studies. Unfortunately, in this latest statement the lure of ideology was just too great for it to act as genuine scholars would by upholding truth.

Stephen M. Krason

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Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. He holds a J.D. and Ph.D. (political science) and an M.A. in theology/religious education and is admitted to a number of law bars, including the U.S. Supreme Court. He is the author, most recently, of The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and editor of three volumes: Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013) and The Crisis of Religious Liberty (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014); and most recently, Challenging the Secular Culture: A Call to Christians (Franciscan University Press). His latest book is Catholicism and American Political Ideologies (Hamilton Books). He is also the author of a new novel, American Cincinnatus. The views expressed here are, of course, his own.

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