On Political Correctness, its Abuse, and the Modern University

Legendary English comedian John Cleese recently recorded a BigThink.com video where he discusses the role of political correctness in society. (The YouTube version is here). I agree with John Cleese. Political correctness is a good idea when it discourages people from being mean or nasty to those who cannot necessarily change their condition or status, be it race, gender, ethnicity, body size and shape, mental or physical disability, etc.

But when it comes to ideas, that is, thoughts that are conceived and then spoken aloud, I think that these are appropriate to consider, debate, critique, and at times, mock. Of course, I want to hear all ideas, as there might be something new that I haven’t considered that might be useful to me or humanity. I should never be so stubborn or foolish to think that I am the sole proprietor of truth, or that my thoughts and beliefs have somehow achieved a privileged exemption from criticism based on the fact that they, for instance, are religious or traditional.

But when an idea is harmful to society, or when the idea is easily and has been repeatedly debunked with facts and evidence and logic and numbers, and when an idea has been shown to marginalize certain individuals or groups, then these ideas can and should be critiqued. If the one espousing the defunct, harmful idea continues to espouse the idea, then that is his or her right, but it is also our right as responsible citizens to continue to assail the idea (not the person, but the idea) with logic, reason, and even mockery, as public humiliation is often the only thing that persuades one espousing a defunct idea to cease its propagation. This goes for all ideas, including political, philosophical, economic, ideological, and religious claims–no idea is exempt from critique! And while the debate over some ideas will continue for millennia–fate vs. free will, which economic or political system is superior, how to handle certain ethical issues, etc.–many other ideas should be retired from mainstream discourse with the understanding that there will always be someone or some group that will continue to cling to outdated, debunked ideas.

Political correctness is a good idea when it is limited to the physical characteristics or status of an individual or society. But when political correctness seeks to prohibit the critique of ideas, and attempts to characterize any critical analysis of an idea as “offensive”, then political correctness has gone too far. This is true especially for university campuses, which exist, in part, to expose students to new ideas, foreign concepts, and different ways of thinking that are often unfamiliar or even exotic, and with which a particular student may disagree, and where all of this is done in a safe, creative, developmental, experimental environment where students can learn and try out new ideas and concepts, arguing for and against several newly introduced issues without paying the social penalty for nonconformity to the societal majority’s opinion.

Universities are the practice fields of the world’s future players. Like professional athletes, citizens of the world’s communities should be exposed to every possible scenario on the practice field, so that they can learn and plan to respond effectively as professionals when it’s game time. And part of being a responsible professional is learning how to behave professionally when interacting with others. Political correctness aids individuals in treating other individuals and communities with respect and dignity. In this regard, political correctness is a good thing.

However, to hide behind the shield of political correctness when one’s idea is criticized and when its flaws are laid bare is to misuse political correctness. And of course, it is this abuse of political correctness by the far left that those on the far right criticize and then use to mischaracterize all political correctness as the censorship of free speech in an effort to dismiss professionalism and common courtesy during civil discourse so that they can continue to espouse harmful beliefs, make false accusations, promote detrimental policies, and prop up discredited ideas.

There is a place for political correctness, but that place is not the censorship or critique of ideas.

If you are so sensitive that you characterize any idea, any thought, any different way of thinking, or any critique of your own thoughts, claims, or firmly held beliefs as “offensive”, then you have failed in your development as a responsible citizen. I recommend that you enroll in a university, even if only for a short time, so that you can at least be exposed to different ideas in a safe, inclusive environment. And I hope that you do not choose a university that actively seeks to shield its own students from critiques of ideas and beliefs in the name of political correctness, but rather one that encourages the free exchange, debate, and critique of ideas, for this is the only way one learns to handle the wild, crazy, bigoted, unsubstantiated, false, intentionally harmful, nonsensical, illogical, debunked, and irresponsible claims that are made every day in society.

It is the exposure to, consideration of, and the espousal or dismissal of–and not the shielding from–bad ideas that makes individuals smarter, our society better, and allows civilization to progress beyond a censorial tyranny that constantly invents new ways of being offended to mask the fact that the discredited claims they are perpetuating can no longer be defended with evidence, reason, or logic.

