Highly recommended reading: “On Political Correctness”

The American Scholar is the house magazine of the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society, with the journal’s name taken from a speech given to that society by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837.  It’s published a number of distinguished articles, but a new one stands out: “On political correctness: Power, class, and the new campus religion“. It’s by William Deresiewicz, a widely published author and literary critic; and I wish I’d written the piece.

It’s long, and covers a lot of territory, but I highly recommend it. Its thesis is that “political correctness”, which Deresiewicz defines as “the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas”, is proliferating in American private universities (not so much in public ones), and has many pernicious effects, including these

  • Homogenizing the student body, so that anyone with dissident views (read: conservatives, religious people, moderate feminists, pro-Israelis) is afraid to express them for fear of being demonized
  • Turning liberals into a group unable to defend its own arguments
  • Masking “deeply legitimate concerns” about racism and sexism by diverting them into trivial channels about microaggression, trigger warnings, language policing, and so on
  • Completely ignoring class differences, which aren’t the subject of the campus liberal agenda
  • The perpetuation of class differences by “laundering privilege”: preferentially accepting students who are largely well off, and from the upper classes
  • Turning private colleges into “socialization machines for the upper-middle class, ideological enforcers of progressive dogma.”
  • Suppressing free speech, coming with the presumption that liberals know what speech can and should be suppressed. This leads to the inability to make progress (see below):

Now many of these ideas aren’t new, but Deresiewicz has a new take on them. He himself is a liberal, but decries the authoritarian mentality of today’s students—and their professors. You may disagree with some of Deresiewicz’s arguments, but I found this a fascinating and compelling read. There are so many good ideas and quotable sentences in it that I can’t even give a flavor of the piece by quoting excerpts. I’ll give just two:

What does it mean to say that these institutions are religious schools? First, that they possess a dogma, unwritten but understood by all: a set of “correct” opinions and beliefs, or at best, a narrow range within which disagreement is permitted. There is a right way to think and a right way to talk, and also a right set of things to think and talk about. Secularism is taken for granted. Environmentalism is a sacred cause. Issues of identity—principally the holy trinity of race, gender, and sexuality—occupy the center of concern. The presiding presence is Michel Foucault, with his theories of power, discourse, and the social construction of the self, who plays the same role on the left as Marx once did. The fundamental questions that a college education ought to raise—questions of individual and collective virtue, of what it means to be a good person and a good community—are understood to have been settled. The assumption, on elite college campuses, is that we are already in full possession of the moral truth. This is a religious attitude. It is certainly not a scholarly or intellectual attitude.

Dogma, and the enforcement of dogma, makes for ideological consensus. Students seldom disagree with one another anymore in class, I’ve been told about school after school. The reason, at least at Whitman, said one of the students I talked to there, is mainly that they really don’t have any disagreements. Another added that when they take up an issue in class, it isn’t, let’s talk about issue X, but rather, let’s talk about why such-and-such position is the correct one to have on issue X. When my student wrote about her churchgoing friend, she said that she couldn’t understand why anyone would feel uncomfortable being out as a religious person at a place as diverse as Scripps. But of course, Scripps and its ilk are only diverse in terms of identity. In terms of ideology, they are all but homogeneous. You don’t have “different voices” on campus, as these institutions like to boast; you have different bodies, speaking with the same voice.

That, by the way, is why liberal students (and liberals in general) are so bad at defending their own positions. They never have to, so they never learn to. That is also why it tends to be so easy for conservatives to goad them into incoherent anger. Nothing makes you more enraged than an argument you cannot answer. But the reason to listen to people who disagree with you is not so you can learn to refute them. The reason is that you may be wrong. In fact, you are wrong: about some things and probably about a lot of things. There is zero percent chance that any one of us is 100 percent correct. That, in turn, is why freedom of expression includes the right to hear as well as speak, and why disinviting campus speakers abridges the speech rights of students as well as of the speakers themselves.

If you want to see an example of a well-schooled conservative shredding the views of unthinking Leftists, simply look at some of conservative writer and speaker Ben Shapiro’s videos on YouTube. It’s cringe-inducing, but is a perfect example of what Deresiewicz says in the last paragraph. Shapiro has done his homework (not that I agree with most of what he says), while his questioning opponents are simply mouthing pieties of the Left that they haven’t examined.

And the piece’s end:

Selective private colleges are the training grounds of the liberal elite, and the training in question involves not only formal education for professional success, but also initiation into the folkways of the tribe.

Which means that fancy private colleges have a mission public institutions don’t. People arrive at public schools from a wide range of social locations, and they return to a range that is nearly as wide. The institutional mission is to get them through and into the job market, not to turn them into any particular kind of person. But selective private colleges (which also tend to be a lot smaller than public schools) are in the business of creating a community and, beyond that, a class. “However much diversity Yale’s freshman classes may have,” as one of my students once put it, “its senior classes have far less.”

And this, I believe, is one of the sources of the new revolt among students of color at elite private colleges and universities. The expectation at those institutions has always been that the newcomers whom they deign to admit to the ranks of the blessed, be they Jews in the 1950s or African Americans today, will assimilate to the ways of the blessed. That they will become, as people say, “more white.” That bargain, as uncomfortable as it has always been, was more readily accepted in the past. For various reasons, it seems that it no longer is. Students of color are telling the whites who surround them, No, we aren’t like you, and what’s more, we don’t want to be like you. As very different as their outlook is from that of the white working class, their rejection of the liberal elite is not entirely dissimilar.

Selective private colleges need to decide what kind of places they want to be. Do they want to be socialization machines for the upper-middle class, ideological enforcers of progressive dogma? Or do they want to be educational institutions in the only sense that really matters: places of free, frank, and fearless inquiry? When we talk about political correctness and its many florid manifestations, so much in the news of late, we are talking not only about racial injustice and other forms of systemic oppression, or about the coddling of privileged youth, though both are certainly at play. We are also talking, or rather not talking, about the pathologies of the American class system. And those are also what we need to deal with.

h/t: John T.

41 Comments

  1. Cindy
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    That, by the way, is why liberal students (and liberals in general) are so bad at defending their own positions. They never have to, so they never learn to. That is also why it tends to be so easy for conservatives to goad them into incoherent anger

    I remember a time when, as a liberal, I could mock conservatives for being unable to counter my arguments with anything other than ‘but muh feelz’.

    Religious, overly emotional right-wingnuts still exist, of course, it’s just that they are not front and center right now.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      +1.

      This article has explained a few things for me that I hadn’t quite worked out on my own. One is what Cindy expresses. I’ve noticed an incoherent anger amongst some younger liberals I never understood (and also find very hard work). This explains it a bit. They know they’re right, but they don’t really know why. Others just accept the prevailing “wisdom” of the group without thinking about the position – “the hijab is a feminist statement” is an example of this.

      I’ve also wondered why NZ universities don’t seem as affected as the US. This article explains it might be partly because all our universities are public and have large student bodies. (We don’t have sports scholarships either.)

      • Muffy
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        I’ve noticed an incoherent anger amongst some younger liberals I never understood

        This seems to be a relatively new phenomenom too, at least, the mainstreamification (I totally just made this word up) of this ‘incoherent anger’.

        I ignored politics all together until Stephen mini-Bush Harper ran for a majority government in 2011. I feared Harper the way US Liberals fear Trump. I began by reading right-wing Canadian sites (in an attempt to understand right wingers), where the regulars were all gun-loving, anti-abortion, pro-theocracy nutjobs. They are the mirror image of what we are seeing today from illiberal leftists. Authoritarian, angry, completely incoherent and illogical, and obsesesd with the idea that ‘libtards’ seek to oppress them with ‘degeneracy’.

        Anyway, I digress. I first wandered onto FreeThoughtBlogs, and I only lasted a few months, as they too did not behave much better than the RWNJs that I had observed up here in Canada. I then discovered Patheos blogs, and specifically, Love Joy Feminism and The Friendly Atheist. I commented on both blogs for a 2-3 year period, and for a while it was possible to have a mature conversation and to express dissenting views. Over time, however, the regulars on both blogs became increasingly intolerant of any difference of opinion. It got really really bad during the election, and now I have given up on Patheos in entirety, as it exists as an echo chamber.

        I wonder how much of an influence the recent US Federal election has had on the spread of illiberal leftism? Perhaps it was always there, but since they felt secure under Obama, people simply did not get as angry when their views were challenged? Now they feel, in some cases, that they are literally fighting for their lives? That their entire worldview is now being threatened, that they don’t have arguments (they’ve just been secure in the knowledge that they are right) and that this scares them?

