The “Global Learning Requirement” and the Rectal-Cranial Inversion

by Jason Peters on November 26, 2013 · 24 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low


Ingham County, MI

Suppose you receive an invitation to a workshop organized by a college that professes to be a steward of the liberal arts. And suppose the workshop concerns “best practices in teaching cultural diversity.”

Hold on now. Suppose you don’t immediately open a vein and slip into a warm bath.

If you are a professor at the liberal arts college that proposes to host such a workshop but know nothing yourself of the actual liberal arts (there are seven of them, divided into what are known as the trivium and quadrivium), you will probably wet yourself, because to you the term “liberal arts” means “everything.” It especially means those generalizations that point to nothing in particular, such as cultural diversity.

So you sign up. (And you check “veggie wrap” on the luncheon ticket.)

But suppose the invitation to participate in this workshop (to be held “right before the faculty recognition luncheon”—recognizing whom for what we may perhaps divine, though we won’t suppose a stodgy old white man who knows Dante up and down is likely to get so much as a red participation ribbon) promises “exciting conversations” on “five broad goals of the new Global Learning requirement: Knowledge, Curiosity, Self-Awareness, Empathy, and Responsibility.”

And suppose that according to the college catalogue—sorry: catalog—the goal of “knowledge” is defined, or rather has been redefined, as “broadening and deepening students’ knowledge in the sciences, arts, humanities, and social sciences, engaging them in the global concerns that touch each of these fields.”

What do you do if you didn’t check “veggie wrap” on your luncheon ticket?

First, you leave aside the fact that engaging students (as if they were engines put into motion by a clutch) and touching a field (as if you were walking barefoot on a farm) have less purchase on you than digging out toe jam. That’s essential.

Second, you leave aside the established fact that Self-Knowledge and Empathy are now among the unimpeachable goals of “Global Learning,” because taking all this seriously could lead to warm baths and razor blades and a really ugly mess for someone else to clean up.

But suppose, further, that the invitation to this workshop (and awards ceremony) intends to make short work of closing all debate by assuming that “adding global knowledge to our curriculum is a straightforward proposition.”

And suppose that the invitation goes on to masquerade as a document that asks putatively open—but actually closed—questions, such as:

“But what happens to our disciplines when we begin to think globally? When we find that new content requires whole new ways of thinking? How do global perspectives change what we define as basic knowledge in our fields? What does learning about others teach us about ourselves? And how can we build this knowledge in a dynamic relationship with the other habits of mind that Global Learning seeks to foster?”

Suppose, that is, you’re being asked to take this bullshit seriously.

Reply thus, but speak slowly, because you’re going to have to use some really big words:

“I’ll tell you what happens to our disciplines when we begin to think globally. They become irrelevant, because no one lives in a globe. On a globe, yes. But in a globe, no. Where you live is called a place, and toward it you bear responsibilities. Claiming to live in a globe means you bear pretty much no responsibilities whatsoever to anyone in particular. When you claim to live in a globe you find yourself saying such things as, “finish your food; there are starving people in India,” because the starving people around the corner, about whom you could actually do something, do not interest you. You are interested only in those whose plight you can do nothing about.

“Or, to speak more plainly, by concentrating on such abstractions as the globe you have exempted yourself from local responsibility. This is one of the benefits, not to mention one of the intended aims, of proclaiming yourself a ‘global citizen.’

“You might as well say: finish your beer; there are sober people in India.

“And what do I do when I find that ‘new content requires new ways of thinking’? I tell you I find no such thing. The question assumes a foregone conclusion, which means that you aren’t actually interested in the “critical thinking skills” you yammer on about endlessly. Foregone conclusions vitiate the need for thought.

(“And, by the way, ‘critical thinking skills’ is what some of us call ‘thinking.’)

