Flagg Taylor, taking the riots at Middlebury over a proposed talk by Charles Murray as an example, discusses how training in activism and applause for passion and commitment have replaced the quest for truth and the cultivation of the mind as goals for the modern (post-Gramscian Long March) university.
Training in politically correct opinions is designed self-consciously to churn out activists or silence dissenters. One must display oneâ€™s passionate commitment to these correct opinions; subjects like race and inequality are not really up for discussion, notwithstanding the omnipresent talk of â€œdialogueâ€ and ceaseless self-congratulatory paeans to diversity.
But the praise of passion and engagement has another less noticeable but pernicious consequence. The loud, confident voices are applauded, but the quiet students are presumed not to be â€œengaged.â€ At best they are called apathetic, at worst they are â€œpart of the problem.â€ Thus what institutions of higher learning have done with this fetishization of passion is to destroy the space for intellectual modesty. Some students might think, very naturally, â€œI really donâ€™t know enough about that topic to have a strong opinion.â€ But the general atmosphere tells them to get committed, get passionate; there is no time to waste! For those who, perhaps instinctually, turn away from the politically correct opinions to which they are supposed to give their passionate embrace, what is left is most often a cynical distance from anything that smells of politics. So the destruction of the space of intellectual modesty leaves a desiccated field strewn with impassioned fanatics, knowing cynics, and careerists willing so say whatever provides the path of least resistance.
Read the whole thing.