“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of fire.” So wrote William Butler Yeats, poet.
Dr. Phillip H. Ropp, Hampden-Sydney College professor, exposed me to Yeats over five decades back.
Months ago, at Wesleyan University, “the student government voted to CUT funding for the 150-year-old campus newspaper after it (courageously) published a conservative op/ed.” This latest campus cultural affliction was reported by Washington Post’s columnist, Catherine Rampell.
So, let me get this straight, this Wesleyan defunding followed Williams College’s earlier stunning scheme: addressing their atmosphere of free-speech intolerance – by extracting some concession – creating an “Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series.” Three cheers…bring out the Tote Bags and stale nabs!
Williams’ new policy was responding with an antidote to their super-intolerant, fantasizing left-leaning student body. Williams College – a $63,290.00 tuition annual bargain – wistfully, but briskly caved by disinviting one of their earliest speaker choices, Suzanne Venker, conservative writer, thinker.
Seemingly, this falls in the vein of Groucho Marx’s Horse Feathers (1932) – his role as president of brainless Huxley College – (whatever it is, I’m against it). For me, this prompts back to Tonight’s Jack Paar, and his – I kid you not.
All this ideological idiocy brings us to The New Criterion, November issue. Subject: Unfree Speech at university campuses across America. It should frighten all reasonably serious Americans – left or right – who’d deem these policies both dangerous and disastrous.
Arthur C. Brooks (NYT), in a recent piece, cites a published paper in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal, detailing a shocking level of political (left) groupthink in academia. One of its authors, Philip E. Tetlock (University of Pennsylvania), summed it up: in researching “political charged topics form an ideologically incestuous community is downright delusional”. Yeats’ fire remains unlit.
What now exists on college and university campuses is a slew of carefully directed grievance cultures, mixed with insistency on acute victimology. One can easily inquire of former Secretary of State Condi Rice; Ayaan Hirsi; Charles Murray; Christine Lagarde, first woman to head the IMF; columnist George Will on what they cumulatively experienced after receiving commencement-speaking invitations – a disinvite. This perfectly reflects an ingrained hostility to free speech and thought.
Then there is the Michelle Obama example: At five Topeka, Kansas high schools, students learned they could invite six people to the commencement for students from five high schools, which was meant to honor the seniors and the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Students petitioned….asking the school board to change the event. Getting their demands met, the graduations were broken up; Ms. Obama’s speech was moved to an additional venue – something called “Senior Recognition Day.”
Criterion further reports results from the William F. Buckley Program at Yale. The survey (McLaughlin & Associates) covers 800 students of various colleges.
Alarming is the word: *Students favor their schools having speech codes to regulate both students and faculty…51% to 31%; *Require professors to employ “trigger warnings” for students who may be sensitive to material that might be discomforting; *One third of the students polled could not identify the First Amendment as part of the United States Constitution dealing with free speech; *35% said the First Amendment does not protect “hate speech”; *30% of self-identified Liberal Students say the First Amendment is outdated, needing revision or elimination.
Unfortunately, at all cost, solid dissension (opposition) must be devalued – even eliminated. Current issues such as climate change; abortion; race relations (Black Live Matter); feminism; even sex, are not open for debate.
Cheerlessly, campus intellect-pursuit has fallen from a rich experience of dining….to simply eating. Meanwhile, it will lead to leftist ideology ruling over serious critical thought – without anyone realizing the difference. Proper scholarship is based on tolerance, openness and modesty.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of fire.” Soon, there will be days where such snark and contempt will drench campuses – where process and machinery will rule, smothering critical thought – without interruption.