Category Archive 'Colleges and Universities'
12 Mar 2017

Intersectionality as Religion

, , , , ,

Andrew Sullivan takes time off from crying over the election of Donald Trump to identify and explain the new religion that has taken charge on elite campuses all over the country.

Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.

And what I saw on the video struck me most as a form of religious ritual — a secular exorcism, if you will — that reaches a frenzied, disturbing catharsis. When Murray starts to speak, the students stand and ritually turn their backs on him in silence. The heretic must not be looked at, let alone engaged. Then they recite a common liturgy in unison from sheets of paper. Here’s how they begin: “This is not respectful discourse, or a debate about free speech. These are not ideas that can be fairly debated, it is not ‘representative’ of the other side to give a platform to such dangerous ideologies. There is not a potential for an equal exchange of ideas.” They never specify which of Murray’s ideas they are referring to. Nor do they explain why a lecture on a recent book about social inequality cannot be a “respectful discourse.” The speaker is open to questions and there is a faculty member onstage to engage him afterward. She came prepared with tough questions forwarded from specialists in the field. And yet: “We … cannot engage fully with Charles Murray, while he is known for readily quoting himself. Because of that, we see this talk as hate speech.” They know this before a single word of the speech has been spoken.

Read the whole thing.

07 Mar 2017

Deresiewicz Contemplates the PC Regime

, ,

William Deresiewicz is a big squishy liberal, who thinks racism (after 50+ years of constant indoctrination, social engineering, and federal scrutiny of American hearts and minds) is still a terrible major problem, but even he is appalled at the Speech & Thought Control PC regime that has taken power at every elite college and university.

Selective private colleges have become religious schools. The religion in question is not Methodism or Catholicism but an extreme version of the belief system of the liberal elite: the liberal professional, managerial, and creative classes, which provide a large majority of students enrolled at such places and an even larger majority of faculty and administrators who work at them. To attend those institutions is to be socialized, and not infrequently, indoctrinated into that religion. ..

Elite private colleges are ideologically homogeneous because they are socially homogeneous, or close to it. Their student populations largely come from the liberal upper and upper-middle classes, multiracial but predominantly white, with an admixture of students from poor communities of color—two demographics with broadly similar political beliefs, as evidenced by the fact that they together constitute a large proportion of the Democratic Party base. As for faculty and managerial staff, they are even more homogenous than their students, both in their social origins and in their present milieu, which tends to be composed exclusively of other liberal professionals—if not, indeed, of other liberal academics. Unlike the campus protesters of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing countercultural views. They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.

Which brings us to another thing that comes with dogma: heresy. Heresy means those beliefs that undermine the orthodox consensus, so it must be eradicated: by education, by reeducation—if necessary, by censorship. It makes a perfect, dreary sense that there are speech codes, or the desire for speech codes, at selective private colleges. …

[P]olitical correctness is not about justice or creating a safe environment; it is about power. And so much of what is taking place at colleges today reflects the way that relations of power have been reconfigured in contemporary higher education. Campus activists are taking advantage of the fact (and I suspect that a lot of them understand this intuitively, if not explicitly) that students have a lot more power than they used to. The change is the result not only of the rise of the customer-service mentality in academia, but also of the proletarianization of the faculty. Students have risen; instructors have fallen. Where once administrations worked in alliance with the faculty, were indeed largely composed of faculty, now they work against the faculty in alliance with students, a separate managerial stratum more interested in the satisfaction of its customers than the well-being of its employees. …

The power of political correctness is wielded not only against the faculty, however, but also against other groups within the student body, ones who don’t belong to the ideologically privileged demographics or espouse the approved points of view: conservative students; religious students, particularly Christians; students who identify as Zionists, a category that includes a lot of Jewish students; “athletes,” meaning white male athletes; white students from red states; heterosexual cisgendered white men from anywhere at all, who represent, depending on the school, between a fifth and a third of all students. (I say this, by the way, as an atheist, a democratic socialist, a native northeasterner, a person who believes that colleges should not have sports teams in the first place—and in case it isn’t obvious by now, a card-carrying member of the liberal elite.) I haven’t heard too many people talk about creating safe spaces for Christians, or preventing micro-aggressions against conservatives, or banning hate speech against athletes, or disinviting socialists.

