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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This survey is just the latest exhibit in a mounting case that suggests students have been presented with a warped view of the tradeoffs associated with unfettered free expression. Inclusivity is not in conflict with free speech. Whoever taught these students that these two phenomena were contradictory did them and the nation a terrible disservice.
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.
As typical, the Atlantic comes perilously close to the answer, only to bury the lede and move on.
“… at most college campuses the attitude is that men are the problem. … I’ve had male students tell me that their first week in college they were made to feel like potential rapists.”
Added Maloney: “There’s a lot of attention on empowering girls. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but males are the ones in crisis in education.”
Though advocates complain that few in higher education are doing enough to keep those men who do get there from leaving, there’s consensus that men’s reluctance to enroll in the first place isn’t necessarily the colleges’ fault. The problem has its origins as early as primary school, only to be fueled later on by economic forces that discourage men from believing a degree is worth the time and money.
In other words, men don’t feel welcome on college campuses any longer. Educations are mostly taught by women for women. And because most women tend to gravitate to the social sciences the pushes for diversity often don’t include men as the focus remains on women not being highly represented in certain educational paths.
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.
McWhorter hits the nail on the head when he surmises the trend of aggressive protests against college speakers as a gesture in the guise of action. People are far more concerned with the show aspect of protest than the injection of substance. Additionally McWhorter is right that the onus is on the universities to teach students that righteous indignation does not suffice in public discourse. They need to understand their antics will not be tolerated.