Let's set the Wayback Machine to April 2005, before I seriously contemplated walking away from it all. The spin from the management of higher education has long been that it's know-nothings and anti-intellectuals, and for all we know, Neanderthals and Visigoths besieging the castle, and yet that perspective is self-serving and wrong.
Universities are failing to carry out their mission. Contributing to this failure is a collection of ideas we call "politically correct." The intellectual foundation of these ideas is an extreme relativism that questions the possibility of objective knowledge and seeks to dispel "coherent beliefs of any kind." A university built on such a foundation cannot stand.The latest variation on this theme comes from Frederick M. Hess and Grant Addison in National Review.
The problem is not that conservatives have lost faith in the mission of the university, but that too many universities have discarded their sacred commitments to dialogue and truth in favor of ideological crusades.Dogma begets censoriousness begets a lack of learning. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Indeed, the mandarins of the academy now openly spout Orwellian arguments for speech suppression based entirely on feelings. Earlier this month, Northeastern University psychology professor Lisa Feldman Barrett penned a piece for the New York Times titled “When Is Speech Violence?” that claimed the mantle of “science” to argue for campus speech restrictions. Before that, an April Times op-ed by NYU’s vice provost for faculty, arts, humanities, and diversity, “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech,” justified censorship on the grounds that subjective emotions should be privileged “over reason and argument,” and that “[freedom of speech] means balancing the inherent value of a given view with the obligation to ensure that other members of a given community can participate in discourse as fully recognized members of that community.” Disappointingly, the author never quite got around to specifying just who will determine the criteria for this “balancing.”
In short, the academy has abandoned its core values of free inquiry in the service of ever-more-rigid political dogmas.
Universities best serve their students through rigorous development of reasoning skills and respect for what we have learned. Rigor is likely to diminish incivility on campus, because students kept grappling with intellectual problems will have less time to fight with each other. Better that they be unhappy with a few demanding professors.Messrs. Hess and Addison give me no reason to walk away from that claim.
[T]oday’s universities — rife with speech codes, “scientific” defenses of speech suppression, and faculties that speak in one voice on seminal issues ranging from race relations to immigration policy — have failed to adhere to their professed ideals or even to his organization’s own standards. It’s true that there are plenty, on the Left and the Right, who sometimes prefer dogma to science. Colleges and universities, however, are supposed to offer a corrective to such thinking; they’re not supposed to be a party to it. The sad truth is that conservatives are right to look askance at higher education in 2017. Too many of our most esteemed academic institutions have drifted from their historic mission — and that’s their fault, not ours.But we must be happy warriors: the Excessively Earnest people who ru[i]n higher education cannot bear to be mocked.
[L]et us not expect that if we just kick in the door, the entire rotten structure will collapse. There is still work to be done. It calls for patience. It calls for fortitude. It calls for persistence. It calls for reiterating the basic themes. And it calls for humor. The academic establishment is full of Earnest People whose worst nightmare is Carrie's: they're all going to laugh at you. Yup. Heartily.Undermine them with mockery!