What I have heard, frequently, for as long as I have been involved in academia, are open expressions of contempt or prejudice or hostility against those suspect groups or members of those groups. If you are a white man, you are routinely regarded as guilty until proven innocent, the worst possible construction is put upon your words, and anything you say on a sensitive issue is received with suspicion at best. I attended a workshop on micro-aggressions at the University of Missouri last year. The problem with micro-aggressions, the leader said, is that they “create a space of hostility,” that they say, “you don’t belong; you are different in a way that’s not okay.” Those formulations precisely describe the environment that the groups I just enumerated often encounter at elite private colleges, except that unlike the typical micro-aggression, the offense is not inadvertent. It is quite deliberate.

Read the whole thing.

08 Feb 2017

The Disgraceful State of American Higher Education

, , ,


José Clemente Orozco, The Epic of American Civilization, 1932-1934, Dartmouth University Library. “Academia as a corpse of dead knowledge, birthing intellectually stillborn graduates each year as the world burns in the backdrop.”

Anthony Esolen, at National Review, wonders aloud whether higher education in today’s America is even possible.

The frieze beneath the rotunda of the state house at Providence, the city where my college is located, proclaims, in the words of Tacitus, the happiness of the times when a man “may think what he will and speak what he thinks.” This may still be true of men sitting at a diner or a bar, drinking beer and arguing about politics. Rational argument and freedom of thought, like the exercise of religion, has retreated into the realm of the private. You may still think what you will, so long as you keep it to yourself. You may not think or speak freely in our political assemblies, our newspapers, and our colleges.

Here the reader may supply plenty of anecdotes about professors, insufficiently “liberal,” who have been driven from their jobs or burdened with legal troubles because they violated the new iron etiquette that governs the public sphere. My favorite, if such it may be called, involved an instructor of composition at the University of Winnipeg who remarked, near the end of a semester, that the most important work that most women do will be to raise their children well. For that remark — which would have struck sensible people alive three cultural minutes ago, both men and women, as a bland truism — the instructor was relieved of his duties forthwith, barred from his office, and forbidden even to administer his final exam.

People who say that such events are rare and therefore not to be taken too seriously are either fools or liars. A thousand public lynchings are expensive and tiresome. Two or three will intimidate your enemies very nicely and save you the sweat and the struggle against your conscience. That is especially true if the victim is powerful and visible, as was Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard who opined that the difference between the numbers of men and women pursuing the natural sciences at the highest level might be due rather to predilection and intellectual inclination than to sexism. Again we are dealing with a bland truism; but the long knives came out, and Summers was dispatched. …

In such a world, it is insufficient to say that higher education suffers. Except in the most technical of disciplines, and perhaps even in those, the very possibility of higher education comes to an abrupt halt. If a professor must negotiate an emotional and verbal and political mine field before he opens his mouth, then he is no professor any longer. He is a servile functionary, no matter his title and no matter how well he is paid. He instructs his students not in freedom but in his own servility. That many of the students demand this servility of him and of themselves makes their capitulation all the worse.

The colleges have not abandoned moral considerations utterly. Relativism is an unstable equilibrium — imagine a pyramid upside down, placed delicately upon its apex. It might make you break out into a cold sweat to stand in its shade. The question is not whether some moral vision will prevail, but which moral vision. The colleges are thus committed to a moral inversion. High and noble virtues, especially those that require moral courage, are mocked: gallantry in wartime, sexual purity, scrupulous honesty and plain dealing, piety, and the willingness to subject your thoughts, experiences, and most treasured beliefs to the searching scrutiny of reason. What is valued then? Debauchery, perversion, contempt for your supposedly benighted ancestors, lazy agnosticism, easy and costless pacifism, political maneuvering, and an enforcement of a new orthodoxy that in denying rational analysis seeks to render itself immune to criticism. You sink yourself in debt to discover that your sons and daughters have been severed from their faith, their morals, and their reason. Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.

