Culture

Yale Offers a Tutorial in Higher-Education Indoctrination

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University (Photo: Jon Bilous/Dreamstime)
Colleges’ & universities’ newfound responsibility for the socialization of children leads to a diminished sense of their capacity for moral agency & a bolstered passivity.

Summer brings no respite for academics committed to campus purifications, particularly at the institution that is the leader in the silliness sweepstakes, Yale. Its Committee on Art in Public Spaces has discovered that a stone carving that has adorned an entrance to Sterling Memorial Library since it opened 86 years ago has become “not appropriate.”

The carving, according to Yale Alumni Magazine, depicts “a hostile encounter: a Puritan pointing a musket at a Native American.” Actually, the Native American and the Puritan are looking not hostilely at each other but into the distance. Still, one can’t be too careful, so the musket has been covered with stone. This is unilateral disarmament: The Native American’s weapon, a bow, has not been covered up. Perhaps Yale thinks that armed white men are more “triggering” (this academic-speak means “upsetting to the emotionally brittle”) than armed people of color. National Review Online’s Kyle Smith drolly worries that Yale might be perpetuating harmful stereotypes.

If such campus folderols merely added to what Samuel Johnson called “the public stock of harmless pleasure,” Americans could welcome a new academic year the way they once welcomed new burlesque acts. Unfortunately, the descent of institutions of learning into ludicrousness is symptomatic of larger social distempers that Frank Furedi has diagnosed abroad as well as in America.

Furedi is a professor emeritus in England and author of What’s Happened to the University?: A Sociological Exploration of Its Infantilization. Writing in The American Interest, he cites a warning issued to Oxford University postgraduate students about the danger of “vicarious trauma,” which supposedly results from “hearing about and engaging with the traumatic experiences of others.” This, Furedi says, is symptomatic of the “medicalization” of almost everything in universities that strive to be “therapeutic.” Universities are “promoting theories and practices that encourage people to interpret their anxieties, distress and disappointment through the language of psychological deficits.” This generates self-fulfilling diagnoses of emotionally fragile students. They demand mental-health services on campuses that are replete with “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” to insulate students from discomforts, such as the depiction of a musket. What academics perceive as “an expanded set of problems tracks right along with the exponential growth of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

The socialization of children, which prepares them to enter the wider world, has been shifted from parents to primary and secondary schools, and now to higher education, which has embraced the task that Furedi calls “re-socialization through altering the norms that undergraduates grew up with.” This is done by using speech codes and indoctrination to raise “awareness” about defects students acquired before coming to campuses that are determined to purify undergraduates.

Often, however, students arrive with little moral ballast bequeathed by parents who thought their role was, Furedi says, less to transmit values than to validate their children’s feelings and attitudes: “This emphasis on validation runs in tandem with a risk-averse regime of child-rearing, the (unintended) consequence of which has been to limit opportunities for the cultivation of independence and to extend the phase of dependence of young people on adult society.”

The therapeutic university’s language — students are ‘vulnerable’ to routine stresses and difficulties that are defined as ‘traumas’ — becomes self-fulfilling.

The therapeutic university’s language — students are “vulnerable” to routine stresses and difficulties that are defined as “traumas” — also becomes self-fulfilling. As a result, students experience a diminished sense of capacity for moral agency — for self-determination. This can make them simultaneously passive, immersing themselves into groupthink, and volatile, like the mobs at Middlebury College; Claremont McKenna College; University of California, Berkeley; and other schools that disrupt uncongenial speakers. Hence universities provide “trigger warnings” that facilitate flights into “safe spaces.” Furedi quotes an Oberlin College student who says: “There’s something to be said about exposing yourself to ideas other than your own,” but “I’ve had enough of that.”

Times do, however, change, as the Yale Alumni Magazine delicately intimated when it said the stone now obscuring the Puritan’s musket “can be removed in the future without damaging the original carving.” And the future has come with strange speed to New Haven.

In a peculiar letter in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, a Yale official says the university is removing the stone “that a construction project team had placed on the stonework.” By clearly suggesting, implausibly, that this “team” acted on its own, the letter contradicts the magazine’s report that the covering-up was done because the Committee on Art in Public Spaces deemed the carving “not appropriate.” The letter, which says the uncovered carving will be moved to where it can be studied and “contextualized,” speaks volumes about Yale’s context.

READ MORE:

Yale’s Disgraceful Whitewashing of History Continues

Yale’s Idiot Children

Calhoun and Yale: We Can’t Erase History — or Simplify It 

George Will — George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to ... Read More
Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More