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Culture Friday: Critical theory doesn’t build up but breaks down


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Critical theory doesn’t build up but breaks down

Michigan school separates graduates according to race and LGBTQ status, Arkansas governor signs restroom law, and Kansas’ born-alive law.

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs into law an education overhaul bill on Wednesday, March 8, 2023 at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s the 24th day of March 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I'm Myrna Brown. It's Culture Friday!

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. John, good morning.


BROWN: So you hear that music, pomp and circumstance. It won’t be long before soon-to-be graduates will be robed and walking. It's tradition! But here's something unusual I want to call your attention to: Grand Valley State University in Michigan hosts what school leaders call its annual “cultural graduations.”

Here's what that looks like separate graduation celebrations for Black, Asian, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ students. Separate but equal, I guess, ahem.

There's also a main commencement ceremony—six in total!

The college says the celebrations align with the university's commitment to building a culture of educational equity.

But I wonder if it’s not doing the opposite. These separate graduation events seem regressive and unnecessarily divisive for students. Strikes me as almost bringing back educational segregation. But what do you think?

STONESTREET: Well, I think it does. And I think this sort of thing inevitably devolves into more and more and more separation, and then more and more ways of comparing cultures and comparing these identities to one another, and then morally prioritizing them. So what happens when, you know, the Native American cultural graduation still wants to have boys be boys and girls be girls or, you know, maybe the Asian one does, and the LGBTQ group finds that to be morally repulsive? Now it's going to be impossible to not morally rank these different groupings on campus. And of course, that's exactly what critical theory does. It's not just a hyperextension of these groups as groups, it's also a moral reckoning of these groups. And, you know, you're you're in the in group until, until you're not. You're super woke until you're not woken up. And, you know, this is just a kind of a recipe for disaster. It's also directly antithetical to celebrating academic achievement. This is particularly true because you're having then a group of students that are being separately recognized because of who they choose to sleep with. I mean, what does that have to do with overcoming any racial bias or ethnic discrimination, things that are often claimed as justifications for this sort of separation into groups? And so it is, I mean, but the snakes going to eat its own tail. This is an unsustainable path forward. This is, you know, really what you get in a postmodern mood and this form of it a critical theory, mood, it always breaks apart, everything falls apart, things are to be deconstructed, nothing is to be built. And what a sad thing to do to a group of graduates, I also wonder, you know, what this is going to do to university pride in the years to come. So, you know, let's come back together here in 15 years and see how the donations are coming in. And because you know, that this has plagued colleges for years I mean, you know, it's a you think this is a good idea now, let's see what happens when it's time for the alumni to give.

BROWN: Truth be told.

EICHER: Well, John, from WORLD’s Sift news: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill this week that will protect schoolchildren from having to use restrooms with students of the opposite sex. The law takes effect in July. It applies to multi-stall washrooms and locker rooms in public and charter schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools must provide accommodations, such as single-person bathrooms, for students who say they’re transgender.

OK. What I read was from WORLD’s newsroom.

If I took the lede from The Associated Press, goes this way: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a law prohibiting transgender people at public schools from using the restroom that matches their gender identity, the first of several states expected to enact such bans this year amid a flood of bills nationwide targeting the trans community.

Point is, that’s how most people receive news like this. These protective laws are cast as mean, punitive, targeting. And you’ll always find a family of some troubled young person, very sympathetic, not a drag performer or a predator, and you kind of lose in the court of public opinion. How do you make the case for laws like these when the deck is stacked against you?

STONESTREET: Well, yeah, I think there is a mistake. If we think that everybody, you know, kind of within this T-movement, are activists and are sexual predators. It's also a mistake to assume that there are no activists and there are no sexual predators. But when you're coming, specifically talking about what's happening in schools, you are dealing with an awful lot of confused people. In fact, we know, Nick, that since 2015, there's been a dramatic shift. And because we know that there is an actual difference between men and women and between boys and girls, this is a significant shift, and makes this something that demands even more of our careful consideration. Prior to 2015, the vast majority of people seeking to transition were men seeking to be women. Since 2015, and this is reports out of the Tavistock clinic closing this is reports that we have seen from this whistleblower there at the Washington Medical Center, that it's girls, younger and younger and younger, hoping to be boys. We know that these aren't girls seeking to be sexual predators in other bathrooms. These are girls who have been told to hate themselves, they have been fed a constant diet, sometimes like an IV in the form of their phone, harmful and poisonous messages over and over and over again. And yet, if we have any sort of illusion that because that's the majority, that there won't be a whole bunch of perverted men trying to take advantage of this, then we have are selectively choosing to ignore the stories that we continue to see. And we were told this never happens. Until then it it does. This is huge. This is the challenge that we find ourselves in. So we're dealing with a bunch of early adolescent girls, that's who this is going to impact. But it has to be done. Because we have to tell them what is true, we have to teach them what is true. And again, there can be accommodations I think made that are loving and caring and just, and respect the fact that a lot of the challenge here has to do with anxiety, it has to do with mental illness and depression, without coddling and feeding into the destruction. What we also know too, and this is a bit more anecdotal, but we're hearing more and more stories from de-transitioners. That it really what it took was someone looking at them in the eye and telling them the truth. This is particularly true when you're talking about someone dealing with some sort of internal disorder, and not an issue of sexual perversion. And listen, that's what's so hard about this, this is an issue that's all over the place. It's an issue that has left the building in terms of the bounds of rationality and reason. And so you actually have to take it. So I think I think that what Governor Sanders is doing is courageous, and it's the right thing to do and more states need to do it. It's a loving thing to do with the vast majority of victims in that state, which are young girls who have been taught to hate their bodies, young girls who were the victim of a new misogyny, and that's what needs to be uncovered. And we don't need to accommodate the misogyny in order to care and and have empathy for these troubled and broken young women. We need to love them and treat them as young women and tell them the truth.

EICHER: Alright, and I want to mention the born-alive pro-life bill. It passed overwhelmingly in the Kansas House. We’ll see what happens in the Senate … if there’s enough margin to override a veto by the Democratic governor. We’ll see. But the point is, Kansas came right out of the Dobbs Supreme Court ruling and went for complete protection for all the unborn and wound up losing. Now we’re back to inch-by-inch battles like this. Not saying right or wrong. But it does feel like, as Yogi Berra would say, deja vu all over again.

STONESTREET: Yeah, we're still in a stage where we still need an incremental strategy. This hasn't moved because of Dobbs from an ability to win small victories to get everything we want at once. What it's moved is from a national level to a state level. That's the only move that's taken place. And I think what we have seen, there's a real you are here moment, I think that's happening for the pro life movement. And I've been wondering about this for years, particularly when all of these poll numbers would come in all over the place. Right. You know, one group is flaunting polls telling us that this is the most you know, pro-life generation that we've seen in our lifetime, especially the young people. And another poll would say no, most young people would want to keep Roe in place and that that especially applied to us wishy-washy, you know relativistic Gen Xers who can't decide what we want. I think what we have to reckon with is that this conversation about life and about at-risk women and the issue of abortion is being had all of these conversations are being had in a context of a thoroughgoing 100% commitment to relativism, that we do not want to say something is absolutely right and wrong for all people at all times, that we do want to continue to look inside. We do want exceptions for our own behavior. And until we reckon with that, then these kinds of all or nothing ballot initiatives probably aren't going to land the way we want them do.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks, John!

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

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