Last week, a student I had at Georgetown University, where I taught while I was in graduate school, alerted me to a public message from Joel Hellman, the dean of its esteemed Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), and Scott Taylor, the School’s recently appointed Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – the new Holy Trinity of “woke” concepts known by the pseudo-religious acronym “DEI.”
“We want to affirm our school’s commitment to global antiracism,” it declares, contritely assuring the world that SFS has “engaged in reflection and self-examination as to our school’s own complicity in global systems of racism and injustice.”
The letter then outlines measures that SFS has taken or plans to take to “build a more inclusive climate” and embrace the “message of unity and equity” promised by “Juneteenth,” our newest federal holiday, which Georgetown adopted as an official university holiday last year.
A closer examination of SFS’s website reveals that it is up to much more than just broadcasting the standard woke shibboleths. Purportedly responding to the demands of an “overwhelming” number of its faculty and students presented after the death of George Floyd, SFS has recast its century-old program to adopt DEI as a “central pillar of its mission.”
In a petition published on Georgetown’s website last year, signatories demanded that SFS “reflect how racism is embedded in the foundation of our university,” “confront how whiteness informs its underlying values,” and commit “to racial justice as a core component of its curriculum, admissions process, and future hiring.”
Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, in other words, must undergo ritual self-flagellation, reeducate itself and its community through the lens of race, and adopt race-based policies in teaching, hiring, and admissions that may in practice be discriminatory or even unlawful.
A glance at the signatories, however, leads one to wonder just how “woke” Georgetown’s Foreign Service School truly is. SFS has educated tens of thousands of people in its 102 years of operations. According to Georgetown’s website, its programs currently enroll 2,273 students. Yet only 228 of those enrolled at the time the petition was written actually signed it.
At just ten percent of total enrollment, they had to be grouped with 506 alumni signatories – an even punier percentage of the total number of SFS graduates out in the world – to generate a larger but still underwhelming total.
The petition also garnered 127 signatures from “faculty and administration,” but here, too, the results are lacking. Only 70 signatories in that category are listed as SFS faculty or administrators on its website.
Nearly as many, among them a significant number of minority faculty members, did not sign.
Their reactionary ranks include SFS’s Vice Dean for Faculty and Graduate Affairs, its Director of Graduate Studies, the Director of Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and even Hellman, who apparently only just saw the light.
Judged by a movement that equates “silence” with “violence,” and within a larger academic culture that demands near-total conformity, an abstention rate of nearly 50 percent is a remarkable profile in courage.
The non-signatories may have protections of tenure or renown (many are senior faculty), but a truly “anti-racist” interpretation would consider them complicit in whatever racism lurks in the stately halls of Georgetown (I recall no racism there at all, yet who am I but a white male?).
To the best of my knowledge, none has taken the serious personal and professional risk of objecting to the radical recasting of their school’s purpose.
A cardinal principle of statecraft holds that a well-managed international order must rest on a system of shared values. By that vital standard, Georgetown’s newly discovered wokery hardly rates.
Beyond our shores, it is poorly understood and often angrily rejected or ridiculed by foreign societies that already have enough reasons to doubt American resolve. Indeed, only about one-third of Americans support the new ideology, with most of the rest viewing it as a threat to their personal freedom.
If “anti-racism” is to ground elite foreign policy education, we can only wonder how a new generation of infantilized woke professionals will interact with their counterparts abroad.
Our strategic adversaries in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran – all schooled in the most ruthless traditions of power politics – are unlikely to find much common ground with woke SFS graduates who have received more training in microaggressions than in Machiavelli.
More likely, they will just laugh until they become inured to the naivety sitting across from them with dogged-eared volumes of Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi, authors who will never appear on any Kremlin reading list.
Our allies are also unlikely to see much in SFS’s new look. The President of France recently denounced his country’s critical theorists, who pioneered Georgetown’s new ideological idiom, as inimical to the unity of his society. The UK just passed a law requiring its universities to protect free speech.
It also boasts a powerful new mass membership organization – the Free Speech Union – that successfully champions victims of “cancel culture.” As in the United States, decisive majorities in both countries reject political correctness.
Further afield, it is hard to imagine Japanese, Indian, or Brazilian policymakers submitting to “bystander training,” teaching their children that they and their countries are inherently racist, or screaming at each other over how the definition of a woman is properly constructed. Nor are they likely to adopt these bizarre habits of America’s administrative-managerial caste through osmosis.
Our fellow NATO members in Central and Eastern Europe already espouse views of identity politics, gender studies, and immigration that would make the average Georgetown anti-racism petitioner double over into a fetal position. In short, going woke will diminish, rather than enhance, the ability of SFS graduates to work productively in diverse global environments, which is precisely what Georgetown once prided itself on training them to do.
Even if foreign interlocutors could understand the values that Georgetown now wishes to impart on young foreign policy professionals, they will face ideologues trained in a school of thought that brooks no critique, tolerates no dissent, privileges emotion over analysis, and postures an overweening sense of moral and cultural superiority.
Historically, nations presenting those dubious qualities have rarely functioned well within international systems, and often try to impose their values and priorities on others in disastrous ways. And in the end, they always lose.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University. Read more here.