Beyond K-12: Experts Explain How Woke Culture is Also Destroying Academia, Corporations, and the Military

Beyond K-12: Experts Explain How Woke Culture is Also Destroying Academia, Corporations, and the Military
The destruction wrought by mob-driven cancel culture comes with even greater costs than individual lives turned upside down and dreams destroyed. (Zenza Flarini/Shutterstock)
Patricia Tolson
On Jan. 2, The Epoch Times reported how lower expectations and the shift in focus from academic excellence in K-12 education toward the implementation of social constructs like critical race theory equals fewer literate graduates. Beyond K-12, four experts explain how woke culture is also destroying academia, corporations, and the military.

‘Our Universities’ and ’the Student Population’

Based on his 50 years of experience, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Jon Zubieta at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences believes “the most decisive defeat for common sense in our universities has been the introduction of offices for diversity, inclusiveness, and equity.”

“As an educator, I spend much of my day in contact with students,” Zubieta told The Epoch Times. “In my experience, the student population has undergone a sea change in attitude and general knowledge. Until fairly recently, these young scholars were inquisitive, ambitious and somewhat rebellious, and iconoclastic, as young people should be. These characteristics have been replaced by conformity to the woke orthodoxy, and heaven help you if you deviate. This docility is reinforced with what seems total ignorance of economics, civics, and the Western cultural heritage that provides the foundation for our society. In fact, it goes well beyond ignorance as it is manifested in antagonism toward the glories of western culture and civilization. We are a society that has become unmoored from its past; a society that has lost cultural confidence; in fact, a society that is now busily destroying its own cultural heritage.

“It was only ten years ago or so that I began to notice the encroachments of critical race theory-driven demands into the sciences,” he said, adding that the most obvious intrusion of the new wokeism was the mandatory diversity statement in proposals for NSF funding. “Back when I started my career, such a waste of proposal space would not have been tolerated.  Now, an unsatisfactory diversity statement can get your proposal triaged without further review.”
Screenshot from Syracuse University website of Professor Jon Zubieta's profile page shortly after he was placed on administrative leave for using the terms "Wuhan Flue" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus" in his syllabus. (Photo Credit The College Fix)
Screenshot from Syracuse University website of Professor Jon Zubieta's profile page shortly after he was placed on administrative leave for using the terms "Wuhan Flue" and "Chinese Communist Party Virus" in his syllabus. (Photo Credit The College Fix)
Zubieta knows first-hand how “an unsatisfactory” statement can affect a career. In August 2020, Zubieta was placed on administrative leave following student complaints about his use of the terms “Wuhan Flu” and “Chinese Communist Party Virus” in his syllabus. He has since been reinstated.
Screenshot of August 25, 2020 post on Twitter by @casatino of Professor Jon Zubieta's syllabus. (Twitter)
Screenshot of August 25, 2020 post on Twitter by @casatino of Professor Jon Zubieta's syllabus. (Twitter)
“The message is clear: toe the line or cancel your career,” Zibieta asserted. “These all-powerful bureaucracies are totally obsessed with race and gender. They are the proverbial hammer, so everything is a nail. Their raison d’etre is to ferret out bias, so they find bias everywhere. The most trivial incident can destroy a career. These bureaucratic drones are so desperate for instances of bias that they have discovered or manufactured the existence of microaggressions.”

‘Wokeism Is Affecting Academia Because Academia Is Where it Starts’

Professor of Law Emeritus at the Cleveland State University David Barnhizer. (Courtesy of David Barnhizer)
Professor of Law Emeritus at the Cleveland State University David Barnhizer. (Courtesy of David Barnhizer)
Professor David Barnhizer is “incredibly concerned about what’s happening in the schools.” Barnhizer is Professor of Law Emeritus at the Cleveland State University. He received law degrees from the Ohio State University where he graduated summa cum laude and from Harvard University where he was a Ford Foundation Urban Law Fellow, a Clinical Teaching Fellow, and earned a Master of Laws degree before going into teaching law. He has taught classes on “The Economics of Poverty” at the University of Colorado, on human rights in St. Petersburg, Russia, and at the University of Westminster in London.

