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the new political correctness
“It’s Going to Get Much, Much Worse”

Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at NYU and co-author, with Greg Lukianoff, of a blockbuster Atlantic essay on coddled campus culture, gave a fascinating interview to First Things magazine on November 4—before controversies at the University of Missouri, Yale, and Amherst put campus PC back in the spotlight in a big way. The interview was posted yesterday, and is worth reading in full. His speculation about the potential consequences of campus PC is especially interesting:

I think emotions are going to lead a drive back to rationality. What I mean by that is when you talk to a professor who has been brought up on charges or attacked verbally for saying something innocent—they’re angry. Like a friend of mine, who teaches at a small liberal arts college and once referred to someone “going over to the dark side.” He was called a racist, and warned that such insensitivity would not be tolerated.

Like all far-left political movements, the new PC has shown a tendency to devour its own. That is, PC crusaders often save their most vindictive attacks for people who were formerly leftists in good standing. The response so far from professors and administrators who come under attack has generally been to fold, apologize, and try to make amends. But history shows that this kind of process can’t go on forever; there must be an endpoint somewhere down the line. PC activists probably imagine the endpoint to be a harmonious world ridded of triggers and unsafe spaces. But this, like Marx’s notion of a dictatorship of a stateless society, is an ideological fantasy. More likely, PC will collapse under the weight of its own excesses. Haidt doesn’t expect this to happen anytime soon, though:

It’s going to get much, much worse over the next couple years and at that point some universities may start changing policies. By that point, many or maybe most American parents won’t want to send their children to the top universities, and there will be an enormous market opportunity for second-level universities that offer a much less coddled campus culture.

We’ve said before that there are two campus crises—a crisis of political culture, and a crisis of affordability. These crises could converge if high-profile PC incidents make the American public question whether the existing college economic model, complete with its massive diversity bureaucracy, is actually worth it. However, we are less optimistic than Haidt that the upper-middle class parents who send their children to elite schools will be swayed substantially by stories of campus coddling run amok. If PC does generate a backlash that forces the universities to change their ways, it is more likely to come from state governments, which have historically not responded kindly to extreme campus movements. The American people as a whole stand behind their Bill of Rights, even if college students don’t.

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  • Anthony

    “Framing Free Speech and political correctness as opposing forces is a false dichotomy intended to derail uncomfortable but necessary conversations….” A thought on the wire: sensitivity hasn’t changed – access has. The punchlines are punching back. But it’s much easier to ignore your complicity…if you cast the people who have been legitimately offended as oversensitive. In short enlighten self-interest requires enlightenment. The aforementioned may just be another (not a competing one) perspective on it’s going to get much, much worse.

    • Jim__L

      “But here is the thing: white students parading around campus in blackface is itself a silencing tactic. Telling rape victims that they’re “coddled” is a silencing tactic. Teaching marginalised people that their concerns will always be imperiously dismissed, always subordinated to some decontextualised free-speech absolutism is a silencing tactic.” (from the quoted Guardian article – search “Lindy West theguardian”, the provided link is not effective.)

      Only if you let it silence you. What are the consequences for proceeding with your academic career in the face of others wearing blackface? None. Courage is what’s necessary in these cases. If you want to support people who face these issues, “encouragement” is literally the necessary course.

      Heavy-handed, government-sanctioned penalties for comments and jokes made in poor taste are not the answer. They are cruel and unusual punishments that do not fit the “crimes”. Penalties for comments made with no malicious intention are rightfully being held up as abhorrent and a direct assault on open debate.

      If any Swedish-Americans decide they have been unfairly denied a culinary career by peers recklessly throwing spatulas, making jokes about Second Amendment rights in the kitchen, and shouting “Bork bork bork!”, a reasonable human being could insist they needed to lighten up or develop a thicker skin, too. Whining to school authorities, or to the Thought Police at Title IX, are not the answers most in line with empowerment and human dignity.

      • Anthony

        Write the Guardian.

        • Jim__L

          No worries. The link was apparently provided by Disqus.

  • Matthew Newgarden

    Marginalized Yale student = oxymoron.

  • Beauceron

    “It’s going to get much, much worse over the next couple years and at that point some universities may start changing policies.”