“And ‘how do global perspectives change what I define as basic knowledge in my field?’ The answer is that they make the work I do in it more destructive of the world. Itinerant professional vandals—that is, people educated at considerable public expense—won’t hesitate for a second to destroy local communities for the sake of ‘global perspectives.’ Ask anyone who has failed to prevent a nuclear power plant from being built in his back yard—or, for that matter, a university.

“And what does ‘learning about others teach me about myself?’ Well, now, that depends. I recently learned, for example, that people at a liberal arts college are hosting a workshop concerned with best practices in teaching cultural diversity. What this teaches me about myself is that I’m glad I’m not as other men.

“Jesus warned against this attitude, it is true, but he didn’t live to see the kind of nightmares that Associate Deans convert into reality for ordinary faculty members.

“And how can I ‘build this knowledge in a dynamic relationship with the other habits of mind that Global Learning seeks to foster?

“Leaving aside how I might build this knowledge in a dynamic (!) relationship with dissenting habits of mind, which would be more useful, I’d say that I should begin by turning resolutely away from using the word ‘dynamic.’ It’s being pedaled by the same robotic administrators who use the word ‘robust’ in every committee meeting. I hereby declare a one-hundred-year moratorium on the word ‘robust.’

“And as for ‘habits of mind that Global Learning seeks to foster’—well, those are bad habits, and ‘Global Learning,’ complete with its upper case “G” and “L,” is an obvious Self-Parody. It is a Cartoon of Itself. A Laughing Stock of Nations.”

Thus you answer, then maybe go in search of that warm bath.

But no. Wait. Suppose, finally, this little workshop—which will have massive deleterious effects—will include a keynote address on “globalizing the disciplines.” Suppose during the Q&A you stand up and ask whether we should in fact be “globalizing the disciplines.”

You will be told by the highly-credentialed speaker that “globalization is the future.”

Well, you can’t win this one, but don’t believe the axiom. Globalization is succeeding on the merit of mere bigness, which is one of those “merits” that dupes everyone from televangelists to whores. But I repeat myself. Globalization would merely be idiotic were it not also as doomed to obscurity as the Segway, the Delorean, and the pet rock. If we aren’t smart enough to say anything definitive about globalization, dwindling supplies of energy will cover for us.

Cardinal Newmann spoke of a philosophy which needed “but to be proclaimed in order to be embraced.” He had in mind Utilitarianism, not Globalizationism. But you can’t help but note that at least the Utilitarians wanted to get something done. These Institutional Globalizers are hell-bent on making sure nothing gets done. They have their heads up a dark smelly place. Someone should tell them to drop their pants and bear down. Fresh air is available here on the outside of the colon.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Thomas McCullough November 27, 2013 at 8:25 am

My apologies: you are NOT boring.

avatar Jonathan White November 27, 2013 at 9:46 am

Professor Peters,
Well said, sir.
One can easily test the openness of the Institutional Globalizers. If one were to hold a conference which examined that which “is true and valuable in the Southern tradition,” or the gifts of Western culture and tradition to the world, one suspects that the open-mindedness would be there for all to see.

avatar Siarlys Jenkins November 27, 2013 at 8:44 pm

That was excellent. Also to the point. And funny besides.

Now why is it that economic prosperity depends on importing the apples we eat from New Zealand, while we export the apples we grow to Norway?

avatar robert m. peters November 29, 2013 at 9:39 am

Mr. Peters,

Quite an excellent article. While globalization is likely doomed to obscurity, its creators and apologists, not the duped sputniks thereof, hope to doom Western civilization to obscurity along therewith. Such conferences exist; were you actually invited to one; and did you attend?