Read the whole thing.

——————————–

Mene Ukueberuwa, in the New Republic, blames all this on the rise of the Administrator.

This crisis of confidence at colleges—driven by conflict-shy administrators and self-effacing professors—has come to a head in the culture of protest that has developed on American campuses. Once again, political polarization is only one part of the story. Today’s college students are certainly more liberal and more ideologically uniform than their counterparts of the mid-twentieth century. But the focus on the little things that we see in campus protests—as in the movement to suppress insensitive Halloween costumes at Yale in 2015—shows the extent to which the political fervor is being driven by the absence of bigger, richer ideas to seize students’ attention. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made this case in a column during the same outburst of protests, which swept through dozens of campuses that fall. “The protesters at Yale and Missouri,” he pointed out, are “dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.” In other words, if hollowing out collegiate culture of all of its challenging substance really was just a ploy to dodge controversy and keep the money coming in, then it looks like the strategy has decidedly backfired. …

17 Jan 2017

Application Essay That Won Entry to Five Ivy League Schools and Stanford

, ,

Last Spring, Business Insider shared the application essay from young Brittany Stinson which got her admitted to Yale, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Cornell, and Stanford.

Prompt 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree. I sprinted through the aisles, looking up in awe at the massive bulk products that towered over me. Overcome with wonder, I wanted to touch and taste, to stick my head into industrial­sized freezers, to explore every crevice. I was a conquistador, but rather than searching the land for El Dorado, I scoured aisles for free samples. Before inevitably being whisked away into a shopping cart, I scaled a mountain of plush toys and surveyed the expanse that lay before me: the kingdom of Costco.

Notorious for its oversized portions and dollar­fifty hot dog combo, Costco is the apex of consumerism. From the days spent being toted around in a shopping cart to when I was finally tall enough to reach lofty sample trays, Costco has endured a steady presence throughout my life. As a veteran Costco shopper, I navigate the aisles of foodstuffs, thrusting the majority of my weight upon a generously filled shopping cart whose enormity juxtaposes my small frame. Over time, I’ve developed a habit of observing fellow patrons tote their carts piled with frozen burritos, cheese puffs, tubs of ice cream, and weight­loss supplements. Perusing the aisles gave me time to ponder. Who needs three pounds of sour cream? Was cultured yogurt any more well­mannered than its uncultured counterpart? Costco gave birth to my unfettered curiosity.

Whole thing.

It’s easy to see why it worked. Her essay is glib, facile, flashy, and self-confident, hot stuff for a high school senior. Yes, it’s kind of weak on substance, but glib, facile, and flashy is what our elite schools are all about.

She decided to go to Stanford.

Hat tip to Matt MacLean.

18 Dec 2016

Save the Snowflakes!

, ,

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

14 Nov 2016

Nationwide University Therapy Sessions

, , , , ,

trumpvotersdoll

Glenn Reynolds lists some of the infantilizing responses of universities across the nation to Donald Trump’s untoward election, and it is an amazing list. This large-scale attempt at playing-the-victim is, of course, one more example of the standard leftist technique in which moral jiu jitsu is used to marginalize and intimidate the majority.

Trump’s substantial victory, when most progressives expected a Hillary landslide, came as a shock to many. That shock seems to have been multiplied in academe, where few people seem to know any Trump supporters — or, at least, any Trump supporters who’ll admit to it.

The response to the shock has been to turn campuses into kindergarten. The University of Michigan Law School announced a ”post-election self-care” event with “food and play,” including “coloring sheets, play dough [sic], positive card-making, Legos and bubbles with your fellow law students.” (Embarrassed by the attention, UM Law scrubbed the announcement from its website, perhaps concerned that people would wonder if its graduates would require Legos and bubbles in the event of stressful litigation.)

Stanford emailed its students and faculty that psychological counseling was available for those experiencing “uncertainty, anger, anxiety and/or fear” following the election. So did the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

Meanwhile, even the Ivy League wasn’t immune, with Penn (Trump’s alma mater) creating a post-election safe space with puppies and coloring books:

    Student Daniel Tancredi reported that the people who attended were “fearful” about the results of the election.

