The Corner

Politics & Policy

Higher Education Busy Stripping away the Veneer of Civilization

Educators like to talk about “teachable moments” and there was one of them on March 2 at the campus of Middlebury College in Vermont.

The well-known scholar and author Charles Murray had been invited to speak at the school, to discuss issues in his book, Coming Apart, which is about the increasing class divisions in white America. Despite admonitions from the pristinely liberal administration that they must not disrupt Murray’s talk, a throng of students shouted him down with childish chants. Later, when Murray and Professor Allison Stanger, who had introduced him and tried to moderate the event, were leaving, they were beset upon by a crazed mob of protesters. Stanger suffered a neck injury before they could get into the car. Then the mob surrounded the vehicle, pounding on it while screaming obscenities. Finally they were able to drive away, expecting to enjoy a quiet dinner, but that too had to be canceled when the mob found out where. Rather than endure any more of this relentless thuggishness, Murray left town and Stanger went to the hospital.

All of that happened at a normally quiet liberal-arts college. I explore the how and why of it in my Martin Center article today.

College education used to strengthen civilization by making students more tolerant, more willing to consider opposing views, and opposed to the use of violence. Today, it increasingly does the opposite, stripping away the veneer of civilization by instilling a tribal mentality among some students by telling them that everything “progressive” is good and everything that questions it must be bad. Therefore, there is no need even to listen to someone like Charles Murray (smeared by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white supremacist’) much less debate his ideas. He’s in the bad tribe and therefore fair game for abuse and physical assault.

Leftist-infused institutions across the land are helping to train brigades of Social Justice Warrior–types who know nothing about America except the clichés they’ve been taught to believe. They’re becoming more and more dangerous.

One of the most instructive points in Orwell’s 1984 was the way the rulers used the Two Minute Hate to keep the people’s support by whipping up fury against an imaginary villain. We saw the same phenomenon at Middlebury, except that it was directed at a real (and non-villainous) person and it lasted more like two hours.

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


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