 

Read a chapter of “The Cities that Built the Bible” for free

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

Robert Cargill with Yuval Peleg (ז״ל) at Qumran in July, 2013.

My new book, The Cities that Built the Bible, won’t be released until March 15, 2016, but you can read an excerpt for free online today. In fact, you can read the complete text of Chapter 9: Qumran, including the end notes.

Click here to read part of the Introduction and Chapter 9: Qumran.

The book argues that we wouldn’t have the Bible we have today without these cities, which I explore in the book, and that a knowledge of the history and archaeology of these cities helps us better understand the text of the Bible.

Chapter 9 specifically looks at Khirbet Qumran, a city that is important because of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls–a discovery that sent shock waves through the academic and religious communities. I’ll explain what impact this discovery had, and along the way, highlight the fascinating backstory including the multiple legends, outlandish stories, eccentric characters, and a first-person account of the unbelievable cybercrime legal saga surrounding the Dead Sea Scrolls.

So help yourself to a free excerpt of The Cities that Built the Bible. And remember that you can preorder the book today at citiesthatbuiltthebible.com.

Cover of The Cities that Built the Bible by Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

Text of Speech by Dr. Robert Cargill to Madera South High School Graduating Class of 2015

MADERA SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL STALLIONS
COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS – JUNE 4, 2015
DR. ROBERT R. CARGILL, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

Good evening.

I want to thank Mr. Lile for the invitation to speak to you this evening.

It is indeed good to be home. And I know that I’m home because my name is Robert, and yet ever since I’ve been back in Madera, everyone keeps calling me “Bobby”. On TV, I’m Robert. When I write books, I’m Robert. In the classroom, I’m Dr. Cargill. But in Madera, I’m Bobby. And it makes me smile, because it’s good to be home.

And please allow me to be among the first to congratulate the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School, the best high school in Madera.

Now, Mr. Lile has informed me that you are not permitted to use your cellphones to text or take pictures during the ceremony. But, since no such rule was given to me, I’d like to take and text some pictures for you. What do you say we take one cool-looking graduation photo?

I’ll post this picture on my Twitter, which is @XKV8R, that’s X-K-V-8-R, later this evening, and you can re-tweet or save it from there. Got it?

OK, now remember, this picture is going to live forever, so don’t do anything that some prospective employer is going to question, OK?

OK, here we go. 1, 2, 3. #MaderaSouth2015

Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367) Dr. Robert Cargill snaps photos of the 2015 graduating class of Madera South High School. PHOTO BY JACK PORTER/BIG VALLEY NEWS (More: http://www.bigvalleynews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=7367)

Tonight is a special night—a night for celebration. I even wore my favorite blue dress.

You’ve worked hard for many years, and you’ve earned this diploma, and so tonight we celebrate and honor your achievement.

Now, it is at this point in a graduation speech where the speaker traditionally bestows upon you pieces of advice that are supposed to make your lives a bit more successful. But I’m not going to tell you to “be all that you can be”, or “reach for the stars”, or to “think outside the box”, or to “wear sunscreen”, because you’ve heard all this before.

What I will tell you is what I’ve learned as a fellow Maderan, who has been “out there”.

I’ve learned that you should be nice to older people, especially your grandparents, and not just because they put money in your birthday cards.

Be generous with both your time and money.

Be on time. Showing up is half the battle, and showing up on time is another third.

And be nice. Be kind. I’ve traveled all over the world, and you simply cannot realize how much being generous, being kind, and being on time pays off in life.

And I’ve also learned that you should never, ever forget where you came from.

Never forget Madera!

Listen to me. I was exactly like you 24 years ago. I grew up in Madera, and like most other people I knew, all I wanted to do was get out of Madera. And not just to Fresno. I mean I wanted way out.

But I have learned that this feeling is not unique to Madera. It is the same feeling that every 17- and 18-year old feels in every city, in every state in the country, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York—everywhere!

You’re young, you’re full of hope and potential, and you’re ready to launch out from here and see the world. And that’s good. But never confuse a sense of adventure with a rejection of your hometown.

This place is a special place. And before too long, you will find yourself wanting to return to your home, to your family, to your friends, and to DiCicco’s.

Even those of you who swore that you would never come back to Madera will do exactly that, and this is a good thing!

You will use the education and experiences you gained working and traveling elsewhere, and will return to make this city—the City of Madera—a better place.

Because this city was made what it is today by those who have given their lives to make Madera a better place.

Take, for instance, your principal, Mr. Lile. Now, I went to high school with Mr. Lile, and, let me dispel a rumor you might have heard: back then, he had great hair!

And Mr. Lile and I graduated and went on to see the world. But here’s how much Mr. Lile loves this city: after giving his time and energy learning and practicing the craft of education as far away as Honduras and Dubai, he then returned to Madera to give his time and energy and life to serving you, and to serving the City of Madera, to make this place a little better than it was when he was a kid.

And this has been my experience with so many Maderans who contributed to my growth and education. This is what Bill and Pat Schawrtz did for me, and my first baseball coach, Ken Turner, and my Jefferson Junior High teachers Gary Espenship and Jeannie Lakeman all did for me. And when I was younger, it’s what my John Adams Elementary School teachers, Connie Barsotti and Jan Duke, did for me. I remember them both fondly and I miss them both very much.

And wherever I go, whether I’m writing a book, or appearing on the History Channel, or doing archaeology in Israel, or lecturing at the University of Iowa, it is all a result of the education that was begun here, and of the values that were instilled in me here, in Madera.

Like you, I am a Maderan. This is my hometown. I grew up in a house at 2305 Howard Road, across from Lions Town & Country Park. I played football on this field. I played baseball on that field, Mel Parker Field.

And I’m telling you all this for this reason: I am 42 years old, and I haven’t achieved anything that you can’t also achieve.

I am simply you, 24 years from now.

I’m that Madera kid who played little league on Field One for the Lions, who got Big Gulps at the 7-Eleven on Howard, before it was a Starbucks, who went to the Madera Fair, who got sugar cookies at Perlongo’s Bakery, and who had birthday parties at Madera Valley Bowl in Parkwood.

My great-grandparents and my grandfather, Ray Cargill, who served in the United States Army Air Corps during World War 2, are all buried at Jay Chapel. And both my parents, Len Cargill, and Sharon Costáles, spent their careers contributing to making Madera a better place.

I have been fortunate to experience tremendous successes, and to meet fascinating people, and I have experienced tremendous failures in life. And it was my Madera family and my Madera values that helped me through it all!

I, too, am a Maderan.

And if I can do it—a kid who grew up just down the street—then you too can have successes in your jobs, in your businesses, in athletics, and in your relationships.

So ask yourself: what will you be? What will you become?

Because being from Madera is an asset, not a liability.

Like many of you, I too was intimidated by other kids who were from big cities, who graduated from much bigger, and many times, private high schools. I went to public schools, Fresno City College, Fresno State, and UCLA. And many of the people I was competing with for admissions into colleges and graduate schools, for scholarships, and later for jobs were from wealthy families, who attended private prep schools, and then went to Harvard and Yale and Princeton and Dartmouth. And like you, I know that it’s an uphill climb competing against people who have had many advantages in life.

But let me tell you what I’ve found. I found that when I was applying for admission into a program, or for a job, the interviewing committee notices that some people are advantaged over others. And they can see when someone has had the best of everything, while others have had to work their tails off every day to overcome the fact that their families weren’t wealthy, or they weren’t from big cities. They recognize that you had to work hard. They recognize that you may have experienced the death of a parent at a young age, or have disabilities, or served your country in the military, or had to raise kids.

And they not only recognize it, but they soon realize that it is often the candidates from the small towns, the blue-collar kids, who have already proved that they can work hard and have what it takes to succeed in college, in jobs, and in life, who are often the better candidates.

You must continue to work hard. I’m a tenure track professor at a Big Ten research university, The University of Iowa, and I regularly admit that I’m not the smartest person at the university. I’m not even the smartest person in my department. But I make absolutely sure that no one will ever, ever outwork me.

Now, I’m also not going to say, “You can be anything you want to be,” because to be honest, it’s not true. Some of you cannot and will not be certain things, just like I cannot, and will not ever dunk a basketball.

But while you can’t “be anything you want to be”, you can be many things that you might think are out of your reach right now. Just because you didn’t do well in math doesn’t mean that you won’t get the hang of it two years from now, and become an engineer. Just because you didn’t have a lot of friends in high school doesn’t mean that you won’t have many, good, real friends in college. Just because you didn’t go on a lot of dates in high school doesn’t mean you won’t find a wonderful partner and live a happy life. And just because you use a wheelchair to get around doesn’t mean you can’t be voted Prom King! Where is Lucio Garcia anyway?

So while you can’t do anything, you should still dream big, set lofty, but attainable, incremental goals, and continue to prepare yourself for success.

Because you live in a magic time in history, and in a place where many, many things are possible. And what you can’t see at this moment is that a series of events is about to unfold in each of your lives, and a number of opportunities are about to present themselves to you. And while you have no way of knowing what they will be, or when they will occur, what you can do is put yourselves in the best possible position to be ready for when those opportunities arise.

You have already taken the first step; you have completed the necessary requirements to graduate from Madera South High School, and if I might add, the best high school in Madera!

But graduation from Madera South is not the end of your journey as a Stallion, it is just the beginning, because like me, you will take what you have learned here in Madera, along with the friends and relationships you have made, and you will work even harder to make your goals a reality, beginning today.

Well…maybe tomorrow, because tonight—tonight, we celebrate!

So be proud that you grew up in Madera. And be proud that you are a graduate of Madera South High School. Never forget the work you had to do to make it this far, and use this taste of success you experience tonight as incentive and motivation for your next great adventure.

Congratulations to all of you!

Have fun and be safe tonight!

Iowa City Press-Citizen reports on the making of “Bible Secrets Revealed” for History

University of Iowa assistant professor Robert Cargill is pictured in his office this week. Cargill, an archaeologist and biblical scholar, is a consulting producer and appears on a six-part History Channel series that debuts next week. / Josh O'Leary / Iowa City Press-Citizen

University of Iowa assistant professor Robert Cargill is pictured in his office this week. Cargill, an archaeologist and biblical scholar, is a consulting producer and appears on a six-part History Channel series that debuts next week. / Josh O’Leary / Iowa City Press-Citizen

The Iowa City Press-Citizen has a front page story today on my role in the History channel’s newest six-part documentary series, “Bible Secrets Revealed,” which begins airing Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 10/9c.

Josh O’Leary, a reporter for the Press-Citizen, authored a story which touched on many rather personal aspects of my life, including my childhood, my time in Los Angeles, and my work in television and archaeology. Many thanks to him for the interview and article.

The story also includes a video clip where I (and my Movember beard, which raises awareness for prostate cancer and other men’s health issues) share a few comments about the making of the documentary series.

For more about the documentary, read here and here and here and here and here.

And don’t miss episode one of “Bible Secrets Revealed: Lost in Translation,” which begins airing Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 10/9c.

And tweet your comments live with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

“Bible Secrets Revealed” to air on History Nov 11 at 10/9c

"Bible Secrets Revealed" Title Image (Courtesy Prometheus Entertainment)

I invite everyone to watch History on Monday, Nov 11 at 10/9c and each of the next six Mondays thereafter to view a documentary, “Bible Secrets Revealed“, that analyzes many of the difficult claims made in the Bible. (You can get a sneak peek here.)

Those who have attended seminary or have ever taken a critical religious studies course on the Bible may be familiar with some of the issues addressed in this six-episode series. But this documentary is attempting to bring to a wide audience those issues in the Bible that may not be so simple, or even obvious, to most readers.

