The idea of the campus as a stronghold of leftwing extremism and authoritarian censoriousness stands in stark contrast to what’s happening inside the classroom
There is no getting around the fact that American Jews have fears surrounding their own safety. Synagogue doors are kept locked at all times. Members have the code to unlock the doors. Hired security and police monitor their buildings. And what they hear from who they thought were theire friends and allies is something between silence and condemnations
Wonderful piece. I teach in India now, after many years spent in US academia. Your description of the classroom brought back a rich set of memories! And it points to pedagogical norms and practices which we urgently need in India, in order to navigate a very polarised landscape here.
Woah woah. How many times you categorized these extremist simply as the left or liberals was pretty astonishing! 😳 These lost progressives are no more liberals than conservatives are MAGA lol. Please don’t smear all of us with that horrible brush! Ty 🙂
It's so bizarre to me that the very "supposed" threat of "woke" college students have suffered pretty disproportionate responses to their speech, like loss of job offers and positions of leadership. Yet, none of the Connor Friedersdorf types say a word about "cancel culture." It's almost as if these are deeply unserious, intellectually dishonest grifters who should be ignored, if not ridiculed and scorned...
I understand that students may not be acting in extreme fashion within the classroom. However, I have heard first-hand accounts from students who have been intimidated and are concerned about the extremism and insulting language outside the classroom by their classmates.
Capitalist civilization is undergoing a protracted but accelerating collapse, in the face of converging planetary crises that no one needs me to enumerate here. In the face of which, academic institutions are some of the only remaining, nominally independent, prestigious sources of social power that might conceivably emerge to challenge the chokehold of capital and its forced march of human societies over the brink of planetary apocalypse. Accordingly, reactionaries view all expressions of opposition from such quarters with understandable alarm.
I was escorted off a SUNY campus by 2 State security guards for a college radio broadcast inside the FCC safe harbor zone my 42 USC 1983 action 28 USC 1331 a civil action arising under the 14th A US Const. incorporating the 1st A US Const. was unsuccessful all the way to the USSCt . Jurisdictional grounds the station all assets owned by the SUNY franchised school including the FCC broadcast license was deemed a private property enterprise that cannot be sued under section 1983 and therefore free to censor; and that the college board is protected under the 11th A. US Const. A story unto itself no one was interested in when it happened circa 2005 nor today. The driving force of the student run station was and is Student loans - if you want to get ahead then obey; in joint engagement with a "hate speech" policy adopted by the college board . The president then was a woman whose expertise was "behavior modification" - In contrast to the era alluded to in the piece by Thomas Zimmer students had actually overthrown the administration building at this campus during the Viet Nam war - i.e., the driving force then and we don't want ROTC etc. and the station and college newspapers were supposed to be hands off by the board, that was the settlement. Nolens Volens the driving force is always self-preservation. My immediate point is that this sort of thing has been going on for a long time and the chief worker of the necromancy was The Clinton Administration - i.e., The Democratic-republican single party monolith particularly those to the Left of the hyphen and why they loved RayGun so much e.g., Berkeley, Peoples Park jail Leary so he won't be able to get on the ticket &c. The invidious aspect of it is no one knows until it happens directly to them individually like - a draft notice or your loan payment is overdue. Most people subject to what happened to me knuckle under and submit to it because the difference between now and way back then there is debt doesn't literally kill you.
Thanks for a report from the classroom and for tackling truly difficult topics in your courses. In the battle against ignorance, misrepresentation and oversimplification vie with laziness and apathy as chief enemies. Facts and reason show the way to truth.
Nothing tragic about it. Intentional outrage bait promoted by prestige journalists who know better. But WaPo & NYT are run by clickwhores now
Thanks for this. I have had an uneasy “can this be true?” spidey-sense about the “what’s going on on college campuses” narrative. It smacks of the “antifa” drumbeat we experienced in 2020.
By some estimates, there are about 6,000 colleges and universities in the US with about 18 million undergraduate and graduate students. To define what's happening on college campuses by only looking at a very, very small number of them is no different than going to the diner in the midwest and talking to one or two Trump supporters. I'm a recently retired academic who taught in Texas, Tennessee and Connecticut over my career at large and medium sized institutions. My experiences in the classroom and on campus were similar to those described in the essay. Students don't always agree but they also are not radicalized. Faculty do a pretty good job of letting students express their opinions but do not allow personal insults or attacks. If you think faculty can radicalize students I'd remind you to think about trying to persuade your own children about something. Do your children follow your positions lock step and never question your opinions?
So how do you interpret pro-Israeli actions, since you claim that Palestinians have the same right to peace and safety, yet Israel has clearly violated this right in their attacks against Hamas?
I'm intrigued that you bring up FIRE here (president: Greg Lukianoff). That organization sponsored the podcast series "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling," put out by Bari Weiss’s Free Press, promoting the image of J.K. Rowling as an unfairly criticized, beleaguered, well-meaning, reasonable person who has most lamentably been submitted to a witch trial. I dissected the seven-hour podcast series for an article I wrote last April. I noticed that, in Episode 3, there's an audio clip that sounds like a protest chant although no names, organizations, locations, or dates are given, and in Episode 4, we hear a similar thing, now with someone yelling “Burn in hell!,” but again no context notes for who-what-when-where-why. J.K. Rowling intended this audio to illustrate her claim that the mob has come after her — and I do mean *illustrate*, as in, dramatize or give an artist's rendering (even if the clip came from a real event), because she doesn't say that this particular audio clip was of a crowd chasing *her*. For listeners, the audio speaks to our cognitive template of *a* chanting crowd. And because we're listening to a podcast called "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling," we're likely to make the connection that this is an actual crowd that came after her — even though she never directly identifies who was chanting, what they were chanting about, nor alleges that they were within a thousand miles of her. I think this supports your idea here. The anti-cancel culture discourse depends on its audience believing cancel culture is a real phenomenon, in a pervasive and extreme sense, and operating with the default assumption that everyone on the center and right is being canceled (silenced and persecuted) all the time. If the audience is credulous enough, those who complain about "cancel culture" won't have to discuss the facts of what actually happened. They can just caricature "the mob," which is automatically understood to be a real, dangerous group, even though the original alleged incident may have involved two preteens interacting with three bots on social media, or no one at all.
Glad to read this first hand experience.
Fantastic! Thank you. This narrative has been driving me nuts and reading your piece was a glass of water in the desert.
I was a student at Georgetown University in the late 2000s. And I attended college with campus population overwhelming composed of... normies. If anything, I was a little disappointed at the aggressive conventionality of my fellow Hoyas. We all dressed the same, talked the same, and thought the same things were "awesome." I found it a little stultifying, to be honest. "Where is all this lively diversity of views I keep hearing about?" I wondered, a little disappointed at the lack of unhinged Leftists, far-right edge-lords, Anarcho-Syndicalists, and other colorfully outspoken people briefly interrupting our inevitable march towards an exciting career in investment banking, management consulting, or some such thing. That's not to say that there weren't a few oddballs on the Hilltop: At least one I knew became one of Trump's leading election-denying lawyer henchmen (so, rather the opposite of the Leftist Campus Stereotype). But, in general, we were a pretty inter-changable group of smart "future leaders" who wouldn't rattle the cage much.
Ever since then, I have just been increasingly flabbergasted by this depiction of The Youth--first, we Millennials, and now the Gen Z kids--as far more radical (and, frankly, less boring) a group than we actually are. I guess having Twitter Brain encourages this narrative and it certainly *gets the people going* out there because audiences never tire of reading and hearing about it. But, I mean, look around you: do almost half of the US population who are Millennial or Gen Z the descriptor that commentators are constantly assigning to them in these strawman Opinion pieces? Is everyone under 40 at your job this way? Are your own kids or grandkids?
No, right? Most people you know are about as exciting as you, yourself, are. Which means (no offense) probably not very exciting! They have zero opinions on any of the things that the Obsessively Online Conservatives are hate-reading all day. They have never been to a protest, much less organized a chapter of Antifa or Extinction Rebellion. They have never "cancelled" anybody. They don't like some opinions and prefer others, like any one else, but don't center their existence around these preferences. If pressed, they may have slightly more progressive views on certain social issues than people 30-60 years older. But, also, a lot of them don't! People younger than middle age are just... normal. Like you and me and most everyone else.
I know this is incredibly disappointing for both the actually-extremely-small group of true-believer Leftists and their increadibly-much-larger group of critics. But this is the mundane reality. And it was true even during more radical periods than our own. My dad made a journalism career of covering the Baby Boomer Counter-Culture. And, at the time, it was abundantly clear that for every anti-war youth or alternative lifestyle purveyor, there was an equal-and-opposite "Real American" with close-cropped hair and unyielding adherence to tradition. Many people today wonder how the Hippies could have all settled down and become Reaganite suburban Conservatives. The answer is that they didn't. They weren't the same people. Most Baby Boomers weren't Hippies and viewed the odd phenomenon from the same bemused remove that we do, in retrospect, a fact that eludes our received wisdom about the 1960s. The majority of Baby Boomers were, in fact, exactly as conventional as the aforementioned Millennials and Gen Z kids today. My mom, for example, was a Baby Boomer coming from the kind of educated, upper-middle-class, Northeastern, Republican-voting family that doesn't so much exist anymore. She, like most of the other nice girls in their town, supported Barry Goldwater in 1964. She eventually became a professor, but not one of these "Anti-American" ones, and is pretty solidly Centrist on most every political issue, despite, at one point, diverging from her parents sometime along the way and reliably voting for Democrats. But she never equalled the outspoken, working-class radicalism of my Silent Generation-born dad. He was an outlier among his generation and people like him are outliers today. I honestly wish half of the fever dreams of Conservatives were true and that Left-leaning troublemakers like my dad were anywhere near as prevalent as The Discourse seems to believe, because at least then our politics wouldn't be so stagnant! Instead, the vanguard of educated youth is much more like the Hoya Bros I went to school with: mostly not out to change a damn thing, except for their future earning potential.