The top universities can’t keep out of national news. Just in the past few months, there have been several high-profile stories about Yale and Harvard. Harvard is being sued for discrimination against Asians. Yale is being sued for not admitting women into its fraternities.
These scandals have been framed as a consequence of the culture wars. Left versus right. Political correctness versus free speech. Empathy and inclusion versus economic realities. Students fighting for social and racial justice against morally bankrupt faculty and administrators. But after attending Yale for some of the larger scandals in recent years, these dichotomies ring hollow.
Over the past decade, elite colleges have been staging grounds for what Matthew Yglesias has termed the Great Awokening. Dozens of scandals have illustrated a stifling new ideological orthodoxy that is trickling down into the rest of society through HR departments, corporations, churches, foundations, and activist organizations. The nation is becoming polarized and its parts disconnected. The right is evil, and the left is stupid. Or is it the other way around?
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The so called postmodernists had a different view on the matter. They apparently thought that all this arguing is too much of a hassle, so they decided to make it simpler by drastically lowering the standards of what should count as an argument. That is why you can find sentences such as: “It is the horizon itself that is in movement: the relative horizon recedes when the subject advances, but on the plane of immanence we are always and already on the absolute horizon.” (That is an actual sentence from What is Philosophy, by the French duo Deleuze and Guattari.) The first and most obvious thing about this sentence is how convoluted and apparently meaningless it is. But while there are ways by which one can navigate the jargon and find some meaning in these words, there is no justification for it; no argument to demonstrate that “on the plane of immanence we are on the absolute horizon.”
As I said, Brazil’s situation is not the same as in the US. Intersectionality has just now started creeping out in the media and academia, and college campuses are part of a slowly bubbling debate on free speech. Still, in other aspects Brazil seems to be ahead of the postmodern curve when compared with America. Postmodern thought is prevalent from high school onwards and I am sure that it is at least part of the reason why, despite heavy investments in education and a growing number of college enrollments, Brazil’s education seems not to have improved at all in the last decade.
Universities have consistently underestimated the power of a furious public. At the same time, they’ve overestimated the power of student activists, who have only as much influence as administrators give them. Far from avoiding controversy, administrators who respond to campus radicals with cowardice and capitulation should expect to pay a steep price for years.
I find it utterly ridiculous that a rap album can be substituted for actual academic work. A rap album is in no way equivalent to the rigor involved in creating a screenplay, novel, or poetry collection.
“…honor my identity and my struggle at Harvard.” I wish my generation wasn’t so self entitled and spoiled that we feel what we have to go through in 2017 is equal to a true struggle. Richard Theodore Greener had a true struggle paving the way for other blacks to attend Harvard. You on the other hand have it quite easy. I really don’t understand this kind of collectivist rhetoric which intends to amalgamate all black Harvard struggles into one neat bundle devoid of the nuances of individual struggles. Not every blacks experience is the same at Harvard so what are these shared struggles? I’m guessing that by nobody mentioning them they are either A) trivial under scrutiny or B) they are incapable of articulating this “struggle.” I have no issues with groups wanting to have a special graduation ceremony but please don’t try to hide this under celebrating your particular minority group. Just own up to the fact that you are in favor of identity politics but only when it suits you. Moreover these ceremonies based on identity only server to perpetuate the growing divides between students. If these students came from low socioeconomic backgrounds and went to a school not nearly as left leaning as Harvard then I would have more empathy. This just comes across as pretentious college kids going off the deep end again.
The Dartmouth came out with an interesting survey which measured the political landscape of the campus. Firstly the disparity between the comfort levels in a roommate’s political views is not surprising given the vast majority of students are Democrat leaning. It does show though the lack of political diversity on campus as well as the overemphasis Democrats place on being surrounded by like minded people. Simply put a Democrat it appears would be unable to set aside their political identity and coexist on common grounds. I was glad to see the students on the whole were supportive of speakers being allowed to speak on campus.
One of the best summaries of the problems on college campuses. Free speech isn’t a public good: it’s an individual right. Opposition to freedom of speech is simply a denial of another person’s humanity.