    Why would they do that?

    Over the next two decades the country will, by the Left’s own design, become “majority minority.” The language will then, of course, shift from that of oppressed minority rights to the language of apartheid (a minority oppressing the majority), which is a much richer vein of anger and self-righteousness– perfect for the Left.

    It is certainly going to get “much, much worse,” but it is never going to get better.

    • Alex Furlong

      Because this level of campus disruption threatens the university administration. When you start losing university presidents every year because the local chapter of Grievance Workshop keeps ousting them for not bending the knee, eventually the administration will act out of self-preservation. Professors will demand that the hammer comes down as more and more of them are being brought up on accusations of microaggressions and insensitivity.

  • rheddles

    The backlash will come from employers who will not want to hire the coddled brats. When that leads to lower starting salaries, things will change.

    • Larry J

      It’s a common practice to do a web search on a job applicant. If the search results turn up information showing the applicant is one of these hypersensitive sanctimonious twits, that application will go into the bit bucket. No one in their right mind will knowing bring such toxic people into their workplace.

      What we’re seeing at Yale, the University of Missouri, Dartmouth, and other universities is reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. In both cases, many innocent people were destroyed by the radicals. As for state governments, some 30 of them are controlled by Republicans who are routinely denounced by Leftist professors and other radicals. For people who are so proud of their intellectual accomplishments, alienating the people who pay much of your salary is a pretty stupid tactic.

      • I think you will find these practices will be illegal due to Disparate Impact.

        • Larry J

          Prove that they were the reason why a person wasn’t hired and you may have a case. In the real world, those people would never even be asked for an interview, much less told why they aren’t being hired.

          • f1b0nacc1

            At the end of the day, it is going to be very difficult to support charges of disparate impact as those who choose to out themselves as potential problem hires will be unable to demonstrate that their targets were acting with intent.

        • I wish I could upvote this 5K times!

    • Don’t be so sure about that. Dutschke’s “long march through the institutions” doesn’t end on the campus quad. Many grads who believe this nonsense are going to end up working in various HR departments and they will welcome their fellow travelers.

      • f1b0nacc1

        While I agree with you, I strongly suspect that profit-driven institutions will have a much, much lower level of tolerance for this sort of thing, and that the HR departments may be in for a reckoning….

        • “Profit driven institutions,” as has already been proved, will bow to their regulation Overlords. Goldman & Morgan were stiff-armed into becoming “bank holding companies” and were immediatel afterward made to pay fines incurred by the banks the Feds “ordered” they take over.

          • The “Internet Bubble” popping will be a blip the minute the Fed tries to stop their current “free money” protocol. It’ll be a bloodbath.

    • Alex Furlong

      I disagree, merely for the fact that the signals are lost due to existing political correctness and (more importantly) federal regulation. If you tell a special snowflake that they’re a danger to your business and you won’t hire them, you’re running the risk of state/federal sanction and public outcry. If your company finds other reasons not to hire them (wise, IMHO) then the feedback signal is not there.

      We already have ten years of undergraduates who can’t find a job. That hasn’t made the Marxists dial it back, it has made them desperately loud. Lower salaries, underemployment, mom’s basement… the feedback signals are too far removed from the instigators.

  • Very few parents will stop sending their kids to the elite universities. There’s simply too much at stake for that to happen except in rare cases.

  • Fat_Man

    It is not very useful to tell an invertebrate to grow a backbone. And, as a class college administrators seem to be invertebrates.

  • Fat_Man

    “If PC does generate a backlash that forces the universities to change their ways, it is more likely to come from state governments”

    My platform: A law banning tenure, and limiting university salaries for teachers to the scale in K-12 contracts. I would also cap non teaching salaries (including presidents) at the Governor’s salary, and limit the schools to no more than 1 non teaching employee (including janitors) per 2 FTE teachers.

