A conference held last week by the University of Sydney’s taxpayer-funded National Centre for Cultural Competence has proven once and for all that Australian universities are not only hotbeds of identity politics, but that they are also imposing this post-modernist madness on society at large, and at society’s expense. Entitled ‘Cultural Competence and the Higher Education Sector: Dilemmas, Policies and Practices’, the two-day conference was attended by an assortment of academics from both Australian and American universities who gathered together to talk about cultural competence.
Precisely what, however, is cultural competence? According to the National Centre for Cultural Competence, it is about ‘respecting and being inclusive of intersectionality, diversity and difference, and addressing inequities created historically, politically and socially.’ In more precise, less painfully politically correct parlance, it is the belief that the dominant Anglo-Celtic culture is evil, while all other cultures, without exception, are good.
The proponents of this idea genuinely appear to believe that Anglo-Celtic culture and Western civilisation with which it is associated, have been responsible for all the inequality and suffering that the world has ever known and continues to know. If this is accepted as fact, then the logical conclusion is that equality can only be achieved if Anglo-Celtic Australia acknowledges the wickedness and failings of its own culture and then discards it in favour of other cultures.
The conference’s jam-packed schedule was almost a parody of what one would imagine a conference entirely devoted to something called cultural competence would be. Words such as ‘intersectionality’, ‘diversity’, ‘gender’, ‘privilege’, ‘race’ and ‘power’ were flung about with reckless abandon and inserted into nearly every title of nearly every session. The guest star of the show was none other than Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasame, who no doubt delivered his keynote address ‘Cultural competence and structural racism in the higher education sector and broader society’ to rapturous applause.
Sessions on Day One included ‘Universities replicate white power’, ‘Beyond diversity towards inclusion’, ‘Embedding cultural competence in science curricula’ and ‘An Indigenous cultural competency course: Talking culture, race and power.’ Sessions on Day Two numbered topics such as ‘Representing race and gender; Performing and teaching intersectionality in Australia’, ‘Unlearning cultural privilege’, and last but not least, ‘History in the now-decolonising “top-end” higher education using culturally responsive pedagogy’.
That much of the academic confraternity in the West is well and truly wedded to identity politics is in itself an appalling enough state of things. However, it appears that some of its members have ventured out of the confines of their lecture theatres, classrooms, academic journals and conferences and into the wider world, where they are inflicting this insanity on the rest of us through such dubious bodies as the National Centre for Cultural Competence.
When the National Centre for Cultural Competence was launched in 2013, it was given a whopping $5.6 million of our taxes in addition to the generous subsidies that the university already receives from student fees. The Centre’s mission is to ‘roll out cultural competence across the University and the broader local, national and international community’, and judging from its four-year strategy (2016-2020), it’s rolling out cultural competence by the barrel load, courtesy of the taxpayer dollar.
The strategy reveals that the Centre is taking what some would say, is a fairly holistic approach to the task at hand by using a number of measures to achieve 100 per cent cultural competence by 2020. These are: 1. ‘Education.’ A re- writing of all university curricula, not just the humanities, so that all graduates will think the same way upon leaving university; 2. ‘Research’. The dissemination of identity politics taught within the university into the wider community; 3. ‘Culture.’ Ensuring the wider community, not just students, are fed a diet of radical identity politics; 4. ‘Organisational Design.’ Ensuring that the decision makers and people running our institutions are all exponents of cultural competence, and finally; 5. ‘Engagement.’ Capturing and controlling social media.
Given its record of late, it should be of no surprise that the University of Sydney is driving this extraordinary push. Last year, the Dean of the university’s Business School teamed up with Tim Soutphommasame to lament what the pair perceived to be a devastating lack of diversity in companies, federal parliament and the public services. Also in 2017, the university launched its compulsory and Orwellian-esque ‘Unlearn’ initiative, whose purpose appears to be the deprivation rather than the acquisition of knowledge.
Under the watch of the current Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, the University Union has killed the Debating Society by introducing gender and diversity quotas into proceedings on the grounds that such quotas would put an end to ‘affluent, white’ domination of debating. Australia’s oldest university is now also quite possibly Australia’s worst university, as Michael Spence appears to be doing his utmost to destroy the institution from the inside. Unsurprisingly, Mr Spence is an enthusiastic exponent of cultural competence, and was quoted saying that ‘It’s a core intellectual skill’ which he wants embedded as criteria for academic employment and student assessment.
In other words, if you are not deemed sufficiently culturally competent by the university administrators, you simply won’t get a job at the university, and you certainly won’t get your degree. Academics such as Mr Spence and his fellow exponents of cultural competence have now cast themselves in the role of social justice warriors, whose ultimate aim is to create a society completely free from inequality and thus the suffering which accompanies it. However, in their attempt to create this kind of utopia, they are actually creating a dystopia for the rest of us. And what is more, they are going about it with our money.
Dr Bella d’Abrera is the Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs