19.9.17

YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE CONTAGION.

At Outside the Beltway, Steven Taylor suggests that drawing inferences about the breakdown of intellectual integrity in higher education because a few of the usual suspects (Oberlin, Reed, Missouri, Virginia) are enabling the usual derangements is a "small N inference."

Perhaps so, or perhaps these are the most visible carbuncles.  Consider what's going on at Boise State, which serves as a prototype for football excellence without academic money or student achievement.  A political scientist suggests that arguments against constraints on gender crossing follow logically from arguments against constraints on sex roles, and that (of course!) rubs the director of diversity, Francisco Salinas, the wrong way.
Salinas’s explanation concludes with another leap: “Not every person who agrees with [political scientist Scott] Yenor’s piece is likely to become an espoused Neo-Nazi, but likely every Neo-Nazi would agree with the substance of Yenor’s piece.” Note the pure demagoguery in the word “espoused.” The director of student diversity and inclusion insinuates that a Boise State professor and those who are persuaded by his descriptive account of the professed aims and principles of the feminist and transgender movements are Nazis, either closeted or avowed. The missing premise of Salinas’s statement, of course, is that social conservatives like Yenor share with Nazis a disregard for human dignity. That slanderous premise turns the truth on its head.

Salinas’s non sequitur provides the perfect illustration of a troubling trend: the effort by some students, administrators, and faculty to shut dissenting voices up through intimidation and name-calling.
It's so much easier to claim offense than it is to suggest, here are the ways in which the thesis is badly supported.  But that's work.  Easier to deflect, to question motives, to use the vocabulary introduced by Sinclair Lewis and Herbert Croly.
Refutation requires engagement with ideas, and a striving to understand the truth. From it arise norms of civility, good faith among interlocutors, and a willingness to consider the merits of different arguments. It is easier to denounce without disputation, to assume someone is wrong without bothering to discover whether they are wrong or demonstrating how they are wrong.

The intellectual winds blowing in Idaho are ominous.
Thus, dear reader, small sample or not, Rod Dreher is correct to ask, "What the hell is wrong with Boise State University? What is wrong with American universities?"

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