By Cathy Keim
“What did it profit that I read the greatest human ideas of the so-called ‘liberal arts’ in the books I got hold of. My thinking was enslaved to corrupt desires, so what difference did it make that I could read and understand these books? I delighted in learning, but I had no divine context for what my mind picked up. I had no foundation to discern what is true or certain. I was standing with my back to the light, so that the things that should be illuminated were in shadow, even though they were in front of my face.” ― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
Last week I attended a talk on marriage by Msg. Charles Pope. His message was excellent, but one thought that he tossed out at the very end in response to a worried parent’s question about their child keeping the faith in college really hit me. He opined that going to college might not be the best choice anymore because the college campus has become a cesspool. (In the context of marriage, the hook up culture certainly qualifies as a cesspool that is damaging many young peoples’ futures emotionally.) But he further clarified his comment by pointing out that St. Augustine observed that one cannot learn truth when one’s mind is consumed with lust. Thus, Msg. Pope concluded that the current depraved moral state of universities might render them unsuitable places for a young person to study with any hope of actually learning what is good and true.
Victor Davis Hanson writes that:
The truth is that the university is a dysfunctional institution. Free speech no longer exists. Trigger warnings, micro-aggressions, and safe zones have created a climate of fear and bullying on campus. Affirmative action criteria emulate the abhorrent “one-drop” rule of the Old Confederacy. Campus identity is defined by race and gender, but never class. Annual hikes in tuition exceed the rate of inflation. Faculty are paid widely asymmetrical compensation for instruction of the identical class, depending on archaic institutions like tenure and seniority. Non-teaching personnel have soared. Graduate PhD programs have proliferated, even as jobs for their graduates have shrunk. Undergraduate university graduation rates have declined. College graduates are assumed to earn high-paying jobs; but the dismal rate of bachelor’s degrees translating into employment commensurate with staggering college costs and student-loan debt would prompt federal investigations of fraud and false advertising in any other institution.”
The next day I received an email from a friend with the link to James O’Keefe’s undercover videos of college officials destroying copies of the Constitution because a “student” felt offended by it.
I was rather perplexed as to why James O’Keefe would have chosen that stunt for his newest expose, but next we have the outrageous behavior at Mizzou.
Then I received the following piece from a young acquaintance about PC behavior run amok on modern liberal arts college campuses.
Liberal arts schools all over the country have apparently gone insane. At Claremont McKenna College, a young woman has been publicly shamed, plastered all over the internet, and had to resign her position as junior class president not for verbally or physically attacking or belittling someone, not for bandying about racial slurs, and not even for personally wearing a Halloween costume deemed “offensive,” “racist,” or “culturally appropriative” by the People Who Decide Such Things. No, no – she committed the thought crime of (horror of horrors!) posing for a picture with two people whose costumes could be considered crass and stereotypical. And so, for the insubstantial, subjective “crime” of hurting people’s feelings, even though she herself was not wearing a costume that could be offensive to anyone aside from those who enjoy decent music, this girl gets her photo posted and re-posted, gets to be the subject of mockery and derision around the world, and is forced to resign her position because the Student Body President believes she can no longer “effectively represent students in her class.” Remember, though, that while CMC has become a decidedly “unsafe space” for her, she is the “aggressor” and villain here.
Meanwhile, at Yale, that shining paragon of intellectualism, two professors are on the mob-rule chopping block for an even more intellectual and intangible thought crime: the opinion – conveyed in a measured, respectful email – that maybe, just maybe, the annual PC clamor over Halloween costumes is overblown. This “hateful” email triggered an immediate call for these professors to resign their positions, and even resulted in some students claiming that they could not bear to live on Yale’s campus anymore because they felt “unsafe.” Just watch this video and remember: the meek, bespectacled professor standing calmly in a crowd of students is the villain; the “brave” young woman hurling abuse and profanity in his face, while gesturing wildly in a way that seems to indicate she is a hair-trigger away from physically attacking him, is a social justice warrior, and, therefore, our hero.
I’d like to ask a question: let’s theoretically postulate that these individuals, this CMC student and these Yale professors, have, as their detractors seem to be assuming, the worst of intentions. Let’s accept, for the sake of argument, that all three are inveterate racists, but change none of the other facts in these scenarios. What is an appropriate “punishment” for their behavior? Should they be fired from their jobs? Lose their scholarships? Be kicked out of school? Should their insensitive photos and meekly worded (er, I mean, “hateful”) emails follow them for the rest of their lives, affecting their employment prospects, their dating lives, and everything else they do for the rest of forever? Does relatively inoffensive or even meek, non-confrontational “racism” justify the permanently life-altering consequences this kind of public shaming entails? I’d honestly like to know, because the more I see internet lynch mobs tear apart their prey, the more it astounds me that, although the Modern Illiberal Left has disavowed things like the death penalty and demanded second, third, and fourth chances for all manner of criminality, thought crime is seemingly the one offense for which the punishment must be absolute and for which there is no mercy.
Finally, I’d like to end with a reminder that most of the “social justice warriors” who jump into these things seem to forget: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. PC is not an ideology that remains static, and while you might be comfortably ensconced in the “enlightened” crowd right now, how long before the wheel turns and you find that an opinion or two of your own is no longer popular or PC? From my recollection, many of my old college friends who posted the CMC Halloween costume story with positive and socially conscious affirmation, likely have Facebook photos lurking from seven years ago of themselves in costumes and/or situations that, stripped of any context, could make them appear racist, insensitive, or culturally appropriative. I wonder how many of them think on the fact that their own lives could have been irrevocably altered and their reputations destroyed – all for nothing more than a Halloween costume.
The universities have a stranglehold on our young people due to the diploma being required for many jobs and professions. One wonders though if the insanity has reached the tipping point where parents and students will refuse to enslave themselves to outrageous school loan debt in order to attend these cesspools?
Update: Turmoil at CMC continued last Thursday “with the resignation of Dean of Students Mary Spellman, who had angered students with her email to a Latina student saying she would work to serve those who “don’t fit our CMC mold.” Spellman later apologized.” (Emphasis mine.) Dean Spellman’s mistake was to upset the sensitive student that she sought to help by sending an email that was deemed insufficiently politically correct thus outraging the student more.
(Editor’s note: watch for Part 2 tomorrow evening.)