Mr. White,

I have had some wonderful conversations on a deck overlooking an estuary of the distant Atlantic on the traditions and gifts which you mention. I do not, however, recall any avowed globalists there.

avatar Owen Jones November 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm

The problem lies, I “think,” in the inability of a man to experience the transcendent where he sits. So the entire world has become too small for him.

avatar Ed Ludwig-Krause December 1, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Snarky apologetics for cultural xenophobia. The sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, scratching for turf.

avatar RT December 2, 2013 at 10:22 am

Wonderful! I am a soon-to-be-retired teacher at a southeastern university, and I have been watching the slow-strangulation of so-called liberal arts in the name of “common read” programs and “global” learning pedagogies. It will not be long that universities are streamlined trade schools. But, hey, that is only one curmudgeonly Luddite’s opinion.

BTW, if you are interested in following the musings of a teacher of literature who is slowly riding into the sunset, drop by my new blog enterprise: a commonplace from eastrod.

avatar dave walsh December 2, 2013 at 10:39 am

Not quite related, but an article on The Atlantic’s website :
I was sort of waiting for Sayler to riff on it, but I guess he no longer contributes.

Anyway Ed, some random palooka in Appalachia speaks French to his chickens while he feeds them rinds of what was good cheese and I suppose that’s meaningful, but I don’t think that the French is what makes it so.

avatar Tony Esolen December 2, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Tremendous! I don’t know how you could suffer even so much consideration of this nonsense as was required to write the essay. I wonder, too, whether much of the foolishness of it could be made manifest if we just doubled the consonant in ‘global.’ For what is being peddled is GLOBBAL — a big amorphous glob, something that, precisely because of its pretensions to know all and see all and do all, has no relation either to our culture or to any other culture, because it denies the goodness of culture itself, and is frankly uninterested in obeying the claims that any culture makes upon us.

The charge of xenophobia is so typical of the Globbal Left; don’t argue, just call names. I read nine languages (well, some better than others) and am learning a tenth. I teach literature, art, philosophy, and theology that derive from more than a dozen civilizations spanning four thousand years. But I don’t qualify as “Divuahhs” (that’s just “Diverse,” in southeastuhn New England) or as Globbal. Deo gratias, Alleluia.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Dear Eddie L-K,
It might be considered to be a symptom of cultural xenophobia if what Professor Peters wrote about had a single thing to do with the notion of “Culture”. Peters is throwing a spotlight on the very low form of happy-feeling grab-ass culture currently popularized by the media and our depauperate academia.Virtually the entire raft of doomed Medusa sailors who like to pass themselves off as great knowers of the so called “Contemporary Culture” know about as much as a fart in a Gawd damned Hailstorm regarding the august term, “culture”.

No, we live in an age of entertainment . There is no culture to be afraid of, it does not exist….its like a desert flood, quick to come and go, ferocious yet fleeting, leaving wreckage in its wake. One size fits all, how nice for us.

avatar Stan Theman December 2, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Liturgy is ridiculous; it’s especially ridiculous in education, where it’s used as a substitute for both thought and discussion.

avatar Ed Ludwig-Krause December 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Perhaps it is possible to think “globally” — being empathetic in allowing our assumptions and actions to be viewed from another place and examining how those assumptions may enhance or detract good people or things — AND, to allow (perhaps?) that place to inform our actions in our community.  Not to say that all perspectives, here or there, should be embraced. As long as the post began (and continued) in the scatological, let us acknowledge there can be shit there, as there can be shit here.

But in calling something excrement, it might be wise to take council from the sad fact that many used the word in its many forms to describe impressionist painting, Stravinsky, early 20 Century masterpieces (labeled as “deviant” by the Nazi’s)… and American Jazz, of which the conservative Richard Weaver wrote in 1948 was “the clearest of all signs of our age’s deep-seated predilection for barbarism”,
If we are heedless we might soon find our words sound like those of a small-minded, tight-assed prig.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 3, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Well now, we seem to be delimiting the scatological references here. There is, as is obvious to anyone living within the last several decades, “Good Shit” and “Bad Shit”

Try reading Iceberg Slim for a dissection of this very important distinction, etymologically speaking.

