The Shame of Cambridge

I couldn’t sleep last night. I kept tossing and turning, I could not find peace. As I woke up this morning I realized why – my worldview was shattered yesterday. As a teenager, my father was stationed at Lakenheath AFB. I lived in a little town, Reach, near Cambridge. My family became obsessed with the history and significance of Cambridge University. My parents would drive into town and we would walk through the quads of St. Johns College, Trinity College, and through the magnificent chapel at King’s College. My father would tell us stories of the days when C.S. Lewis taught there, or when Sir Isaac Newton was developing his theories. The history and significance of the place became stunning, even to my teenage self. We were sometimes lucky enough to see Stephen Hawking being pushed in his wheelchair between buildings. The sight of the young students wearing their black robes demonstrated how the traditional can be valued, even in the presence of cutting-edge ideas. My older brother, Lincoln, became so obsessed with Cambridge University he applied for Graduate School and was admitted. He got his Masters of Philosophy from Wolfson College, Cambridge. I idolized my brother as he gloated about punting on the Cam between classes and studying in historic buildings with the future leaders of nations.

When I completed my undergraduate degree, I decided I would give it a try. Unlikely as my admission was, I applied and got accepted for a M.A. in Environmental Development. I was even admitted to my favorite college, St. Johns. I was awe-struck. I could be going to the best university in the world! However, I also knew I would not be able to afford the tuition. I applied for the Gates Scholarship and amazingly made it to the final round. They flew me out to Annapolis, Maryland for the interview along with about 30 other applicants in other fields. I was doubtful that I, an insignificant and unremarkable girl, could actually have the chance of attending a school of such prestige. I had a lot of international research experience, had published with a professor, and done volunteer work with AIDS orphans. Yet how could any of that compare to the work of David Attenborough? I was very naive as a 23 year-old college student. I thought the interview went well, but I was surprised by their hostile reaction when I cited “The Skeptical Environmentalist”, or described some of my more conservative views on environmental policy. They seemed uncomfortable when I explained the influence my religious mission work in South Africa had on my worldview. These exchanges didn’t make me doubtful, my unique experience and perspective would surely be to my advantage. I knew academics wanted as many diverse viewpoints as they could get. My competitor was an intelligent young man, but he seemed shallow and inexperienced; I was fairly confident I had the advantage. I was shocked the next day to see I had not been chosen. I must have bombed the interview after all. I very well may have not been the right candidate. Who knows? I did not blame them for not getting the scholarship. I still don’t. I was lucky to be considered.

However, I was shattered. I was passionate about my field.  My dream was to move back to Africa and help encourage sustainable farming. I was hungry to have the “Cambridge experience”.  I could have gotten a loan, but coming from a frugal background, I knew I could not rationally justify the 100k in debt it would require.  My potential income with a Masters in Environmental Development would not be more than 50k a year. My fiance’ was supportive, but I could see the writing on the wall.  We wanted to eventually have a family, but knew I would have to fully devote myself to my career to pay that debt off. I chose not to attend.

Despite my disappointment, my admiration for Cambridge remained unaffected. I was sure the foundations were sound. After all, if Cambridge was corrupt, then every University had to be questioned. Founded in 1209, Cambridge was at the very foundation of academics. As we began our family, I always had that lingering voice in the back of my head telling me what I had given up. (My brother was an even louder voice, constantly rubbing it in my face). I could have gone to Cambridge! I could have made a difference. I could have learned at the feet of the greatest thinkers of our time. As time went by, I began to appreciate my role as a mother and see the irreplaceable role I was playing (my experience described here). The voice became more faint – but it has remained there still. As I read Winnie the Pooh to my children, I tell them about A.A. Milne and Cambridge. I have bought them Cambridge T-shirts and have posters on the wall- trying to brainwash them to their future. Cambridge was an ideal for me – a place of integrity and clear purpose. Until yesterday.