“Wokeism is affecting academia because academia is where it starts,” Barnhizer told The Epoch Times. While he was once supportive of Affirmative Action in hiring, he now sees how universities have “hired so many people who are woke” and part of the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” mindset that they are “now pretty much in charge of the universities” and the coddled, illiterate students graduating high school go on to universities where the low expectations continue. That a lot of today’s K-12 teachers are “disciples of what they learned in universities,” Barnhizer sees them passing on their “wokeness” to this generation, which has become more radical and violent.

Book cover of <em>Defending K-12 Education Against the New Racism</em>, written by David Barnhizer. (Courtesy of David Barnhizer)
Book cover of Defending K-12 Education Against the New Racism, written by David Barnhizer. (Courtesy of David Barnhizer)
Barnhizer, who has now retired from teaching, lamented the aggressive nature of today’s woke students and how “they thrive on threats, bullying, and confrontation.” He cited how Zubieta was attacked on social media by students. In his book “Defending K-12 Education Against the New Racism,” Barnhizer talks about how even Johnny Lydon—the Sex Pistols’ punk rock frontman otherwise known as Johnny Rotten—blamed “wokeness“ and ”cancel culture” for the “horribly tempestuous spoilt children coming out of colleges and universities with [expletive] for brains.”

“I could not teach them,” Barnhizer confessed. “I cared about teaching my students to think. But to think you have to have something up there to think with. You have to be able to think properly because thinking leads to conclusions, and the woke don’t want anything to get in the way of undermining their own conclusions.”

“It’s a new religion,” Barnhizer insisted. “If you deviate from that you’re a heretic. You’re committing blasphemy and they will ostracize you from society. They have ’the truth,' and anyone who doesn’t share that truth is a bad person and they feel entitled to do whatever they need to do to shut you up or hurt you, and if you don’t share their views, you’re an extremist and they will figure out how to get rid of you.”

Companies Are ‘Hiring on the Basis of Surface Characteristics Rather Than Merit’

National Center for Public Policy Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, Scott Shepard. (Courtesy of Scott Shepard)
National Center for Public Policy Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, Scott Shepard. (Courtesy of Scott Shepard)
Scott Shepard, a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, deputy director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, and speaker for Stop Corporate Tyranny, believes the same “woke teaching” that is destroying K-12 education and the academic standards in our nation’s colleges and universities is also wreaking havoc on corporate America.

“The Black Lives Matter culture says asking students to give the right answer and getting the right solutions is ‘racist.’ This is the bigotry of racism on steroids,” Scott told The Epoch Times. “Then it’s racist or discriminatory not to give jobs to people who simply aren’t qualified for them and when we give jobs to people who aren’t qualified, nothing is going to work anymore. These people are not going to be able to compete. You can’t deny reality forever and expect people who don’t know any math to build bridges.”

Scott also noted how “some companies have explicitly said they’re hiring on the basis of surface characteristics rather than merit. The airlines have started saying they’re going to have minimum quotas for pilots. You’d think if there’s some place in the world where you would only hire only the ability to fly a plane, that would be it.”

In April, United Airlines announced its 10-year plan to have half of its pilots be women and people of color.
“It’s insane,“ Scott insisted. ”If all the wokesters were really serious about all of this, we could have some real-world experiments. We could test the proposition with all this infrastructure money. We could build two highway bridges side by side—one built by people picked only on the basis of merit and one picked from woke academia based on surface characteristics without regard to whether they can do math—and warn people as they come up and see which bridge they take. Nobody’s going to go over the bridge based on woke or critical race theory teaching criteria. Nobody is going to do that and yet they want to deny the importance of knowledge, hard work, and merit and then saddle companies with people who won’t work. Notice the diversity these companies want; they’re not looking for diversity of viewpoint so there are new ideas in the room. They want absolute agreement about politics and want everyone to be hard left and have the same vision of the future. What they want is surface characteristic diversity. But that proves they’re just playing quota games rather than really being interested in the long-term benefit of the corporations.”