        P.S. I really, honestly, thought it was the end of the world when Harper won his majority. I thought for sure that he would run Canada like a fascist state and that he’d be in power for the next 30+ years. I was wrong. You guys are gonna survive Trump. Be strong!

        • Cindy
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          OOps. Muffy is Cindy.

          Was logged in using my old screen-name!

        • Jim Smith
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

          It is not the liberal left. It is the authoritarian left. As a member of the liberal left I cannot stand them. They are fundamentallists, everything is black and white with these idiots.

        • Zach
          Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          I commented on both blogs for a 2-3 year period, and for a while it was possible to have a mature conversation and to express dissenting views. Over time, however, the regulars on both blogs became increasingly intolerant of any difference of opinion. It got really really bad during the election, and now I have given up on Patheos in entirety, as it exists as an echo chamber.

          Strange… this almost exactly mirrors my experience on a blog I recently stopped visiting. While it was always left-leaning, there were usually a few valuable commenters that contributed mild, relatively right-wing points. No longer. The place is an echo chamber filled with hysterical reverse-race-baiters.

          You don’t even have to disagree with them. And I rarely did. But when I tried, on two occasions, to point out that there actually are worse people in the world than American conservatives (it’s an American site) and that they ought to maintain some perspective when talking about American xenophobia (worse people: Nazis) and religious zealotry (worse people: jihadists), I could almost feel the cognitive dissonance vibrate through my monitor. Their responses were downright unhinged.

          So… I gave up.

          • Cindy
            Posted March 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

            You don’t even have to disagree with them.

            Yeah, you can get in serious trouble for *agreeing in the wrong way*.

            For example, someone might decide that ‘homosexual’ or ‘gay’ are ‘hate speech’ and demand that you only use ‘queer’ or some other invented word, and they will throw a tantrum.

            You basically end up living in fear and walking on eggshells.

            So saying “I believe that gay people should have equal rights” will get you labelled a bigot because you didn’t use the *correct* term according to this group, or members within this group.

          • BJ
            Posted March 10, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

            The same thing happened over the last few years to one of what used to be my favorite pop culture websites: The AV Club. They drifted away from writing about film, tv, music, etc., and more writing about SJW crap and diversity and, now, putting Trump in every headline they can possibly find a way of putting him.

            So, I stopped going.

      • Posted March 8, 2017 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve also wondered why NZ universities don’t seem as affected as the US. This article explains it might be partly because all our universities are public and have large student bodies.” No Liberal Arts Colleges either. NZ universities have Arts students, of course, but there’s plenty of science, engineering, medicine, etc, to dilute them.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted March 9, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          I was an Arts student (history) so I always bristle at being lumped together with the worst of my species. Plenty of us decry what’s being done to our reputation by many more recent students and teachers.

      • BJ
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve noticed an incoherent anger amongst some younger liberals I never understood …”

        Just like the old religious wingnuts, to them it is a religion as well. “We’re on the right side of history!” Of course you don’t have to defend your arguments; history (or, in the older cases, god) is on your side.

    • FiveGreenLeafs
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 1:45 am | Permalink

      I am beginning to wonder if it is not one step worse, they simply can not argue for their position.

      One observation that might in some way be connected, is that they are (in many instances) not really capable to think for themselves. Robbed of their group, and placed in a new situation (where they don’t have a predefined or learned response), they often fail miserably.

      The crucial point being, that to be able to think critical and reason effectively, you need extensive domain specific knowledge.

      Now, the guiding ideological idea in K-12 education today (in most of the old West) for the last 40y at least, is that learning facts (memorizing specific information in long term memory) is bad.

      The core idea is (roughly and schematically) instead to learn and train “abilities” from a few examples, and that these abilities then can be transfered to new situations. Aka learning for the 21th century.

      There is just one slight problem with this, and that is that the evidence from cognitive psychology does not support it. Contrarily, it appears ever more certain (in light of the evidence) that this assumption is wrong.

      I.e. you can not (as far as the evidence imply) in the true sense of the word, train critical thinking, but rather your capacity to think critical about something emerges with your expanding knowledge about it.

      Memorized factual domain specific information appears to be the roads that the processes like critical thinking are running on.

      If this stands up to scrutiny, this foundational aspect of the current educational theory actually rob these students of their capacity to reason effectively, and, also make them easy targets for external manipulation.

