The Corner


The Academic Left Has Learned Nothing

One might think that scholars would be willing to entertain the idea that their actions have been counterproductive. Doctors, after all, have examined beliefs they held about how to treat disease and sometimes discarded them as badly mistaken. But in the insulated world of higher education, especially in the soft academic fields, you seldom find any such self-criticism. Exhibit A: The way the Left has reacted to the election of Donald Trump. Despite plenty of evidence that one reason why Trump won states the “progressives” figured were theirs was that many voters had been turned off by the rhetoric coming from American campuses, academic leftists have dug in their heels. “We aren’t the problem,” they scream. “The rest of you are!”

That’s the gist of this Martin Center article by University of North Carolina senior Alex Contarino.

He focuses first on a revealing Association of American Colleges and Universities meeting in January. AAC&U president Lynn Pasquerella opined that Americans who didn’t support Hillary have fallen for “anti-intellectualism” and that the goal of the academic community should be “to destabilize the attitudes at the basis of proposals that devalue education.” In the world of the left-wing academic, the problem is that too many backward-thinking Americans devalue education.

At that meeting, Michael Roth of Wesleyan University suggested that the academic community should consider learning more how non-leftists think. But that idea fell on deaf ears. Tolerance and understanding were not on the menu for the rest of the conference. Instead, attendees were regaled with panels like “Reclaiming the Racial Narrative.” In other words, double down on haranguing Americans about their horrible attitudes as the cause of so many of our problems.

Turning to UNC, Contarino sees angry leftist students and faculty members proudly proclaiming their moral righteousness. He writes that “identity-obsessed lectures and workshops remain popular events across the University of North Carolina system. For example, at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Anthropology Department is hosting a ‘Race, Difference, Power’ colloquium in early March.” That’s the progressives’ obsession and they’re sticking with it. Question it and you must be one of those terrible anti-intellectuals.

Perhaps the red-hot rhetoric and tactics of the academic Left are causing some students to sour on them. “Speaking as a current UNC-Chapel Hill student,” Contarino writes, “I can attest that most students — which even includes some of my friends who used to ‘Feel the Bern’ — find the constant policing of ‘problematic language’ and the progressive outrage machine to be tiresome and off-putting.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.