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 â€” and many of them are. But theyâ€™re also dealing with a university system thatâ€™s genuinely corrupt, and thatâ€™s long relied on rote appeals to the activistsâ€™ 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 whoâ€™s a god on campus but also an unpaid cog in a lucrative football franchise that has a public college vestigially attached.
Itâ€™s true of the liberal arts student whoâ€™s saddled with absurd debts to pay for an education that doesnâ€™t even try to pass along any version of Matthew Arnoldâ€™s â€œ best which has been thought and said,â€ and often just induces mental breakdowns in the pursuit of worldly success.
Itâ€™s true of the working class or minority student whoâ€™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 itâ€™s true of the rich girl who discovers the same university that promised her a carefree Rumspringa (justified on high feminist principle, of course) doesnâ€™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 arenâ€™t wrong to smell the rot around them. And theyâ€™re vindicated every time they push and an administrator caves: Itâ€™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: â€œSay what you want about the tenets of political correctness, Dude, at least itâ€™s an ethos.â€
Which might turn out to be the only epitaph for the modern university anybody needs to write.