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        I would have thought that knowledge of critical thinking in conjunction with domain knowledge would be superior to just one or the other.

        You mentioned that there was evidence from cognitive psychology that doesn’t support it, could you point me to this evidence? I’m not being critical of it, I’m just curious.

        • FiveGreenLeafs
          Posted March 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          I would have thought that knowledge of critical thinking in conjunction with domain knowledge would be superior to just one or the other.

          The thing is, (as far as I understand), that critical thinking is not a separate skill that you can train up and then transfer to a new domain or sometimes even new situations. The capacity to thinking critically about the Second World War does not necessarily help you think critically about the Crimean War, or the Russo-Japanese War, and even less a problem in mathematics or chemistry.

          It’s a capacity that is intimately coupled (as I understand it) to domain specific knowledge. One way to think about it (in cognitive terms), is that the memorized domain specific knowledge are the roads that the “car” of critical thinking can drive on. Without any roads, it does not matter if you have a brand new spiffy corvette, it will not get very far at all…

          Critical thinking does not in that regard (seem) to work like a normal skill at all. I.e once you have learned it, you can pretty much do it anyplace. Rather, it is as if you have learned to hit a baseball in the yard behind the house, and then go to a real field, and you have to start to learn everything all over again.

          This is probably one reason why training critical thinking separately and explicitly does not seem to work. You can memorize rules and meta-cognitive methods, but, they can not substitute for domain specific memorized knowledge. You need both.

          Daniel Willingham is (as far as I understand) one good source of information in this regard. DW is (I think) very interesting since he is one of the few (as of yet) who have begun to apply research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology to education.

          Critical Thinking – Why Is It So Hard to Teach

          This might also be one reason why Chinese and Japanese students today often resoundingly seems to beat American and European ditto in practical problem solving.

      • BJ
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

        What you say would indeed make sense, knowing what we do of how memories are formed and the networks they combine into, thus allowing access to them.

  2. J. Quinton
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    ” *Completely ignoring class differences, which aren’t the subject of the campus liberal agenda
    *The perpetuation of class differences by “laundering privilege”: preferentially accepting students who are largely well off, and from the upper classes
    *Turning private colleges into “socialization machines for the upper-middle class, ideological enforcers of progressive dogma.”

    Some time after WWII, college *did* start becoming about class differences and not about education. I think that if colleges had been biased towards conservative faculty, that the pendulum would have swung towards the right like it’s currently doing towards the left.

    If someone was paying attention, one could have predicted that colleges would become hotbeds of class distinction, especially in those fields that have… well, let’s just say, the non-STEM fields where real world results don’t matter.

    In my field, software development, there’s no reason you can’t do my current job without a college degree. Yeah, CS majors may know more about the perfect sort algo for a certain task, but 99% of my day is doing CRUD work. I don’t need to know O-time analysis for daily stuff.

    But having a college degree opens many more job opportunities than not having one does. This is made manifest by the horror stories of job interviewers for software or programming where the CS recent grad doesn’t even know how to write code (this seems like an urban legend, but there are plenty of kids who concentrate on abstraction instead of programming acumen in college).

    The people who acknowledge that you don’t necessarily learn valuable skills related to your chosen job in college then claim that getting a college degree shows that you have certain non-cognitive skills that make you employable. Basically admitting that colleges are, indeed, socialization machines for a certain class.

    • Starr
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Just wanted to comment on you not needing Big O-time analysis for the work you do, because while I sort of agree, I just recently sent out an email to all developers at my company detailing what Big-O notation is, how you analyze algorithms, and what the behavior of algorithms on various data structures are in terms of Big-O.

      This came about because we have a large framework underlying all our client implementations (Insurance Policy Management software). Most of our clients are small to middling insurance companies, but one of our larger ones want to start insuring fleets of vehicles on their Commercial Auto line. So a team added the functionality, and policy issuance went from the sub-1 second time on a normal policy with at most a dozen or so vehicles to over an hour to issue a policy with as little as a 500-vehicle fleet. This resulted in my undertaking the Great Performance Review of both that client implementation and the underlying framework, and oh my god…..

