I didn’t want to go here but every time I’m out they pull me back in:
So much is broken in America. But higher education might be the most fractured institution of all.
This seems . . . implausible. But it gets much, much worse. I almost don’t know what to quote: it’s all so utterly absurd, and lacking in even a shred of evidence for the increasingly preposterous claims, unless a handful of cherry picked anecdotes, and citations to polls asking students about their feelings regarding how “free” the intellectual climate at their colleges is (hey I thought the whole idea was that we were supposed to be educating the snowflakes, not taking their literally sophomoric opinions on these sorts of questions seriously) count as evidence.
This might be my favorite nugget:
It’s not just that we are failing students as individuals; we are failing the nation. Our democracy is faltering, in significant part, because our educational system has become illiberal and is producing citizens and leaders who are incapable and unwilling to participate in the core activity of democratic governance.
Somebody typed this out and thought it sounded true and good and insightful. Somebody who was and is a university president!
I am, needless to say, far from averse to structural and systemic criticisms of American higher education, which has a lot of economic and social dysfunctions, exactly none of which have anything to do with that banh mi sandwich at Oberlin (You didn’t think you were going to get through this post without reading the word Oberlin did you?).
But this kind of, dare I say, virtue signaling in America in 2021 manages to achieve something close to a Platonic ideal of misdiagnosing the causes of illiberalism in contemporary American life.
I recommend reading the thing, if only as an object lesson in the ability of our most ludicrously self-regarding and mawkishly preening intellectuals to perform otherwise anatomically impossible acts. Look at this list:
Our project began with a small gathering of those concerned about the state of higher education—Niall Ferguson, Bari Weiss, Heather Heying, Joe Lonsdale, Arthur Brooks, and I—and we have since been joined by many others, including the brave professors mentioned above, Kathleen Stock, Dorian Abbot and Peter Boghossian.
We count among our numbers university presidents: Robert Zimmer, Larry Summers, John Nunes, and Gordon Gee, and leading academics, such as Steven Pinker, Deirdre McCloskey, Leon Kass, Jonathan Haidt, Glenn Loury, Joshua Katz, Vickie Sullivan, Geoffrey Stone, Bill McClay, and Tyler Cowen.
We are also joined by journalists, artists, philanthropists, researchers, and public intellectuals, including Lex Fridman, Andrew Sullivan, Rob Henderson, Caitlin Flanagan, David Mamet, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sohrab Ahmari, Stacy Hock, Jonathan Rauch, and Nadine Strossen.
Sohrab Ahmari is a very open theocratic fascist, to linger for a moment on the CV of one of these eminences. The notion that people like him are committed to pluralistic intellectual inquiry is exactly as plausible as the claim that Boniface VIII was open to pluralistic intellectual inquiry if you just squint right.
OK I just can’t any more.
. . . I regret to report the death of parody, after a beating of such severity that no rhetorical device could survive it: