Intellectual Sissies

University of Missouri Turmoil

Students dance following University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe’s resignation announcement Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at the school in Columbia, Mo. The president resigned Monday with the football team and others on campus in open revolt over his handling of racial tensions at the school. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

“Today free speech on campus is under attack from the students themselves.” Suzanne Fields

“If Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was the first shot in the culture wars, it has been followed by a barrage of bullets to silence free speech, spreading intolerance through ignorance, infantilizing students who want to be coddled rather than challenged.” Ibid

“Previous civilizations have been overthrown from without by the incursion of barbarian hordes. Christendom has dreamed up its own dissolution in the minds of its own intellectual elite. Our barbarians are home products, indoctrinated at the public expense, urged on by the media systematically stage by stage, dismantling Christendom, depreciating and deprecating all its values.” Malcolm Muggeridge, The End of Christendom, 17

Closing the American Mouth

Suzanne Fields, The Washington Times, November 16, 2015, p. 28

College kids do the darndest things. You send them away to open up their minds and they learn to close them, for themselves and for others. The tantrum generation just managed a left-wing coup at the University of Missouri, stifling freedom of expression and forcing out the president and chancellor of the university.

In his 1987 book, “The Closing of the American Mind,” Allan Bloom wrote a surprising bestseller demonstrating how college students are no longer exposed to the great books and that higher education impoverishes rather than enhances the intellect. Someone could write a sequel called “The Closing of the Ameri­can Mouth,” where political correctness silences dissent on campus, revealing a deep ignorance of many things, includ­ing the classic essays on behalf of free speech from John Milton and John Stuart Mill to the Bill of Rights. Ignorance breeds intolerance.

Once upon a time, panty raids and swallowing goldfish was the rite of pas­sage for sophomores, challenging author­ity on campus with innocence and high spirits. Student rebellion darkened with the free speech movement at the University of California in the 1960s. Today free speech on campus is under attack from the students themselves.

Protests at the University of Missouri started over concerns of racism, but moved quickly to suppress free speech for anyone who disagrees with the po­litically correct. The protestors tried to prevent student reporters from covering the story and a video gone viral shows Melissa Click, a professor of media in the department of communications, assisting the students challenging a photographer for the student newspaper, calling for help to chase him away; “I need some muscle over here.”

Her outburst took place in a space on campus that is specifically designated for free expression, and though she later apologized for her “language” and “strat­egy” and might have expected students to line up to take her course next semes­ter, she felt the better part of valor was to resign from the School of Journalism. Freedom of speech won that one.

Jonathan Chait of New York magazine compares the tactics of political correct­ness on campuses to traditional Marxist methods of repression, the ideology that “prioritizes class justice over individual rights and makes no allowance for legiti­mate disagreement.

At the University,of Missouri, con­cern, over racism became increasingly self-serving and selective. In calling for a 10 percent increase in black professors, for example, the offended students were not at all concerned by the dispropor­tionate number of black athletes on the football team, whose refusal to play was the tipping point for the resignations of the president and chancellor.

Proportional increases based on race are a double-edged and dangerous strategy. Columnist Victor Davis Hanson suggests wryly that such logic requires a rewrite of the dictum from George Or­well’s ‘Animal Farm”: “All hiring, admis­sion, arid participation shall reflect the racial diversity of the campus — except sports teams, given that sports is a far more important activity than scholarship and teaching and thus alone requires selection solely on legitimate criteria of merit.”

When and where you’re born deter-mines your politics, of course, but this generation of college students seems particularly fearful of thinking for themselves, and is quick to stifle debate on issues they oppose. A bizarre contro­versy over Halloween costumes at Vale is particularly to the point. Two Yale professors, Nicholas and Erika Christakis, husband and wife who are resident masters in a Yale dormitory, spoke up for the rational and. suffered abuse for not getting with the program.

Erika Christakis, a child development psychologist, lauds being inoffensive in selection of costumes of ghosts and goblins, but questioned administrative “control” of what could be “properly” worn. She asks, plaintively, “Is there no room anymore for a child or young per­son to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” She suggests taking personal responsibility in an appeal to “self-cen­sure” rather than seeking prohibitions from institutional author it v. For that she was reviled for sanctioning imaginative costumes that, could degrade and mar­ginalize minorities. Hundreds of students are now shouting offensive epithets and insults at the resident masters, demand­ing their ouster.

If Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind” was the first shot in the culture wars, it has been followed by a barrage of bullets to silence free speech, spreading intolerance through ignorance, infantilizing students who want to be coddled rather than challenged College was once a preparation for adulthood, where exposure to different points of view taught a student howr to think rather than what to think. Without the ability to reason and argue, they fall prey to thug-gish tactics. They become the narrow and intolerant force they rail against. Life gets complicated, as the Statler Brothers once sang, “when you get past 18.”

Suzanne Fields is a columnist for The Washington Times and is nationally syndicated


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