Conservative or progressive, Catholic or Protestant, Shi’a or Sunni, Reform Jew or Orthodox, theist or atheist, ardent believer or agnostic – this documentary is tailored to examine the Bible from all angles. It allows the viewer to wrestle with the information and encourages discussion both of the biblical claims and of the scholarly claims made in each episode. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all addressed as each faith assumes a knowledge of the Bible and the stories contained therein.

The documentary has assembled a cast of some of the world’s best scholars, who walk the viewer through different views on many of the Bible’s more difficult texts, including those texts that didn’t make it into the Bible.

So please watch “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History on Monday, Nov 11 at 10/9c. And feel free to live tweet your comments at #BibleSecretsRevealed, or you may leave your comments here.

New History Channel Documentary “Bible Secrets Revealed” Begins Airing November 11

History logoI’m pleased to announce that a new documentary series will begin airing on History beginning Monday, November 11, 2013 at 10:00pm / 9:00 Central.

The series is entitled, Bible Secrets Revealed, and is produced by Prometheus Entertainment for the History channel.

The titles of the six episodes and their schedule of appearance are as follows:

“Lost in Translation” – November 11, 2013
“The Promised Land” – November 18, 2013
“The Forbidden Scriptures” – November 25, 2013
“The Real Jesus” – December 2, 2013
“Mysterious Prophecies” – December 16, 2013
“Sex and the Bible” – December 23, 2013

The documentary features dozens of the world’s top biblical scholars, religious studies scholars, archaeologists, and historians, who offer different points of view while addressing some of the more difficult readings in the biblical and extra-biblical texts.

It is also worth note that portions of the documentary were filmed on site during the 2013 season of archaeological excavation at Tel Azekah.

Please tune in to this documentary, which seeks to address difficult biblical scriptures and teachings in a responsible, academic, yet entertaining manner. The series is certain to be compelling as much for its scholarship as for its examination of secrets buried deep within the biblical texts, that have often traditionally been known only to scholars.

Take a Tel Aviv University history course – “The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem” – online for free!

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to announce that during the upcoming academic year, Tel Aviv University will be offering two on-line history courses. The courses are available within the content management framework of “Coursera”, an education company that offers courses online for anyone to take, for free!
The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem - Professor Oded Lipschits, TAU

I am thrilled that one of these courses is being offered by my Tel Azekah excavation partners, Dr. Oded Lipschits and Ido Koch – two of the smartest (and if I may, kindest and funniest) scholars you’ll ever meet.

They are teaching a course online called “The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem”. The course description is as follows:

The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem (click to access the course)
Professor Oded Lipschits, Ph.D. and Ido Koch
Starting date: Oct 1, 2013 (6 weeks long)

About the Course
The period of the demise of the Kingdom of Judah at the end of the sixth century B.C.E., the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians, the exile of the elite to Babylon, and the reshaping of the territory of the new province of Judah, culminating at the end of the century with the first return of exiles – all have been subjects of intense scrutiny in modern scholarship. This course takes into account the biblical textual evidence, the results of archaeological research, and the reports of the Babylonian and Egyptian sources and provides a comprehensive survey and analysis of the evidence for the history of this 100-year-long era. The course includes a detailed discussion by Prof. Oded Lipschits of Tel Aviv University, with guest lectures by leading scholars dealing with the archaeological and biblical aspects of this debated topic.

This is a unique opportunity to enhance your knowledge of the history of Israel and the Middle East. And this is YOUR CHANCE to take an online course with one of the best archaeologists and historians in the world. DO NOT miss this opportunity to be able to say, “I took a course from Prof. Oded Lipschits and Ido Koch of Tel Aviv University”.

SIGN UP TODAY!

Preview the course here:

About Tel Aviv University: Tel Aviv University (TAU) – Israel’s largest and most comprehensive institution of higher learning – is home to over 30,000 students studying in nine faculties and over 125 schools and departments across the spectrum of sciences, humanities and the arts. During the upcoming academic year, TAU will be offering two on-line history courses within the framework of Coursera – an education company that partners with the top universities and organizations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.

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