The Titanic hit ice and was taking water. Beneath the water line, compartments were steadily filling. The ship would remain a float up to a certain point, but if too many compartments filled, the immutable laws of physics would take her down. Here is that memorable exchange in the movie “Titanic” between the designer of the Titanic and the chief executive of the line, Joseph Ismay:
Thomas Andrews: The pumps will buy you time, but minutes only. From this moment on, no matter what we do, Titanic will flounder.
Ismay: But this ship can’t sink!
Thomas Andrews: She is made of iron, sir. I assure you, she can. And she will. It is a mathematical certainty.
So let us imagine that America, like the Titanic, is “unsinkable”. Many factors contribute to our strength, chief among them being our religious based values including, a strong work ethic, the traditional family, our unity as a nation as in “e pluribus unum”, and freedom of expression and religion. Also important is the quality and strength of our institutions: branches of government, military, schools, universities, and the media.
When these factors no longer contribute to but drain our strength, America weakens. Take away enough factors and America, like the Titanic, will “flounder”. It becomes a “mathematical certainty”
Let’s focus now on just one of these factors; our universities. Universities produce the next generation of leaders (we are told). It is there they are taught knowledge and how to reason. Or, they can be indoctrinated. In a recent article entitled “The Rise of the College Crybullies”, Roger Kimball comments on recent events at Yale, Mizzou and elsewhere. Can the pathetic cases Kimball describes really be effective leaders tomorrow … or they really highly organized, agents hastening the destruction of an America once known as “land of the free, home of the brave”?
I don’t think the students Kimball writes about represent the majority. But nor did the radical students of the 60’s represent the majority in their time. Yet today, they wield power far beyond their number in places where it counts; government, academia, and the media. They rule from these positions of power and “fundamentally transform” this country against the will of the majority.
Following is the (slightly condensed) article by Roger Kimball mentioned above.
“For more than a week now, the country has been mesmerized, and appalled, by the news emanating from academia. At Yale the insanity began over Halloween costumes. Erika Christakis, associate master of a residential college at Yale, courted outrage by announcing that “free speech and the ability to tolerate offense are the hallmarks of a free and open society” and it was not her business to police Halloween costumes.
To people un-indoctrinated by the sensitivity training that is de rigueur on most campuses today, these sentiments might seem unobjectionable. But to the delicate creatures at Yale’s Silliman College they were an intolerable provocation. What if students dressed as American Indians or Mexican mariachi musicians? Angry, hysterical students confronted Nicholas Christakis, Erika’s husband and the master of Silliman, screaming obscenities and demanding that he step down because he had failed to create “a place of comfort, a home” for students. The episode was captured on video and went viral.
At the University of Missouri, Jonathan Butler, the son of a wealthy railroad executive (2014 compensation: $8.4 million), went on a hunger strike to protest what he called “revolting” acts of racism at Mizzou. Details were scanty. Nevertheless, black members of the university football team threatened to strike for the rest of the season unless Tim Wolfe, Mizzou’s president, stepped down. A day or two later, he did. (Helmut’s comment: Claims of swastikas, sightings of KKK, and racial epithets all turned out to be hoaxes at Mizzou, following a similar pattern of lies and hoaxes on other campuses)
Emboldened, student and faculty protesters physically prevented reporters from photographing a tent village they had built on public space. In another shocking video, a student photographer is shown being forced back by an angry mob while Melissa Click, a feminist communications teacher at Mizzou, shouts for “muscle” to help her eject a reporter.
What is happening? Is it a reprise of the late 1960’s and 1970’s, when campuses across the country were sites of violent protests? In my book “Tenured Radicals: How Politics Have Corrupted Our Higher Education,” I showed how the radical ideology of the 1960’s had been institutionalized, absorbed into the moral tissues of the American educational establishment.
As one left-wing professor wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “After the Vietnam War, a lot of us didn’t just crawl back into our literary cubicles; we stepped into academic positions. With the war over, our visibility was lost, and it seemed for a while—to the unobservant—that we had disappeared. Now we have tenure, and the work of reshaping the universities has begun in earnest.”
“Tenured Radicals” provides an account of that reshaping, focusing especially on what it has meant for the substance of a college education. The book includes a section on “academia and infantilization.” But when I wrote in 2008, the rhetoric of “safe spaces,” “microaggressions” and “trigger warnings” had not yet colluded to bring forth that new academic phenomenon, at once tender and vicious, the crybully.
The crybully, who has weaponized his coveted status as a victim, was first sighted in the mid-2000s. He has two calling cards, race and gender. By coincidence Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, was involved in the evolution of both.
Race came first. In 2001 … a national “scandal” erupted when Mr. Summers suggested that black professor Cornell West lead in fighting the scandal of grade inflation at Harvard, where one of every two grades was an A or A-. Black professors at Harvard threatened to leave—Mr. West soon decamped to Princeton—and the New York Times published a hand-wringing editorial criticizing Mr. Summers, who quickly recanted, noting that the entire episode had been “a terrible misunderstanding.”
Then came gender. In 2005 Mr. Summers spoke at a conference on “Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce” at MIT. He speculated on why there aren’t more women scientists at elite universities. He touched on several possibilities: Maybe “patterns of discrimination” had something to do with it. Maybe most women preferred to put their families before their careers. And maybe, just possibly, it had something to do with “different availability of aptitude at the high end.”
What a storm that last comment sparked! “I felt I was going to be sick,” wailed Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT, who had walked out on Mr. Summers. “My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow, low,” Ms. Hopkins said. “I was extremely upset.”
Once again, Mr. Summers recanted. He published an open letter to the Harvard community. “I deeply regret the impact of my comments,” he wrote, “and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully.” It was too late. By May 2005 his faculty had returned a vote of no confidence 218 to 185, with 18 abstentions. By February 2006 he had been forced to announce his resignation.
These two incidents, partly because they involved such a high-profile institution, marked an important turning point. The pleasures of aggression were henceforth added to the comforts of feeling aggrieved. The toxic fruits of this development are on view not only at Yale and Mizzou, but throughout the higher-educational establishment, where spurious charges of “systemic racism,” “a culture of rape” and sundry other imaginary torts compete for the budget of pity and special treatment.
Even as I write, Amherst College is exploding with nonnegotiable demands from a student group that the president apologize for (among others things) Amherst’s “institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism.” Really, you can’t make it up.
The response of university administrations has not been encouraging. At Yale, cringing capitulation has been the order of the day. Last week Yale President Peter Salovey told a group of aggrieved students who complained that they did not feel “safe” at Yale that “we failed you.” At one of the several hours-long public meetings on campus, the Yale Daily News reported, Jonathan Holloway, dean of Yale College, found himself “surrounded by a sea of upturned faces and fighting back tears” as he apologized for the administration’s silence on allegations of racial discrimination.
There are a lot of tears at Yale these days. When the conservative lawyer Amy Wax spoke at the Yale Political Union last week, a group of students stood up, turned their backs on her, and raised their fists in the air in protest. “Several students,” the Yale Daily News reported, “cried during her speech.”
A few days after enduring the hysterics of his students, Nicholas Christakis, accompanied by Dean Holloway and other university administrators, met with about 100 students at his home and abased himself. “I have disappointed you and I’m really sorry,” he said..”
The fatuousness of these episodes—many of which might have been plucked from the annals of Maoist public-shaming events—underscores the surreal quality of life at many American colleges these days. Mr. Salovey, like academic administrators around the country, hopes that he can safeguard free speech while also acceding to demands that the university be a “safe space” where no one’s feelings are hurt. It is an impossible project.
The truth is that American universities are among the safest and most coddled environments ever devised by man. The idea that one should attend college to be protected from ideas one might find controversial or offensive could only occur to someone who had jettisoned any hope of acquiring an education.