The ‘Highly Politicized’ Military

Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier (Courtesy of Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier)
Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier (Courtesy of Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier)
According to Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lohmeier, the destruction caused by “diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives” isn’t limited to K-12, higher academia, and corporate America. Lohmeier, a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force, saw first-hand how the woke culture is undermining the military. After writing his book, “Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest & the Unmaking of the American Military,” Lohmeier was removed from command because he denounced Marxism and critical race theory.
Irresistible Revolution, by Matthew Lohmeier (Courtesy of Matthew Lohmeier)
Irresistible Revolution, by Matthew Lohmeier (Courtesy of Matthew Lohmeier)
In August, Lohmeier shared his story with Epoch Times Senior Editor Jan Jekielek. During an interview on Jekielek’s “American Thought Leaders” program, Lohmeier revealed his last day in the service would be Sept. 1. While his request for early retirement was denied, officials granted separation. He has also lost his military pension. To offset the financial loss, Lohmeier books speaking engagements and added a “Donate” option to his website.
Sara and Mtthew Lohmeier (Photo courtesy of Matthew Lohmeier)
Sara and Mtthew Lohmeier (Photo courtesy of Matthew Lohmeier)
According to Lohmeier, the planning for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the Defense Department began during the Obama-Biden administration. At a Congressional forum held in March 2012—co-hosted by Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and the three Democratic Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus—an assessment (pdf) conducted by former Chairman of the Military Leadership Diversity Commission General Lester Lyles, concluded (pdf) that the military failed to fully implement 14 of 19 recommendations made by the Commission in 2011.

“Most service members had no clue that was taking place unless they were directly involved in those planning efforts in the halls of the Pentagon,” Lohmeier told The Epoch Times.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the last year of the Trump administration, Lohmeier said there was “an extreme push for diversity equity and inclusion initiatives within all federal agencies, including the uniformed services.

“It really came on strongly after the death of George Floyd,” Lohmeier explained. “At the same time, you had a renewed energy of Black Lives Matter and other critical social justice initiatives throughout the country that were actively taking to the streets and actively taking to social media.”

Simultaneously, Lohmeier said senior military leaders within the defense department were “pushing obvious, apparent left-wing political talking points from their social media accounts and that was being parroted by young service members within all branches of the military.”

“Even our chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Gilday ended up having to defend some of his own statements before the Senate Armed Services Committee (pdf) and the House Armed Services Committee (pdf) because he was advocating for his sailors to read Ibram Kendi’s ’How to Be an Antiracist,' amidst all of this commotion, which advocated for combatting past discrimination with present discrimination. It’s a book that demonized the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and our founders and you’ve got a service chief, someone who sits on the joint chiefs, was advocating that our service members needed to read this.”

As this “extreme left-wing radicalism” began sweeping across the military, Lohmeier said a pushback immediately ensued from various corners of the military. That pushback sparked accusations of racism.

“There were instantly insinuations of racism or claims of white supremacy or white nationalism,” Lohmeier explained, “which really created a climate of fear for our service members, and they became far less willing to speak out against that politicization of our armed forces. The military culture and workplace environment became highly politicized. Certain talking points that tended to be left-leaning in nature became a mainstay of military discourse and to speak up against it and say you disagreed with the politicization of our work environment was to be labeled something that was evil like a racist or a white supremacist. That’s how that began and unfolded throughout 2020 and on into 2021. But it rapidly accelerated under the Biden administration after the election had settled and he appointed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. In fact, on day one of Biden’s administration, by executive order, he had undone an executive order of President Trump that had banned the use of Marxist-rooted critical race theory vocabulary in our military as part of our training sessions. Then there was a Secretary of Defense directed Stand Down Day.”
According to the Feb. 5, 2021 Department of Defense press release, “Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III signed a memo directing commanding officers and supervisors at all levels to select a date within the next 60 days to conduct a one-day ‘stand-down’ to discuss extremism in the ranks with their personnel.”

“It was an extremism stand down, which meant everyone was to take a knee from their training or from whatever missions they were performing to discuss radicalism and what was meant by that was right-wing, white supremacist extremism within the ranks, which was a purported problem we were facing,“ said Lohmeier, who was still in command of a unit at the time. ”Instantly there began to be a cynicism, a politicization that arose within the armed forces and a loss of trust and confidence in the senior military leaders that I recognized as a commander that was unfolding within the lowest ranks of the tactical level. People were wondering why we were talking about this stuff because it wasn’t something that was part of their day-to-day operational mission. As far as I can see, that hasn’t gone away. It’s only gotten worse now that there’s COVID vaccine mandates that have become such a sticking point for senior military leaders and the secretary of defense that they’re now willing to purge the roughly five percent of our service members who aren’t willing to comply with those mandates against their conscience.”

Reports show the purge has already begun.

‘This Can’t Work’

Asked what the future holds for academia, corporations, and the military if the course of wokeism continues, all four experts predict the same failure suffered in K-12 education.

“The new role of the academic seems to be to sanctify whatever attitudes students bring with them, a sort of obeisance to the tropes of wokeness,” Zubieta said. “We really must get back to a social theory based on cooperation for attaining just goals. We certainly will not instill such attitudes by encouraging aggressive self-righteousness.

“Where do we go from here?” Zubieta asked rhetorically. “A first step would be to rid academia of diversity offices and return the power to make such decision to the faculty, where it belongs.  Since this is unlikely to happen, I am not feeling very optimistic about the future of academia. The raucous, good-naturedly combative, and iconoclastic faculty of the late twentieth century is being replaced by a generation of much more docile and woke young academics. Since the current state of academics is unsustainable, it will not be sustained over time. The question is whether incremental reform is possible or if the whole system must be razed and rebuilt anew.”

Barnhizer believes “the single most important factor” in stemming the tide of “wokeism, critical race theory, and Social and Emotional Learning in schools is the rapid rise of parental awareness and the creation of parental organizations committed to resisting the development.”

“The movement they represent is not only growing but is stimulating a significant political base that transcends political divides because parents see their children’s futures at stake,” Barnhizer explained. “This parental movement is gaining a range of political allies in local, state, and national contexts and if it continues to develop can provide hope that the tide of one-sided brainwashing being implemented by the ‘Woke’ and the ‘Crits’ can be withstood.”

“What can be done depends on having a clear understanding of where we are and what is being done by the ‘Woke’ and ‘Crits’ to capture our educational systems,” Barnhizer said further, explaining that “a significant part of the strategy involves capturing systemic elements far beyond the educational dimension, including corporations, governmental entities, journalists, social media, the American military, and correcting general discourse.”

As for corporate wokeism, Scott believes “it’s going to spin out.”

“This can’t work. It’s not a functional model and it’s also not a legal model,” Scott said. “You can’t explicitly discriminate on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. That’s the Fourteenth Amendment and you can’t dress up the new racism by calling it anti-racism. It’s clearly racism. It’s clearly discriminatory. If you’re hiring on the basis of anything other than merit, you’re going to have a less successful organization. The corporations will work less well, make less money, make worse products have worse outcomes.”

Because of “the sharp, left-hand turn their military leaders have taken toward wokeness,” Lohmeier predicts that, as the active-duty service status of military personnel expires, we’re going to see further retention issues across all critical career fields within every branch of the military.

“There continues to be a degradation of trust. There continues to be a breakdown of good order and discipline and morale and it’s leading to recruiting and retention issues for all branches of the armed services,” Lohmeier said. “You have to love what you’re doing. You have to believe in the cause you’re fighting for. On the one hand, it’s tough enough to sign up year after year to stay in the service, and on the other these young people who hear about this stuff who are anticipating joining the service are repulsed by the politicization of the armed forces.”

 Cathy HeEva Fu, Zachary Stieber, and Jan Jekielek contributed to this report.
Patricia Tolson, an award-winning national investigative reporter with 20 years of experience, has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. With The Epoch Times, Patricia’s in-depth investigative coverage of human interest stories, election policies, education, school boards, and parental rights has achieved international exposure. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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