A few months ago, kidney specialist Dr. Stanley Goldfarb was fired from UpToDate, a digital research tool for physicians. Last year, the president of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, where Dr. Goldfarb served as an associate dean, wrote a public letter accusing him of racism while students and colleagues circulated a petition calling for his title as professor emeritus to be stripped.
Dr. Goldfarb’s purported crimes had nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with his public opposition to DEI (“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”) in medicine. For example, last year, he wrote,
The campaign for diversity is long running and has some value, yet the ideological extremism of the past two years has led medical schools to adopt dangerous strategies. To fight supposed “systemic racism,” at least 40 institutions have dropped the requirement that all applicants take the MCAT, the gold-standard test that measures students’ grasp of this life-saving profession.
It quickly became apparent that my beloved medical profession, to which I had devoted more than 50 years, was spiraling downward even faster than I had realized. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the decline, as did the death of George Floyd in 2020. Suddenly, medical schools were loudly proclaiming that health care is “systemically racist,” that “medical reparations” are urgently needed, and that medical education and practice must fundamentally change. Whereas DEI and social justice were frequently discussed in 2018, by the end of 2020 they were the central facets of medical education, where they remain to this day.
Other examples of Dr. Goldfarb’s concerns include the supposed systemic racism of being seen by a physician of a different race and pledges made by medical students to fight the gender binary and “honor all indigenous ways of healing that have been historically marginalized by western medicine.”
Near the end of the 20th century, it was common to dismiss and deny the possibility of objective truth claims in the liberal arts and social sciences, such as literature, art, and politics. But the “hard” sciences remained untouched until recently. It is now common for the same kind of deconstructions to be applied in math, medicine, or the other biological sciences. As it turns out, the first chapter of Romans accurately describes the very real potential of fallen humanity to deny what is observably true in the world God made.
Contemporary ideas of DEI prove a maxim of G.K. Chesterton, that “(t)he modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.” The impulse for justice and equality, birthed within the Western world from Christian ideas about morality and the human condition, draws more from the philosophy of Michel Foucault than the Bible. Built instead on a standpoint epistemology rather than eternal categories of right and wrong and human dignity, an individual who belongs to what is understood as a traditionally marginalized group is granted moral status and authority over and above those from groups not assumed to be marginalized. Functionally, objective reality is denied.
As Shane Morris and I recently described, students taught that successfully solving algebra problems will depend more on the color of their skin than knowing algebra, or that their calculus professors are oppressors if they are white, will not only not unlock the mysteries of the universe, they will believe lies about who they are. Even worse, lowering standards for certain students only dehumanizes them, suggesting they cannot reach the standards in the first place.
In the 1990s, renowned economist Thomas Sowell wrote the following about lowering SAT scores:
The Educational Testing Service is adopting minority students as mascots by turning the SAT exams into race-normed instruments to circumvent the growing number of prohibitions against group preferences. The primary purpose of mascots is to symbolize something that makes others feel good. The well-being of the mascot himself is seldom a major consideration.
Sowell understood–even firsthand–racial injustice and the uphill climb that minority students can face to reach success. Yet for Sowell, ditching objective measurements was not the answer:
People of every race and background are fully capable of becoming world-class physicians. Medical schools should seek out the best candidates who are most likely to provide the best care for patients, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. Anything less jeopardizes the very purpose of these institutions.
Critical Theory in all of its forms only critiques, never constructs. Applied, it will only tear down, never build up. Advocates of this ideology should consider that their proposed solutions may be fueling the problems they claim to address.
This Breakpoint was co-authored by Kasey Leander. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
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