Colorado University-Boulder Conference: “Decolonize” Yourself But Not With a “Sense of Urgency”

Faculty across the country are being asked or required to take courses on diversity and equity as part of anti-racism programs. There are remarkable differences between these programs, including one at the Colorado University at Boulder where faculty and graduate students are taught to shed the “cultural norms of white supremacy” and to “decolonize” their classes. According to the conservative site Campus Reform, this includes rejecting “neoliberal” concepts of time by combating “perfectionism” and the “sense of urgency.”

The university’s Equitable Teaching Conference, hosted by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning included a session titled “Anti-racist pedagogy and decolonizing the classroom,” taught by Dr. Becca Ciancanelli.  One of the slides reportedly warned against “perfectionism,” “sense of urgency,” “quantity over quality,” and “individualism” as “Cultural norms of White Supremacy.”

Individualism is not a new matter of debate. When I discuss different legal theories or “schools of thought” in my class (including feminism, Critical Legal Studies (CLS), and Critical Race Theory (CRT)), a common point of criticism of these scholars is the elevation of the individual over the collective. I juxtapose those theories with writers of liberalism and classic liberalism (which I admittedly favor).  It can also be part of a dichotomy of rights versus responsibilities in the law.  However, these are writings that address the focus or purpose of legal rules or structures in society from different perspectives. The presentation at Boulder suggests that faculty and students should avoid individualism as a trapping of white supremacy in their own lives.

Ciancarelli’s warnings were based on the work of Professor Sam Bullington, who teaches “unlearning racism, toxic masculinity, and decolonizing teaching, as well as engaged spirituality/spiritual activism” at Boulder.

There are many cultures that have a “sense of urgency” or a drive for “perfectionism” that are not mere reflections of white supremacy in my view.  However, the inclusion of “individualism” as a “cultural norm of White Supremacy” is particularly concerning from the perspective of academic freedom. I value the writings of CLS and CRT scholars on the issue as we discuss the evolution and role of the law in society. While I subscribe to an opposing view and embrace a robust view individual rights like free speech, the writings allow for alternative views on such fundamental issues in class. However, this program suggests that faculty who believes in strong concepts of individualism are engaging in racist or reactionary conduct. This is an area of great debate among scholars that touches upon core values and beliefs, including classic liberal notions of rights in society. This presentation reduces such beliefs to prejudices or even abusive values in teaching.
I have no problem with such theories being taught on campuses. They generate important and useful debate. However, the inclusion of such views as part of a teaching conference on best practices is concerning if it is viewed as endorsed by the university.  The conference was billed by the university as a resource for “CU Boulder faculty, graduate students and teaching staff who would like to prepare for the fall semester with a focus on equity-minded practices.”  That does not sound like a required but rather a recommended course. That is an important distinction.  As a conference on “equity-minded practices,” these academics are certainly entitled to present such theories while others (hopefully) can present opposing or alternative views. However, any sense of endorsement by the university would raise serious concerns over academic freedom and free speech.

54 thoughts on “Colorado University-Boulder Conference: “Decolonize” Yourself But Not With a “Sense of Urgency””

  1. Boulder? Guess these Marxist collectivists took the city name to heart or rather to head. What drivel. I’d like to take these “academics” and situate them squarely in the Ukraine circa 1932. No food, no individual rights, no escape, no nothing, just hunger and death. Then they could experience the “glory” of the holodomor brought to them by their communist intellectual predecessors. Allow this foolishness to continue and it’s a given. It’s fine to CRITICALLY teach anything but it’s morally repugnant and treasonous to advocate subjugation of the individual to the state, JT needs to be crystal clear about this and dulling the cutting edge of the truth by excusing this indoctrination as academics is shameful. As for advocating intellectual mediocrity and sloth, well the Boulder teachers in question seem experts on the topics. What an insult to kids who want to achieve the excellence these knuckleheads will never know.

  2. There is a giant gulf between supressing ideas and teaching or studying them. ‘

    I am honestly suprised at Professor Turley’s defense of the merits of meaningful study of Critical Race Theory.

    Foundational premises of CRT are historically impossible. CRT is not worth serious consideration at all. Doing so is actually harmful.
    There is little or nothing to learn from CRT and life is far to short to waste time on premises that are false and will fail badly and destructively if tried.

    We teach ABOUT fascim today – but virtually no one seriously advocates teaching Fascism. Nir would anyone suggest that we have anything to learn from the study of fascism beyond how dangerous and flawed it is.

    If someone wishes to teach fascism – they are free to do so – but we would not even suggest that its advocacy should have a place in academia.

    The right to speak is NOT a right to be listened to.

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