Luther had a few things to say in this vein as well

avatar robert m. peters December 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Mr. Ludwig-Krause,

Because the Nazis juxtaposed their own flawed worldview against the decadent Weimar Republic and the “entartete masterpieces” of the early twentieth century, does not make the anti-culture of the Weimar Republic and certain pieces of art of that time any less decadent and “entartet.” Perhaps Richard Weaver’s sensibilities toward beauty were not as attenuated by the decline of culture as were and are the sensibilities of haute culture of late or post-Modernity.

avatar D.W. Sabin December 5, 2013 at 6:03 pm

The Nazi lust for throwing whatever it was that scared or thrilled them on a bonfire should never be conflated with “sensibilities” exhibited by others inhabiting the modern era. The Performance Art of Nazism was perpetrated by perverse zealots erecting a post-gothic regime of death and destruction in tribute to a pathological reverence for technology married to the cockeyed notion of nationalistic racial purity.

Deviant behavior or product has been around a long time. Sometimes it is simply putrid, at other times, it is enlightening. When the Government erects institutions to control it, you can be sure these same institutions will cast their covetous gaze elsewhere.

avatar robert m. peters December 5, 2013 at 11:04 pm

Mr. Sabin,

If art is decadent, with or without the Nazis, it is not sacred. It might be preferred by some; it might even be “liked” by many; however, sacred it is not.

avatar Ed Ludwig-Krause December 6, 2013 at 3:50 am

Mr. Peters,

Horrific carnage on a colossal scale did arouse exuberant excess during the Weimar Republic after the first world war…. but there has seldom been a more exuberant flowering in the arts and sciences: Brecht, Weill, Gropius, Beckman, Klee, Kandinsky, Arp, Hannah Arendt, Fritz Lang, Heidegger, Planck, Heisenberg, Einstein… the list could go on, and on…


A portait of a whore can be sacred.
A portrait of Jesus can be obscene (all too often).

avatar Rob G December 6, 2013 at 12:09 pm

~~Because the Nazis juxtaposed their own flawed worldview against the decadent Weimar Republic and the “entartete masterpieces” of the early twentieth century, does not make the anti-culture of the Weimar Republic and certain pieces of art of that time any less decadent and “entartet.”~~

Bingo. On this see Friedrich Reck’s Diary of a Man in Despair. He despised Weimar decadence, which he partly blamed for the rise of Hitlerism. But he managed to despise the latter as well.

“there has seldom been a more exuberant flowering in the arts and sciences”

~~The apostles of modernism usually begin their retort with catalogues of modern achievement, not realizing that here they bear witness to their immersion in particulars. We must remind them that we cannot begin to enumerate until we have defined what is to be sought or proved. It will not suffice to point out the inventions and processes of our century unless it can be shown that they are something other than a splendid efflorescence of decay. Whoever desires to praise some modern achievement should wait until he has related it to the professed aims of our civilization as rigorously as the Schoolmen related a corollary to their doctrine of the nature of God. All demonstrations lacking this are pointless.~~ Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

avatar robert m. peters December 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Rob G.,

Yes, Cultural Marxism, ensconced among liberal and well as so called “conservative” elites and imposed on the rest of us by them in the form of an ever totalitarian political correctness has become a counterfeit and secularized “Christianity” replete with “original sin” which is in essence racism, homophobia and gender bias which like the moral DNA of Adam’s fall is in the moral DNA of Western, man to which the designated victim groups of the elites do not belong or exempt, and from which Western man can never escape, ever confessing the latest manifestation of his “sins” before the priesthood of the elites only to discover through their all-seeing eye that his original sin -racism, homophobia, and gender bias – is ever more latent and dangerous, embedded in the deepest part of his soul and psyche for which he must more and more penance. Thus, a man who thinks to see decadence in the Weimar Republic is labeled right subtly a racist or worse because the Nazi’s, at least some of them, saw the decadence; hence, if the Nazis who were bad saw decadence in the Weimar Republic, then the decadence of the Weimar Republic must have been good; therefore, if another man at another time apprehends the same decadence, then he must be a Nazi and therefore bad. I utterly laugh at this silliness of cultural Marxism, but one has to take it seriously because it has all of what is left of the West in its thrall and even exports it, seeing its messianic mission to eradicate its version of original seen as such a moral imperative that it will kill thousands if not millions to spread gender equity and racial equity across the world.

