Thursday, December 03, 2015

Campus Controversies

I have to keep reminding myself that I should be concerned about this, as Son #5 commutes to college and has already been shown "The Hunting Ground" in an English class. I think I have been counting on his experience in the Reserves, plus his expectation of going ROTC as a protective factor, but I may be overestimating that. If Kyle goes to UNH Durham in the fall I might grow more concerned, as the total environment might be more in play.

Still, it's hard for me to worry about it every day, even though campus outrages are common fare at both Maggie's Farm and Instapundit, which I go to often, as well as a dozen other sites I visit less frequently. I agree, it is hard to take some of the students, professors, administrators and hangers-on all that seriously sometimes, yet I keep assuming the barbarians are in the minority and everyone else mostly goes about their business of teaching and learning.  I am perhaps naive.

I think the obvious things have been said many times, yet there is one thing that is danced around that perhaps should be said more bluntly.  In the demands for diversity, and avoiding all cisnormative, patriarchal, western, and white dominance of the curriculum, there seems to be an an assumption by the students (and even the faculty) that there is some other choice. I wonder if this comes from the over-compensation in elementary textbooks, which have long included B and C-list accomplishments of Latinas or Africans as if they were essentially equal to those of some dead white males, so that those in traditionally disenfranchised groups have some role models and feelings of efficacy. These students go to college believing that there must be people from Their Group who were just as accomplished as the ones they are being forced to study.

I don't think that's a terrible thing for children.  Shading an absolute ranking in every field in order to instill hope and spare feelings, creating a rising tide for all boats, is reasonable when applied judiciously. Yet I wonder if it has created the false impression that there has been something entirely arbitrary about who we honor, as if there were some equally impressive lists of female mathematicians, black inventors, or chicana poets that we just refuse to talk about because we're bigots.

But really, who would those people be? 

It has been a great exercise to try and find these, because there are of course people from less-favored or less-expected groups who did things which deserve mention. We might further argue that because of prejudices in many times and many places, there should have been, and would have been talented people who were not allowed to show their full powers.  Yet that is also true even in the favored groups.  We can't always honor mere potential.  At some point we have to honor accomplishment. Female writers, especially of fiction, provide a respectable list on their own, with no need for a handicap. You could indeed make an all-star team out of accomplished thinkers and doers from the nonmale, noneuropean, nonwhatevers of the world.  China in particular could provide a lot of nominees. I suppose if you are gay it is inspiring to know that there were guys like Turing. But building your whole sense of self-esteem on people who can check the same boxes you do seems like a sure-fire way to feel miserable about yourself forever.


RichardJohnson said...

I keep assuming the barbarians are in the minority and everyone else mostly goes about their business of teaching and learning. I am perhaps naive.

It is probably a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. And when the grease means initiatives from campus administrators and government, we get problems.

There is an interesting comment at Heterodox Academy about the screaming SJW student at Yale. The Yale Problem Begins in High School.
But reports out of Yale do not suggest a politically correct orthodoxy imposed by activists on the students body generally. Quite the contrary. The activists seem to be personally unhappy and alienated from the general student body. Several of their “demands” (including universal sensitivity training) indicate that alienation. And very few Yale students are reported to have actively participated in the problematic events there. For example, the screaming student certainly has not received general support from other Yalies: She reportedly had to take down her Facebook and other social media pages because the response – including from other Yale students – was so immediate and overwhelmingly negative. I can’t tell from the video of the Christakis screaming incident what the number of finger snappers was, but it does not seem to have been large

What many SJWs neglect in looking at the paucity of women in many historical lists of prominent people is that women filled the role of household managers. The care of 5-10 children took a lot more time than caring for 2. Before the advent of labor saving devices for the household, such as washing machines and refrigerators [not to mention electricity], household affairs took a lot more time than they do today. Even when the family was upper class, where the wife didn't do the washing or cooking herself, managing the crew of household servants could be a full time job.

Not that men necessarily had it much better. My parents had a book of turn of the century cartoons which I perused during my childhood. One cartoon that stuck in my mind was the one where the woman says this to her husband: "Here you are working in a nice cool sewer all day while I slave over this hot stove."

Sam L. said...

Yes, those are in the minority, but they are the active, NOISY, PUSHY minority. See squeaky wheel and grease saying.

Identity politics all the time is mind-numbing...which may be a purpose or just a desired side-effect.

Ignorance of the past, now, I'm pretty sure that's a desired effect. After all, we presume people like us live pretty much the same way we do and think the same ways; that presumption is DEAD WRONG. (Having lived in various places and visited many others, that's been my experience. Example of one, but still...

james said...

I'm relatively insulated, since I don't work much directly with students.

What I've seen is that incoming students have an orientation session at which they must burn their pinch of incense, and afterwards when the subjects with prescribed answers come up in random conversation, the students by and large tend to give the expected answers. Whether that's because of the university environment or the general cultural climate I can't tell. But those topics tend not to come up very often in the STEM fields. I can't say much about Arts and Humanities. Or Law--I've been over there a time or three and the groups posting on the bulletin boards suggest that the place turns out reliably progressive lawyers.