Monday, June 2, 2008

Academic Integrity?

"In 1994, Home Box Office and Pepsico celebrated Black History Month by producing a poster that was intended to show black achievement: It featured a large picture of the pyramids and many smaller images, including one of the Sphinx. Worse, the companies sent 20,000 copies of the poster to predominantly black schools. Honest teachers in those schools had to explain why a corporate seal of approval had been given to a historical claim that just isn't true. ... Though the arguments were contradictory and scattered, the point was that Western Civilization had been founded on materials and discoveries borrowed or stolen from black Egyptians. ... For a 1991 column in U.S. News and World Report, I phoned seven Egyptologists and asked whether the ancient Egyptian population has been 'black'. Of course not, they all responded, but not for attribution, since, as one said, 'this subject is just too hot.' ... Mary Lefkowitz, a mild-mannered classicist at Wellsley Collge ... concluded that the Afrocentric authors regarded history as a form of advocacy: Like other postmodernists, they believed that truth is impossible to know--that all 'narratives' are socially constructed and thus possess an equal claim to legitimacy,. ... Attacking the classics as a complex system of lies was emotionally important to those who wanted to take Western culture down a peg. Feelings and politics mattered, nor scholarship. ... Outraged by the nonscholarly approach of Afrocentric writers. [Lefkowitz] somewhat naively imagined that facts would put their extreme theories to rest. ... She noted, as well, that Aristotle would have had a hard time stealing his philosphy from the library at Alexandria, since he died before the library was built", John Leo's review of History Lesson, at the WSJ, 15 April 2008.

As far as I know, no sub-Saharan group ever developed writing. As for ancient Eqyptians being black, preposterous. This reminds me of a story told of Lenin. Supposedly in about 1924 he was caught in a lie by a Western reporter. He is asked about truth. Lenin reponds, "What is truth? Since according to the principles of dialetical materialism, the ultimate triumph of Communism is assured, whatever advances the cause of Communism must be true". Lefkowitz, you are naive. When listening to an academic, one should keep a story like Lenin's in mind.