    “For the most part, students just hung out and ate snacks and made small talk,” Tancredi told The College Fix. “Of course, that was in addition to coloring and playing with the animals.”

At Cornell, meanwhile, students held a “Cry-in.”

    As the event took place, students — roughly 20 or so, according to the Sun’s video — wrote their reactions and emotions on poster boards with colored markers, or with chalk on the ground. A chilly day on the Ithaca campus, at one point the demonstrators huddled together as what appeared to be a barista brought them warm drinks. Several adults, most likely professors, stood around the group. The event appeared to take on the atmosphere of a funeral wake.

Yale had a ”group scream.”

At Tufts, the university offered arts and crafts, while the University of Kansas reminded students that there were plenty of “therapy dogs” available. At other schools, exams were cancelled and professors expressed their sympathy to traumatized students.

It’s easy to mock this as juvenile silliness — because, well, it is juvenile silliness of the sort documented in Frank Furedi’s What Happened To The University? But that’s not all it is. It’s also exactly what these schools purport to abhor: An effort to marginalize and silence part of the university community.

In an email to students, the University of Michigan’s President, Mark Schlissel, wrote: “Our responsibility is to remain committed to education, discovery and intellectual honesty — and to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are at our best when we come together to engage respectfully across our ideological differences; to support ALL who feel marginalized, threatened or unwelcome; and to pursue knowledge and understanding.”

But when you treat an election in which the “wrong” candidate wins as a traumatic event on a par with the 9/11 attacks, calling for counseling and safe spaces, you’re implicitly saying that everyone who supported that “wrong” candidate is, well, unsafe. Despite the talk about diversity and inclusion, this is really sending the signal that people who supported Trump — and Trump carried the state of Michigan, so there are probably quite a few on campus — aren’t really included in acceptable campus culture. It’s not promoting diversity, it’s enforcing uniformity. It’s not promoting inclusion, it’s practicing exclusion. And, though it pretends to be about nurturing, it’s actually about being mean to those who don’t fall in the nurtured class. Schlissel says he wants the University of Michigan to be “a welcoming place for all members of society,” but how welcome can students who backed Trump feel in the wake of this performance?

Read the whole thing.

13 Nov 2016

College Kids Today

, , , ,

collegeboo

28 Jun 2016

Government Interventions For Equality

, , ,

EveryoneCollege

14 Jun 2016

College, Then and Now

, ,

Yale1960s
Yale in the 1960s

Uncle Rick explains the differences between college education in the Pre-Revolutionary 1960s and what goes on at colleges today.

Long ago, before 1965 say, college was understood to be for the intelligent and academically prepared among the young, who would one day both provide leadership for the country and set the tone of society. Perhaps ten percent, but no more than twenty percent, of high-school graduates were thought to have any business on a campus.

It was elitist and deliberately so. Individuals and groups obviously differed in character and aptitude. The universities selected those students who could profit by the things done at universities.

Incoming freshmen were assumed to read with fluency and to know algebra cold. They did, because applicants were screened for these abilities by the SATs. These tests, not yet dumbed down, then measured a student’s ability to handle complex ideas expressed in complex literate English, this being what college students then did.

There were no remedial courses. If you needed them, you belonged somewhere else. The goal of college was learning, not social uplift.

Colleges were a bit stodgy, a bit isolated from the world, and focused on teaching. Most had not adopted the grand-sounding title of “university.” Professors were hired for a few years to see whether they worked out with the expectation that if they did, they would get tenure. At schools I knew, “publish or perish” did not exist. The students, almost entirely white and with the cultural norms associated with that condition, were well behaved within the limits imposed by late adolescence.

The purpose of college was the making of cultivated men and women who would understand the world to the extent that it has proved willing to be understood. This meant the liberal arts. “Liberal” didn’t mean “lefty” or “nice.” It implied a broad grounding in languages, literature, history, the sciences, mathematics, economics, philosophy, and art and music.