      What I realized was that, while I never explicitly used Big-O or formal analysis on the job, I had internalized a lot from my Analysis of Algorithms courses, and many of my non-College educated co-workers didn’t have that benefit. There was code all over the place that was clearly written by people who neither knew nor cared about the performance characteristics of the code. While the saying goes “premature optimization is the root of all evil”, it is also important not to make obvious performance blunders when initially writing code.

      I went through correcting the code to be more performant everywhere I reasonably could, finally getting issuance time down to around 15-seconds for the 500-vehicle fleets before having to move on.

      The point of all this of course is: I felt the same way as you about how useless many of the concepts I learned in school were to my working life, but I think I was somewhat wrong. While I may not formally use many of the tools I learned in University, it turns out I do use them informally, and they are useful.

      • Richard
        Posted March 8, 2017 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

        Another horror story: my team was compiling a compiler through itself (this was back in the days when compiling two million lines of code was an overnight batch job on a mainframe) and hit a bottleneck – one particular module in the compiler took twelve hours to compile!

        Investigation showed that (a) the module contained a large aggregate which the front end was reducing to 7,000 temporaries; and (b) the back end’s register-allocation algorithm (a very general, machine-independent, table-driven algorithm inherited from another project) for packing temporaries into registers was O(n-cubed) on the number of temporaries.

        So compiling this module required well over 10^11 times as much computation as the simplest case of a single temporary! The solution was to replace the algorithm with a simpler one specific to the target machine’s register set.

        Always make sure you have the right algorithm… 🙂

        • Posted March 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          “Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite. Zathras is finite. This is wrong tool! No. Not good. No. Never use this.”

          • Richard
            Posted March 10, 2017 at 2:33 am | Permalink

            Zathras has had hard life. Will probably have hard death. But at least there is symmetry.

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted March 9, 2017 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        I tend to agree with you, having a good grasp of the fundamentals (I’m not a fundamentalist by nature!) is important to avoid large pitfalls down the road.

    • BJ
      Posted March 9, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      It’s funny how SJWs never want to talk about class privilege — which, by the way, has been shown in study after study to be the largest determining factor in how one will be treated in life, as opposed to race or gender or any of the other SJW concerns — and I imagine it’s because they almost exclusively come from financially privileged backgrounds and/or lead such lives.

  3. TJR
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see somebody acknowledging the importance of class in all this.

    Large portions of political correctness just seem to be socially-acceptable class prejudice, while ignoring class allows privileged upper/middle class people to gloss over their own privilege and even attain victim status.

    You must not speak plainly, you must use Approved Middle Class Euphemisms.

  4. Chris Slaby
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    William Deresiewicz is great. Take a look at his larger writing about higher ed., especially his book Excellent Sheep.

  5. Randy schenck
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    It’s like 1984 but confined to the College Campus. My next question would be – Do these people eventually grow out of this condition or are they doomed to a life of this mental disorder. My guess would be that these are a very chameleon species and they will snap out of it within a few years of leaving the institution. I am not so sure you do not find the same kind of culture within many corporations as well. Also, where do you see this behavior in spades – the military.

    What I am saying is – this affliction is not special to the liberal class.

  6. KD33
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    He makes a great point about ignoring class differences, under which I’d include income inequality (though that “intersects” with race, gender, etc.) In my view, this, and its many causes, is *the* over-arching issue in the U.S.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Inequality of income is at the top of the list in the U.S.A. It goes far beyond simply income too, because so many other items have disappeared like, medical insurance affordability, pensions of any kind and all those other things that suck the fun out of life.

  7. mikeyc
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article. The comment section there is a sewer, though. Ugly as it gets.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Now in the spirit of rubber-necking passing a car accident, I have to look.

  8. J.Baldwin
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ll read the article, but if he defines “political correctness” as *only* “the persistent attempt to suppress the expression of unwelcome beliefs and ideas,” I’d say that’s not quite right. Although I agree that the visible frustration of regressives is at the root of this suppressive impulse.

    PC, though, arises directly from constructivist thought. At the heart of constructivism is the belief that all realities that matters are socially constructed realities. So part of PC is the idea that leftists are actively constructing new (better) social realities. So, for example, when it’s said that the hijab is a symbol of women’s liberation and power, they are just expressing their preferred belief–a socially constructed reality that they prefer to the social reality constructed by the religious patriarchy. If everybody would subscribe to this meaning of the hijab, that would rob the patriarchy of its power and make it a “reality.”