In reality, the Nazis were merely the flip side of the morally devoid coin of which the decadence of the Weimar Republic was the other side. In reality, at the core of communism, Nazism and modern “democratic” Hobbesian states of the West is the Jacobin mantra of “equality.” The communists pushed for equality through the murderous class struggle which they promoted and engender. The Nazis wanted equality in the form of the same race, i.e. all had to conform to the physical and intellectual prototype of the “Aryan” and modern Western Hobbesian states pursue the same agenda of “equality” with a little less violence on the home front, although they gladly export war to topple “evil men,” often killing thousands of innocents in the process as in Clinton’s no-fly zone over Iraq which likely killed about 600,000 women, children and elderly to which Madam Albright said “It was worth it,” but with much more totalitarianism in the form of political correctness at home.

avatar Ed Ludwig-Krause December 7, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Guilt by association doesn’t interest me. If the Nazis were appalled by great art because it did not reinforce their prejudices and heroic (in their eyes) Teutonic myths of chivalric order and racial purity and you are appalled by it too, this does not equate you with the Nazis.

It sounds as though your disregard for equal rights amongst human beings makes you a different incarnation of reactionary impulse… and your fondness for the neo-feudal/neo-confederate Richard Weaver seems to reinforce this. Weaver died in 1963 at the age of 53 of a heart attack. Perhaps the civil rights legislation of the era was too much for this city-hating southerner living in Chicago, pining for the heroic (in his eyes) chivalric myths of the “Old South” and the proper god-given racial order.
Or maybe Jazz killed him.

avatar robert m. peters December 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Mr. Ludwig-Krause,

I do not disregard equal rights amongst human beings; there is simply no such thing; it is a fiction of the imagination of the Marxist left, a necessary fiction to sustain their ideology which they would impose on the rest of us.

Mr. Weaver is one of my intellectual mentors. I note that you used all of the Marxist jargon to attempt to impugn Mr. Weaver, using “neo-confederate” as if there were something intrinsically evil about “confederate” or “neo-feudal” as if there were something intrinsically evil about “feudal.” It is all merely Marxist jargon used as a weapon to denigrate intellectual opponents, again to remind and to accuse them of the Marxist original sin of not genuflecting to the false goddess of equality the mortal sins against which are “racism,” “homophobia” and “gender bias.”

Mr. Ludwig-Krause,

At the end of the day, your understanding of the world and mine are utterly incommensurable and serve as a microcosm of the divide in the declining West. Your side is definitely winning and will continue to do so unless the therapeutic, managerial state which gives your side the necessary oxygen collapses. I do not see that happening any time soon. The Jacobins and later Marx were Hobbesians, with Marx stating, correctly, that Hobbes is the father of us all.

avatar Rob G December 10, 2013 at 10:38 am

“Your side is definitely winning and will continue to do so unless the therapeutic, managerial state which gives your side the necessary oxygen collapses. I do not see that happening any time soon.”

Liberals/progressives should be wary of taking comfort in this, however, given that A) liberalism is inherently tyrannical and B) there is always someone more liberal than you, who will likely view you as anti-revolutionary, and thus, in the way.

avatar jweaks December 20, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Wandered my way hear via Micah Mattix’ “Prufrock.” Well played sir.

avatar FloridaProf May 5, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Kudos. My college is starting to enter the “Global Learning” world. It took me about three minutes of reading through the GL documents online to discover its nothing more than another effort to shove the left wing agenda down the faculty’s and student’s throats. BS is right.

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