The emphasis was on “broad.” For example, if the student took a reasonably rigorous course called “A Survey of Art from Classical Antiquity to the Present,” he—or, most assuredly she—could go into any museum or archaeological site in the Western world, and know what he was seeing. In discussions of politics or literature he would not feel like an orphaned guttersnipe and, having a basis in most fields, could rapidly master any that proved of importance or interest.

There was of course, the young being the young, parallel interest in beer, the other sex, and the usual foolishness that we geezers remember with fondness.

That is how things were. Then came what are roughly called the Sixties, actually the late Sixties and early Seventies.

They changed everything.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

YaleRacialDemonstration
Yale today

23 Mar 2016

Pink Snowflakes Meltdown at Emory Over “Trump 2016” Chalkings

, , , ,

EmoryStudents

Several instances of the chalking of “TRUMP 2016” at various locations on the Emory campus provoked student demonstrations and demands for administrative action.

The Emory Wheel:

Students protested yesterday at the Emory Administration Building following a series of overnight, apparent pro-Donald Trump for president chalkings throughout campus.

Roughly 40 students gathered shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the outdoors space between the Administration Building and Goodrich C. White Hall; many students carried signs featuring slogans such as “Stop Trump” or “Stop Hate” and an antiphonal chant addressed to University administration, led by College sophomore Jonathan Peraza, resounded “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” throughout the Quad. …

“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added. …

“[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues [related to having safe spaces on campus].”

Read the whole thing.

The Emory Administration responded affirmatively with new regulations requiring campus reservation service permission before scribbling with chalk, restricting chalkable surfaces, and limiting the duration chalked messages will be permitted to survive. University President James W, Wagner additionally promised “immediate refinements to certain policy and procedural deficiencies, regular and structured opportunities for difficult dialogues, a formal process to institutionalize identification, review and [the] addressing of social justice opportunities and issues and a commitment to an annual retreat to renew our efforts.”

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

22 Nov 2015

Hitler Learns of the Unrest on Campuses

, , , ,

15 Nov 2015

The American University as Rotten Pumpkin

, , , ,

MarchofResilience
“March of Resilience” at Yale

Ross Douthat obviously does not agree with the crybullying of today’s radicalized college students, but he recognizes that it was the same academic establishment they are insulting and revolting against which made the corrupt bargain with the revolutionary left that is responsible for the presence of the toxins within the national educational system which produced the current infatuated mobs howling at their doors. There are the crazed students, heads full of Marxist agitprop, filled with passionate intensity confronting the empty-headed and empty-hearted liberals who never believed there could be such a thing as an enemy to the left.

The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing — and many of them are. But they’re also dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.

And within this system, the contemporary college student is actually a strange blend of the pampered and the exploited.

This is true of the college football recruit who’s a god on campus but also an unpaid cog in a lucrative football franchise that has a public college vestigially attached.

It’s true of the liberal arts student who’s saddled with absurd debts to pay for an education that doesn’t even try to pass along any version of Matthew Arnold’s “ best which has been thought and said,” and often just induces mental breakdowns in the pursuit of worldly success.

It’s true of the working class or minority student who’s expected to lend a patina of diversity to a campus organized to deliver good times to rich kids whose parents pay full freight. And then it’s true of the rich girl who discovers the same university that promised her a carefree Rumspringa (justified on high feminist principle, of course) doesn’t want to hear a word about what happened to her at that frat party over the weekend.

The protesters may be obnoxious enemies of free debate, in other words, but they aren’t wrong to smell the rot around them. And they’re vindicated every time they push and an administrator caves: It’s proof that they have a monopoly on moral spine, and that any small-l liberal alternative is simply hollow.

Or as the great Walter Sobchak might have put it: “Say what you want about the tenets of political correctness, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

Which might turn out to be the only epitaph for the modern university anybody needs to write.

01 Nov 2015

Academia’s Fraudulent Diversity

, ,

CornellFacultyDonations2011
Cornell Faculty Political Donations 2011-2014

Arthur C. Brooks, in the New York Times of all places, questions Academia’s double-standard on diversity.

