“The Cornel West Reader” is a testament to the intellectual vacuum that a progressive education creates. The trappings of intellect are in place, the canonical names invoked, the capsule histories recalled, the theories broadly rehearsed. But behind the footnotes and the latinate prose, the vulgar mind of the activist is feverishly at work. A “discourse” is produced in which political postures invariably substitute for thought.
The intellectual ruin of West is not an isolated case. There is a whole generation of racially favored intellectual water flies — Bell Hooks, Michael Dyson, Robin D.G. Kelley, Patricia Williams, to name a few — whose cultural elevation is not only unrelated to any serious intellectual achievement, but has eliminated the possibility of one.
For them, as for West, the pathos lies in what might have been. The left-wing university culture has stripped them of an educational opportunity that is given only once per individual lifetime. Meanwhile, the self-appointed social redeemers, whom West thanks for helping him along, are in reality the very people who deprived him of a chance to learn the hard, old-fashioned way, and thus helped to destroy whatever intellectual potential he may once have had.
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