UVa Lifetime Indoctrination

Lifetime education… or indoctrination?

by Walter Smith

On occasion, the University of Virginia’s Lifetime Learning program addresses topics that appeal to a broad cross-section of the alumni population. I have found the courses taught by Michael Ragosta about Patrick Henry to be enjoyable and instructive. Not only did the professor deliver an entertaining lecture about the tumultuous relationship between Henry and Thomas Jefferson, he allowed his students to draw their own conclusions… without the “help” of contexualizers, no less! That’s a crazy idea that UVa just might want to emulate.

Unfortunately, much of the content created to engage alumni, parents and friends of the university reflects a politically progressive mindset that will turn off half its audience.

I focus today upon the Climate Ambition Summit, three events in which each is worse than the other, as seen here, here and here. The sponsors of the Summit include the Environmental Resilience Institute in partnership with UVA’s Office of Engagement, Career Center, the Office of the President, and Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs.

I invite you to explore topics and speakers of the three events and decide for yourself what room they will allow for the exploration of diverse viewpoints.

The first event, in which Environmental Sciences Professor Scott Doney will elucidate what scientists purport to have learned about human carbon emissions, changing climate, and impacts on people and the planet. I expect that enrollees in this session might learn a modicum of science, at least as told from the perspective of a single scientist who shares climate-change orthodoxy.

The second session about “climate risk” and “opportunity” for private capital veers from science to economics and policy. The overview describes a restructuring of the economic system that will create  vast opportunities for rent seeking and graft disguised as do-goodism. This is from the Overview:

Meeting emissions reductions targets will require major transitions across the global economy. A range of businesses, including producers of fossil fuels, automobile manufacturers, energy producers, and many others are already adjusting their business strategies to adapt. Entirely new economic sectors will need to be built to promote, among other activities, removal of carbon from the atmosphere and climate resilience.

This event starts from the presumption that fossil fuels are driving climate change and that emissions “targets” are needed to curb them. It takes breath-taking hubris for these so-called experts to believe that their mastery of the complex dynamics of the environment and economy is so all-encompassing that they run no risk of error.

The organizers of the climate events save the most outrageous for last — Climate Justice. States the overview:

Climate change has differing social, economic, public health and other adverse impacts on underserved populations. Extreme weather, rising sea levels, floods and drought amplify inequitable social conditions. Panelists will discuss how environmental justice must be a core tenet of climate action, bringing considerations of race, gender, indigenous cultures and class to the center of plans to achieve equitable mitigation and resilience outcomes.

Thus, we have traversed from the “climate science” of the first event to the quasi-science of the second to outright pseudo-science in the third. Here alumni, parents and friends predictably will be treated to disparate-impact analysis in which any statistical discrepancy will be treated as evidence of victimization and injustice requiring “equitable mitigation and resilience outcomes” — as mediated, of course, by people like the all-wise, all-knowing panel participants. Equally predictably, no consideration whatsoever will be given to the negative consequences upon poor and marginalized populations, in the form of slower economic growth, that will be the inevitable consequence of diverting trillions of dollars from more productive uses.

I would also invite you to read the CVs on Ian Baucom and Barbara Brown Wilson. Dean Baucom seems to have a high opinion of himself, and one day I may write about the revised curriculum he mentions (as I think it is another example of indoctrination). As for Professor Wilson, director of the UVA Equity Center, I am sorry – I have developed an allergic reaction to the language of cultural Marxism – “change-oriented,” “collaborates,” “community partners,” “engaged and integrated sustainable community development,” “complex socio-environmental problems,” “structural inequities,” “skills of cultural competency and empathy.” I would rather learn my cultural competency and empathy from my own life, not with the contextualizing “help” of an associate professor of urban and environmental planning.

The lesson that alumni, parents and friends should take away is that whatever it is that UVa offers in its “Lifetime Learning” program, much of it does not constitute “learning” at all. The dedication to progressive causes simultaneously inflates the cost and diminishes the value of a UVa education.

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