One of the great intellectual and moral epiphanies of our time is the realization that human diversity is a blessing. It has become conventional wisdom that being around those unlike ourselves makes us better people — and more productive to boot.

Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance. Meanwhile, excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem-solving.

Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work. This year, a team of scholars from six universities studying ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences published a paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences that details a shocking level of political groupthink in academia. The authors show that for every politically conservative social psychologist in academia there are about 14 liberal social psychologists.

Why the imbalance? The researchers found evidence of discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints. In one survey cited, 82 percent of social psychologists admitted they would be less likely to support hiring a conservative colleague than a liberal scholar with equivalent qualifications.

This has consequences well beyond fairness. It damages accuracy and quality. As the authors write, “Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking.”

One of the study’s authors, Philip E. Tetlock of the University of Pennsylvania, put it to me more bluntly. Expecting trustworthy results on politically charged topics from an “ideologically incestuous community,” he explained, is “downright delusional.”

Read the whole thing.

Diversity with respect to supposed victim’s groups, pace Mr. Brooks, is simply a load of crap. Everyone is a victim some of the time, in some respects. The children of the very rich have, by enormously disproportionate margins, extraordinarily selfish, often really neglectful, parents and are commonly burdened with expectations and obligations which most of humanity is spared.

Imagine growing up as George W. Bush with the living image of Frank Merriwell, captain of the Yale Baseball Team, Youngest Navy Pilot in WWII, as a father. You would be expected to live up to an absolutely impossible scale of human perfection. It’s no wonder that the poor chap originally took to drink. The astonishing thing is that he ever dried out.

Being African-American, being “Hispanic”, being a sexual pervert, even if you are actually from a privileged background makes you a highly valued, eagerly recruited representative of “Diversity,” but nobody gives a good goddamn about the diversity of being of a Belgian, Finn, Ukrainian or from any kind of poor, white working class or rural background.

Go watch one of the old-time Hollywood war movies. You didn’t need Sidney Poitier to achieve American diversity. There would be the Protestant blond farmer from Iowa, the Texas cowboy, and the rustic Southerner. Then, there’d be the Catholic Polack coal-miner, the funny little Italian, the tough Mick, and the heavily-accented prole from Brooklyn. And, as the really odd man out, you’d frequently have the very different too-small, too pacifistic, too-urban, or too-intellectual Jewish member of the platoon. There was plenty of diversity, in some ways more authentically than today, back in the Bad Old Days before today’s accredited forms of diversity were recognized and officially established.

Diversity? Places like Yale will really have diversity, when in addition to the university-provided Black Student Center, Women’s Student Center, Hispanic Student Center, and LBGT Center, there is a Conservative Center, a Redneck Center, and Gun Owner’s Center.

24 Aug 2015

Freshman Summer Reading, Then and Now

, , , , , ,

FunHome1
A scene from “Fun Home”.

When you get admitted to an elite university, you receive “the freshman packet,” a large envelope containing a guide to the campus, a course catalog, various brochures inviting you to join organizations or buy things… and a suggested reading list for the summer. At some point, after you arrive on campus in the Fall, there is going to be a Freshman introductory meeting at which the suggested book(s) are going to be discussed. In other words, you will be tested on the reading(s).

In my day, at Yale, the suggested book was Jacques Monod’s “Chance and Necessity“.

I was, I fear, naive as an incoming freshman. I read it as a rather turgid, Continental recounting of the Miller-Urey Experiment, involving the creation of amino acids (the building blocks of life) by passing electrical charges through a mixture of methane, ammonia, water, and hydrogen gases in a closed container. In reality, “Chance and Necessity” was an attempt to dispel my (non-existent at that point) religious faith in order to replace it with the proper sort of faith in materialism and scientism which a good member of the establishment elite ought to have.