In the most unprofessional manner possible, Dr. Jordan Peterson’s offer to be a fellow at the School of Divinity was rescinded. In his March Q&A he seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the scholars at Cambridge. I won’t repeat what has already explained by Dr. Peterson, but his intentions in studying at Cambridge were for the great benefit of millions who will listen to his Biblical lectures. His purpose was not to indoctrinate the youth to “dangerous” ideas. It was to be a cooperative effort, which would mutually benefit all parties, especially the students who would have the chance of learning with the most prominent intellectual of our time.

But no, he was too “controversial” for the a small and powerful group of people. Is there any chance Cambridge would now allow Darwin on their campus, or Erasmus?  Their work was very controversial for their day. Sorry to be crass, but I am so sick of this “controversial” crap. Jordan Peterson does NOT have controversial views – his most maligned views have been held by the majority of the population for all of human history.  I have listened to hundreds of hours of Jordan Peterson, if he had said anything racist, sexist, or homophobic I would have turned him off and never listened to him again. I am in a bi-racial marriage, I am a compassionate and sensitive person. I won’t follow the “unrighteous” or disingenuous. All these accusations are lies. (Here is a collection of short video clips showing his most “controversial” ideas)

But why? Why would what was once a welcoming home to progressive and traditional thinkers alike, now be refusing to accept Jordan Peterson? It is the duty of universities to educate their students and provide them with a varied and “dangerous” array of ideas. How can not one powerful administrator or professor have stood up and said, “NO, we will not miss out on the opportunity to have Dr. Peterson visit our University.” I can think of three reasons for their refusal to resist the calls of the mob:.

  1. These so-called intellectuals are lazy.  They have not taken the time to actually listen or read his works.  Surely this can’t be true of the elite of the elite at Cambridge? It is all a house of cards. This is difficult to admit because we put academics on a pedestal, but I am starting to realize that these elite are just as dumb and unmotivated as the rest of us.  They get on Twitter and accept the tweets of basement-dwellers as truth. They don’t do their research, they don’t fact-check idiotic claims found in media. The have gotten lazy and soft. They are no longer seeking the truth or advancing their own knowledge.  
  2. They are ideologues. They see the power and prestigious Jordan Peterson is gaining and are threatened. They want no diversity of thought.  They want to indoctrinate their students and shape them according to their own ideology.
  3. They are cowards.  I don’t blame the student union.  They are ignorant kids. It is the professors and administrators who are to blame.  If they are really allowing themselves to be controlled by the mob they are nothing but cowards. How can they sit by and watch their precious university, the crown of modern civilization, give in to the demands of spoiled children?  Is there not one man or woman of integrity or character left at Cambridge?

Cambridge has suddenly become an embarrassment in my eyes. Their allegiance to “diversity” and “inclusion” has led to a uniformity and intolerance I never expected. In a time where the group, government, and institution are given increasingly more power and prestige, we need to live our lives independent of their influence. I will not continue to idealize Cambridge to my children. I will now be more questioning of any theories or opinions Cambridge academics produce. Is this an over-reaction? Perhaps. But the problem with an institution breaking the confidence of their allegiants is we no longer know what we can trust. What we see is that in this action, they have shown their true colors. We can no longer base our presumptions of their past virtue because they have shown us their current corruption.

Some will say I am simply a Jordan Peterson Apologist. I do not agree with everything Jordan Peterson says, no one agrees with everything anyone says. Everyone offends, everyone makes mistakes, everyone has biases. If we reject people based on such things we can never educate ourselves. Our society will not progress. We will descend into tribal thinking and conflict. I suppose I should not be surprised, knowing the ideological state of our universities. For some reason I thought the “first would be the last.” I thought Cambridge was the principled ideal.

I am sorry for Dr. Peterson.  I strongly believe in what he is doing and believe he is a good man.  I appreciate his sacrifices as he attempts to help bring meaning and truth back to our society.  I believe he is doing God’s work and so I take solace in the Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called to His purpose.”   As I contemplate my shattered confidence in the once great University of Cambridge, I see that my “faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:5)  I wonder if any of the Professors of Divinity at Cambridge would agree? Somehow I doubt it.

-Allyson

Ps. If you are as appalled as I am, consider emailing Cambridge, tweeting your support or this article to JPB, or finding your own ways to share your displeasure. I would appreciate you sharing this with anyone who might be interested. Thank you for your support.

Artwork:King’s College and Clare College, Cambridge from the River Cam, William Westall, 1781

22 thoughts on “The Shame of Cambridge

  1. I read JBP’s response just before I climbed in bed at almost 3:00am after an exhausting day, and I could not sleep! Thank you for putting all my thoughts–and many more–into articulated speech. I am heartbroken. I thought Cambridge was more insulated from the corruption of the American Ivy League. I was wrong and agree completely–no more Darwins, no more Miltons. We are left with only what is “popular.” #ahexoncambridge

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  2. BTW, My daughter put a link to your blog in our family chat a few days ago with this comment: “Check it out, this lady has watched as much Jordan Peterson as Mom.” I love what you’ve written about motherhood, and thank you, for curating his most accessible clips. He’s a little hard to share with friends without some direction. So that has been very helpful.

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  3. I so agree. I am waiting patiently for the members of the facility who ‘courted’ Dr Peterson to resign in protest. Where are the resignations? I am from the UK and have a Bachelor of Divinity degree from King’s College London – but have learned a great deal for JP’s lectures on Genesis, and was really looking forward to hearing what 2 months in Cambridge arguing and discussing with the faculty there would add to his teachings – which I suspect millions will listen to eventually.
    However, I know that this may sound strange, but I suddenly felt a surge of joy, coming after a feeling of despair. I think that something really good is going to come out of this. Not sure what – but it felt like my spirit got a sense of it.

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  4. All the best people become martyrs in some way when the society they live in is corrupt. People driven by envy and resentment of their courage and clarity bind together like packs of dogs to destroy them. Several times Jordan Peterson has expressed the idea that he expects an effort to take him down but whatever comes he is secure in the support of his wife and children. When a society begins to destroy its prophets it is nearing collapse.

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  5. I am not religious at all, am agnostic at best, but I liked how one responder put it that she was looking forward to the arguments and discussions… That is what university is about. Learning through discourse. If we can’t engage in ideas we disagree with, or agree with, intelligently, then we have lost our culture. Great civilizations have historically had their thinkers disagree and discuss ideas. Student involvement with ideas is still important, maybe more now than ever. An intelligent person can take ideas and turn them over in their own mind without being threatened or oppressed. I don’t espouse JP ideas any more than others, but I also don’t quell them.

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  6. Wow Ally! I think I understand, and hope you are able to lift yourself out of this dystopia. Why don’t you try Oxford? I think this is exactly what Rhodes had in mind with his bursary funds, I feel his enthusiasm was in your direction entirely, contrary to some popular media portrayals. And I think it is a better forum for JBP also, although I fear he may have to actually be willing to be self-reflective “over-the-board”, a skill I feel he has not been thoroughly tested on, even though the GC interview (Helen Lewis) came close. I am not from Oxford, and they may have similar; or uniquely frustrating; problems to Cambridge, but I wonder what their perspective on JBP forum inclusion is (as well as if their bursaries are less politically motivated). Wishing you all the best!

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    1. Thanks Alan. I was actually accepted to Oxford for MSc in African Studies but no scholarship opportunities so couldn’t realistic pursue it. I think a Rhodes was beyond me:) Another one of my brothers attended Oxford and loved it. I always had a preference for Cambridge, but that has recently changed:) I am now content in my life and although I would love to continue my education, my five kids might get in the way. I learn from YouTube and Audible now:) Thanks for reading!

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  7. Ally, There was a time when masterful motherhood or fatherhood for that matter were recognized as the pillars of our culture. Five children who have that clarity breathed into them each day… That can change the world. (Melanie Fyock – was a tremendous fan of your writing… Don’t underestimate the reach of your writing)

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      1. Melanie’s blog – grammas guide to the cosmos… 😉https://grammasguide.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/12-rules-for-life-and-spiritual-formation/

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  8. It is pathetic that Cambridge University are not inclusive enough to allow Jordan Peterson to join the Divinity faculty, where he would have undoubtedly made a valuable contribution.

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