    A problem arises when not everybody subscribes to the preferred reality and, so, they turn to force/coercion, which I might argue, reveals a human nature that is denied by constructivists.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I actually thought this sort of thing was kind of a problem in Unitarian Universalism as far back as the early 1990s. (I quit in 2011 after a 22 year run.) It now seems to be ever more prevalent in campus culture.

    This phenomenon gives rise to phenomena like FOX News, which has its own counter-egregiousness.

  10. Posted March 8, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Good trip. You might want to listen to:

    before you leave. I sing it every time I go through security

  11. Posted March 8, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Excellent article indeed. On the question of dogma versus allowing for the fact that you may be wrong, I get put off when writers of “popular science” (the only kind I’m capable of understanding) say “We used to think X, but now we know Y.” I’d prefer “We used to think X, but now we think Y,” or even “We used to know X, but now we know Y.” Either, seems to me, would be more accurate. Is this just me?

  12. wendell read
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne:
    I want to thank you for bringing this excellent essay to your readers attention. Too often important essays and articles get lost in the vast amount of material on the internet. Your bringing this to your readers attention is indeed a public service.

  13. Posted March 8, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  14. Greg
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    While some of his points may be true, I find that it’s those on the hard right who are so bad at defending their positions, especially when talking about economic issues such as health care and taxes where we have literally a world of outside data with which to compare our own. Besides rattling off a sound byte or two heard on Fox News, when you try to drill down into actual arguments and data it almost always devolves into red-faced ad hominem attacks.

  15. Dawgzy
    Posted March 8, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Dr. Coyne. Thanks for the link and for your thoughts. 2 things: there’s a similar analysis here,which I found illuminating: https://areomagazine.com/2016/12/20/a-theory-for-understanding-the-regressive-left/

    Second, I don’t know whether the influence of Maoism on PC culture has been examined to any extent. In the 70’s it wasn’t uncommon to come across sayings from the Little Red Book, etc. I was in a health sciences university then which had some sociology requirements- a fair amount of Maoist inspired ideas got propagated there.
    There’s a quote that I memorized at the time, taught to me by an extremely intelligent friend who was involved with a Maoist revolutionary commune. “Where do correct ideas come from? Do they fall from the sky? Are the innate in the mind? No. They come from the social practice and from it alone. There are three kinds of social practice- productive labor, scientific experiment and the class struggle.”
    The elements of thought reform in Maoism strike me as hewing closer to PC than religion does.

  16. jwthomas
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Deresiewicz has been a long time critic of higher education. His book “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” is worth a read for those interested.

  17. Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Good article, which reports similar observations as made before, but connects them well in context of higher education. But this is also a flaw, for we know the “campus religion” somehow exists also stereotypically on Tumblr, where “social justice warriors” or “special snowflakes” were spotted first. In a mainstream political context, the ideology is known to us as “Regressive Left”, centred around Islam — and how to deal with it.

    The common template, I proposed before, is Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is itself a framework connected to the so-called “Academical Left”, and postmodernism. It features most elements associated with this ideology such as aversion to “cultural appropriation”, “microaggressions” etc).

    However, the strains we see in the social media wildlife feature some modifications, subversions and shifts in emphasis. For example, CRT is concerned with class too, but SJWs have dropped that. Intersectionality is typically used in a subverted form that bears little resemblance to the original idea. And the shift in emphasis make it rather a “Critical Gender Theory” — sometimes touted as “4th wave feminism”, “intersectionality feminism” or overall Woke Culture.

    One final thing, the assertion that the left is uniquely bad explaining itself is questionable, and has more to do with whom you argue. SJW Students in their formative years are certainly not the best advocates — and it is probably trivially true that a contrarian tends to be better armed with arguments than people who aren’t used to challenge.

  18. somer
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Some very good stuff on International Womens Day on Australian Broadcasting corporation. But not comments like “Arianna Huffington is my ultimate role model”, “she’s such a self made woman, and an immigrant” (white, Greek) “Stands for all the opportunities in America” inspires women to start up businesses etc.

  19. Posted March 10, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Excellent article. And it mentions a problem that I have seen reported also by other sources, namely that US universities are increasingly using adjunct professors disadvantaged in pay, job security and career prospects. Some have commented (on other posts) that conservatives self-isolate from academic positions and seek jobs elsewhere. I think liberals should follow suit; and those who remain should unionize.


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