An Amazon reviewer summarizes it, thusly:

Jacques Monod, the Nobel Prize winning biochemist, allies himself, in the title of this admirable treatise, to the atomist Democritus, who held that the whole universe is but the fruit of two qualities, chance and necessity. Interpreting the laws of natural selection along purely naturalistic lines, he succeeds in presenting a powerful case that takes into account the ethical, political and philosophical undercurrents of the synthesis in modern biology. Above all, he stresses that science must commit itself to the postulate of objectivity by casting aside delusive ideological and moral props, even though he enjoins, at the same time, that the postulate of objectivity itself is a moral injunction. He launches a bitter polemic against metaphysical and scientific vitalisms, dismissing them as obscurantist. … He refutes teleological explanations of nature as being contrary to the postulate of objectivity, drawing attention to self-constructing proteins as teleonomic agents, followed by an explanation of the role of nucleic acids, reproduction and invariance. This leads him to dismiss Judaeo-Christian religiosity, which accords man a significant role as being created in God’s image, as a nauseating and false pietism and he even goes so far as to recommend eugenic reform. Writing with great clarity and flair, and often in a forceful and idiosyncratic idiom, he puts forward a compelling case.

——————————

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. I was reading today that incoming freshmen at Duke also have summertime suggested readings, and that certain unenlightened members of the Duke Class of 2019 have had the temerity to resist reading this year’s choice, a graphic novel, titled “Fun Home“.

Duke Chronicle:

Several incoming freshmen decided not to read “Fun Home” because its sexual images and themes conflicted with their personal and religious beliefs. Freshman Brian Grasso posted in the Class of 2019 Facebook page July 26 that he would not read the book “because of the graphic visual depictions of sexuality,” igniting conversation among students. The graphic novel, written by Alison Bechdel, chronicles her relationship with her father and her issues with sexual identity.

“I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it,” Grasso wrote in the post.

Many first-year students responded to the post, expressing their thoughts on Grasso’s discomfort with the novel. Some defended the book’s images as having literary value and said that the book could broaden students’ viewpoints.

“Reading the book will allow you to open your mind to a new perspective and examine a way of life and thinking with which you are unfamiliar,” wrote freshman Marivi Howell-Arza.

However, several freshmen agreed with Grasso that the novel’s images conflicted with their beliefs. Freshman Bianca D’Souza said that while the novel discussed important topics, she did not find the sexual interactions appropriate and could not bring herself to view the images depicting nudity.

Freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst based his decision not to read the book on its graphic novel format.

“The nature of ‘Fun Home’ means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature,” he wrote in an email.

Grasso said that many students privately messaged him thanking him for the post and agreeing with his viewpoint. He explained that he knew the post would be controversial but wanted to make sure students with similar Christian beliefs did not feel alone, adding that he also heard from several students with non-Christian backgrounds who chose not to read the book for moral reasons.

“There is so much pressure on Duke students, and they want so badly to fit in,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we don’t have to read the book.”

The summer reading book selection committee expected that the novel would be contentious among its readers, said senior Sherry Zhang, a member of the committee and co-chair of the First-Year Advisory Counselor Board. The debate generated by Grasso’s post was “very respectful and considerate,” Zhang said.

Publishers Weekly described “Fun Home”:

This autobiography by the author of the long-running [comic] strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, deals with her childhood with a closeted gay father, who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor (the former allowed him access to teen boys). Fun Home refers both to the funeral parlor, where he put makeup on the corpses and arranged the flowers, and the family’s meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, where he liked to imagine himself a 19th-century aristocrat. … Bechdel’s talent for intimacy and banter gains gravitas when used to describe a family in which a man’s secrets make his wife a tired husk and overshadow his daughter’s burgeoning womanhood and homosexuality. His court trial over his dealings with a young boy pushes aside the importance of her early teen years. Her coming out is pushed aside by his death, probably a suicide.

In 1966, those-who-know-better were trying to get rid of your religious superstitions and make you into a good secular materialist believer in progressive scientism and the rule of experts. Today, the goal is to get rid of that old-fashioned religion-based morality and to make you into a politically correct and appropriately sensitive and respectful admirer and supporter of the LBGTQ movement, if not LBGTQ yourself.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Colleges and Universities' Category.

















Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark