I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another week in the archives–1818 feels closer than 2018 these days. But 2018 went on without me. Here are some of the stories that came across our desk this week:

Fear and the evangelical Trumpists: John Fea in The Atlantic.

No AP for these fancy prep schools, at WaPo.

Would the real campus conservative please stand up? Turning Point USA rebuts criticism from Young America’s Foundation, at CHE.

turning point USA

Turning Point USA appeals to campus conservatives…

The high cost of campus free-speech protests:

Christian in America: Eric Miller interviews Matthew Bowman at R&P.

Pokin’ the academic bear: National Association of Scholars republishes pro-colonialism article, at IHE.christian politics of a word

Trump’s latest: Merging the Ed and Labor departments into DEW.

George Will: Vote Democratic to end GOP “misrule,” at WaPo.

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How to Break College

Left or Right; SJW or TPUSA; the news from Washington shows that campus activism is hitting higher education where it hurts. Activists should forget about inviting Milo or occupying quads. Instead, they should recognize their true power and consider what target they want to point it at.

Here’s what we know: Due to student activism from both left and right, universities in Washington state are feeling a financial pinch. At Evergreen State, for example, widely publicized left-wing activism has led to a steep drop in applications and enrollments. At the University of Washington, campus Republicans received a six-figure settlement due to their complaints about unfair treatment.

That sort of dollars-and-cents bottom line is the kind of thing school administrators can’t ignore. By and large, they can endure endless accusations of racial insensitivity from the left. They can blithely listen to accusations of biased “totalitarian” campus climates from the right.

But if colleges lose enrollments, they wither and die. And if they lose lawsuits, they can’t function.

So here’s the question for this generation of student activists: What is your real target? Just as in the SDS years, students need to be strategic about their aims, because they have the ability to inflict serious damage if they choose.

sterling hall bombing

Sterling Hall, University of Wisconsin, 1970

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another week has come and gone. Here are some stories that flew by our editorial window:

More on Evergreen State: Michael Aaron argues that we should see it as a “mo/po-mo” battle, “a petri dish for applied postmodernism.” HT: MM

Why are American schools getting more segregated?

Does America need more “intellectual humility?” Philosopher Michael Lynch makes his case in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

READING

Words, words, words…

Southern Baptist Convention: Kicking out LGBTQ; wondering about the “alt-right.”

Nerd note: Drew Gilpin Faust stepping down as Harvard’s president.

Nerd follow-up: Who’s in the running to replace her? How about President Obama?

The libertarian case against public education.

DeVos continues to make long-held conservative educational dreams come true. The latest? Announcing a plan to scale-back civil-rights enforcement.

Michigan jumps in. The university at Ann Arbor announced a free-tuition program, joining similar plans in Boston and New York.

How can we improve lame and uninformative student evaluations of college classes? How about teaching partnerships?

Shakespeare takes center stage in culture-war showdown: A conservative activist disrupts a production of Julius Caesar.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Doncha just love that new-week smell? There was a lot going on this week that SAGLRROILYBYGTH might have missed. Here are some of the stories we gathered to keep you up to speed:

Was he or wasn’t he? Creationists often insist that Darwinism leads to racism. Historian Ted Davis takes a careful look at Darwin and racism at BioLogos.

READING woman apple

Words, words, words…

Evergreen State professor Bret Weinstein advised to stay off campus for his own safety. He had protested against mandatory protests. Scott Jaschik gives the latest at IHE.

Closing the circle: Progressive school dreams result in conservative schools. Paul Ryan harts Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies.

Deeper than ever: Charles Lipson makes the case that our current political climate is more vicious and divided than it’s ever been. HT: MM

Is New York’s plan catching on? Boston announces new free-college-tuition plan.

Another picnic in No Man’s Land: A new Catholic association for religious scientists.

A conservative’s commencement speech without politics: Peggy Noonan tells Catholic University graduates to read books.

What can Betsy DeVos do to salvage her tenure? Free-marketeer Michael Petrilli collects advice from five education wonks.

Will the Trump administration allow a birth-control waiver for religious institutions? Leaked memo says they will.

Thanks to all who sent in stories and tips.

Does “Blasphemy” Help?

How are we to understand them? Some of the recent college blow-ups seem to defy traditional common sense. Most recently, for example, students at Evergreen State College have taken to attacking biology professor Bret Weinstein. As in earlier cases, the violence of the reaction doesn’t seem to match the alleged offense.

Over at Heterodox Academy, Jonathan Haidt calls this a kind of “witch hunt,” a modern efflorescence of blasphemy trials, a type of “fundamentalist religion.” Does that kind of parallel help us make sense of these campus controversies?

Here’s what we know: In cases from Yale to Claremont McKenna to Middlebury to Berkeley, protesters have exploded—sometimes violently—in order to demonstrate their disagreement with certain forms of speech.

In some cases, the protesters have insisted that harboring hurtful language does harm to the campus community. At Middlebury, for example, students protested the presence of Charles Murray. Murray was accused of perpetuating racist ideas.

And, in some cases, the ferocity of the student reaction seems out of proportion to the alleged crimes. At Claremont McKenna College, for example, an administrator inadvertently implied that there existed a racial norm at the school. At Yale, an instructor downplayed the seriousness of offensive Halloween costumes. In each case, the student response was enormous and militant.

How are we to understand the violence of these student reactions?

I’ve tried a few explanations myself. Recently, I suggested that we look not at the “college” part of these protests, but at the “elite” part of them. A while back, I suggested that we should celebrate this kind of student activism. I even suggested a better way for protesters to accomplish their stated goals.

Jonathan Haidt writes that we need to take a different perspective. The vitriol and intensity of recent campus flare-ups, Haidt argues, is best understood as a kind of religious impulse, a witch-hunt, an anti-blasphemy campaign.

There are some parallels. First, many of today’s campus protesters feel that merely allowing certain forms of speech constitutes grave harm. Like many sorts of religious speech, merely encountering certain words is perceived as harmful. Second, there is a definite in-group feel to recent campus demonstrations. Many participants seem to want primarily to demonstrate their position on certain issues. The main goal does not seem to be humdrum policy change, but rather a literal demonstration of morality. Plus, the language of recent protests is often starkly black and white. Anything besides total agreement is seen as an utter betrayal.

What do you think? Does it help you understand the Evergreen State protests if you think of them as a kind of blasphemy trial? If you take it out of the realm of secular policy deliberation and into the realm of good vs. evil?

Or is that just a way for us to downplay the seriousness of the protests? Calling something a “witch-hunt,” after all, is yet another way to cut off dialogue.