As a socialist radical in the early 70's I kept my fondness for football secret. Football players were known to be not-very-smart, getting special treatment and easy courses, and possessed of primitive attitudes. Ditto the girls who liked them. For the record, none of this was true at William and Mary, however true it may have been elsewhere. Still, I had national standards as a suburban hippie to uphold.
The quarterback from my high-school team went on to be the QB for Williams College, and we worked together briefly after graduation. I asked him why, with his clear hippie-freak leanings, he had continued to play ahem, football. "It was the only place on campus where everyone was working toward a common goal," he answered. "It was every-man-for-himself in classes and even in the dorms. I really liked the experience of being a team that worked together."
Not until much later did I realise that this is one of the things that people like about being in theater (or choir or dance) as well. The stereotype of actors as egotistical, rather full of themselves, is not a lie. I fit right in. Yet there is also that ensemble experience that is quite real. People are working together. Even through the traditional divide of the tech people versus the onstage people there is a sense of doing this together, and your success is my success as well. It's a nice experience to have.
When I read of the emphasis in Critical Studies on oppression and victimhood, and how that has infected even those academics who don't think of themselves as particularly in that camp, I wonder if we are undermining the ability of students to work together with people unlike themselves. When even those who roll their eyes a bit at Marxism and Critical Studies are still so focused on exploitation, commodification, and privilege, where does a student go to learn that cooperation is what has driven technological progress, trade routes, and the expansion of rights?
I don't want to paint this as binary. Oppressions and victimhoods have been part of teaching for all of my lifetime, and from what I read, for centuries before. Similarly, I may only be hearing the worst examples of what happens on campuses now. (Though there sure are a lot of them aren't there? Fresh crop every week, it seems.) I am not claiming that students used to get so much encouragement to see the world in terms of cooperation and now get absolutely none. Yet I worry if any erosion, even gradually and at the margins, does not eventually unfit some of them to go and work in the world and get things done with others. I have seen this in the students who come through my hospital - not all, but too many. They come even to internships and rotations with the idea that one of their great responsibilities is to challenge "wrong" attitudes at the hospital.
Well, there are still sports teams, some of the performing arts, and ROTC, as well as whatever jobs students might get for themselves. Those may have been the only places those lessons were taught anyway.