    • Tenure does seem to be a stumbling block and anachronism. I wonder, though, what would be the effect of eliminating this protection now. Tenure might be all that stands between a principled objection and a meek acquiescence. But we are dusting a burning house. The university is corrupt, perverse, mendacious and block-headed top to bottom. Let them burn, might be the proper sentiment. Actually, I am certain it is. Forward.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I keep saying it….reverse Duke v. Griggs

    • Alex Furlong

      I think the idea of limiting salaries to K-12 scale is a bad one. The professors in higher education should be experts in their field, pushing the edges with research and passing on advanced knowledge to their students. They may or may not be doing that right now. But if you cap their salaries to high school teacher levels, you’ll guarantee that you’ll get college level subjects taught at high school level.

      Eliminating tenure is a fine step. Capping the number of non-educating staff is not. You’ll end up with HR assistants who teach a time management class (badly) in order to make the numbers work.

      I would add a platform plank: No scholarships outside of STEM degrees. Starve the beast.

      • Fat_Man

        “I think the idea of limiting salaries to K-12 scale is a bad one.”

        “Starve the beast.”

        I think there is a tension between your reactions there. I went with the latter theory, thus the salary cap.

        • Queen Hotchibobo

          I like many of your ideas, but don’t forget the only law we ever get right: The Law of Unintended Consequences.

          When I was in K-12, anyone could have taught my math classes. The janitor could have taught me up through high school. But when I got to college and took Calculus, my Calc professor was a literal, not figurative, genius. His brain was the size of a large watermelon. (That one is *not* literal.) He was the dept. head and only taught the highest level classes, but he had an understanding of math that surpassed anyone I’ve ever met before or since.

          If he’d been restricted to $45K or thereabouts in salary, I would have missed out on that education. There are a million other jobs where he could have been filthy rich. He chose one where he would only be moderately wealthy, but he changed the lives of kids like me.

          • Fat_Man

            My calculus class was taught by a grad student with the personality of a dead flounder. These days most calculus classes are taught by Chinese grad students who don’t know enough English to be able to order a Happy Meal.

            My intended consequence is to smash an institution that has grown destructive. Yes, we will lose a few good teachers, but think of the number of clueless PC hack we will kneecap.

          • m a

            Yep. That is the reality. If “The professors in higher education should be experts in their field, ….” the current system isn’t providing that. Those professors are involved in research, writing papers in their field and are barely, if ever, in the classroom. Grad student TAs it seems, from my daughters’ experiences at two colleges are doing the majority of the teaching.

        • Alex Furlong

          I don’t think there’s tension at all. The university receives income from students taking STEM classes and craptastic classes. They spend money in the form of instructor salaries. Artificially limiting university expenses is hardly going to starve the university of anything. If you can limit the subsidies of the students so that they’re not being encouraged to take the craptastic classes, you remove that income from the university.

          I think we have competing goals. I would like to keep higher education as a means of education beyond the level of Calculus I and introductory chemistry, physics and biology. As a consequence, there is a need for differential equation instructors, alkaloid synthesis instructors, etc. These are not jobs that should be paid the same as teaching every 17 year old that force equals mass times acceleration.

          If you pay the DiffEQ instructor the same as the HS physics instructor, you’re going to get high school instruction in what is supposed to be our first class university system.

  • qet

    People who characterize the debate currently going on over these issues as an avoidance or derailment of uncomfortable but necessary conversations are very hard to figure, since this is exactly the conversation we are currently having, which is why so many people are so uncomfortable right now. I have heard the “conversation” (sometimes substituted with “discussion” or “dialogue”) dodge since law school in the 1980s: each time a policy that certain students opposed (I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to guess which sort of students) was implemented, after having first been proposed and then debated, more or less (usually more) heatedly over a period of weeks, the disappointed student faction would try to mask its petulance by claiming that the Dean (or whomever) had “cut off debate” or “failed to have a conversation.”

    What people who say this sort of thing really mean, these people who think you are such a fool as to actually believe that they are on the high road while you are stuck in the wheel-ruts of the low road, is that the “uncomfortable but necessary conversation” they keep saying we are not having can only occur if we first all agree on the premises, by which they mean their premises. Saying that we are avoiding a conversation (like our less-than-esteemed erstwhile Attorney General did and called us cowards to boot) that we can only have once our conversation over the premises of that second conversation have been agreed on (which they won’t be, because they are precisely what is at stake in our politics) is, to put it charitably, bad faith. But good faith is not one of Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, now, is it?

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      For some reason, what I always get out of the notion that “we need to have a national conversation” is that those of us on one side are supposed to sit down, shut up and get ready for an earful…an earful of nonsense. The “conversation” usually consists of meaningless jargon which is what passes for thought today on campus.

      This all comes from having a nearly myopic culture on campus, where “diversity” means lots of white leftists, a lot of generally non-political Asians who tend to stay out of the fray as an education means something to them and a number of token black and hispanic leftists, many of whom would have no hope of attending college and moving up from amateur to professional malcontents without the being spotted hundreds of points on their SATs. Diversity to a leftist is only skin deep, because in reality there is no one on earth more racist than they are for they have such low expectations for minorities and will only allow minorities to have opinions that validate their own. To a leftist, “diversity” is only skin deep.

      They set out to create their own utopia on campus and of course, as we can see… if the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution and some people willing to stand up to them didn’t exist, it would be a fascist utopia.

  • Bandit

    End affirmative action. End of problem.

    • Curt A.

      Probably will never happen in our lifetimes, certainly not mine. Affirmative Action will still be with us even after Euro Caucasians are in the minority. The way things are going there eventually will be a number of parties built exclusively along race lines.

    • Johnathan Swift Jr.

      I wish it was that simple, but all of these ideas came from white men and women in the beginning. Primarily Cultural Marxists. Someone had to dream up all the new majors, all the destructive courses and it was all people who hate Western Civilization and want to destroy it, branch, tree and root. And even with them eating their own, most of these weak at the knees putzes act like beaten dogs and just whimper. This all started when I was young in the 1960s with the campus occupations. Once they didn’t just boot the idiots out of college, thus exposing them to the draft and prosecute them, it was all over and gradually the inmates took over the asylum.

    • monster

      While I agree that we should end affirmative action, I believe it would do little for this problem. Change the mentality of being PC on campuses, actually everywhere would be better. No matter who speaks, does something, or thinks differently than

      those enlightened lefties, there will always be someone who gets offended.

      Not that I have any great sympathy for them but it has to be insanely difficult to be a politician from the right, they have to be careful with every word. Not so tough on the liberals.

  • bashg

    Let them burn it all down. I just received a new shipment of popcorn from Amazon.

  • Curt A.

    I am old enough to remember the 1950s when PC madness came from the right during the McCarthy era. People were afraid to espouse any kind of liberal or progressive ideas for fear of being called communists. Some were, others weren’t. It seems that the side which is in control of the microphone at the particular time always wants to prevent the other side from voicing it’s ideas. Nothing changes except the rhetoric, the voice level remains the same, shrill.

    • oldfashionedfellow

      PC is a wholly Leftist concept. It isn’t just a byword for “ideas we dislike.” The reaction against the presence of communist ideas in the Fifties occurred out of a rational fear of the Soviet Union and its vicious ideology. The present outrages and convulsions occur out of an irrational fear of “microaggressions.” There is no relevant comparison.

      • Political correctness is a commie plot, and I’m neither hyperventilating nor overstating the case.

  • bluesdoc70

    Tee Hee..Administrators and professors are now being dragged to the PC guillotine. Could happen to a nicer or more deserving bunch.

    • “If Stalin only knew” said many a commie in a Lubyanka cell during the Purges awaiting a bullet to the back of their head.

  • James1754

    The poor scared special little snowflakes who’s parents never prepared them for such a horrid place as a college where they may actually hear an opinion they disagree with!
    Now, as good understanding people, we must all change our ways and support these poor children so as not to traumatize any more than they have been already.

    We will return to the real world shortly, as soon as we can find the nearest exit from the college campus.

  • Arctic_Fox

    What ever happened to expelling troublemakers? If you barge into the president’s office, and/or MF a professor, you’re gone. Pronto.

  • John Morris

    Wait for it to become absurd enough for public opinion to sour on em a little more then go for the kill. Legislation declaring Cultural Marxism, Critical Theory, etc. to be a religion / political philosophy incompatible with America and at any rate as a religion incompatible with government operated universities and government funded tuition assistance in exactly the same way most other religious study isn’t eligible. Toss every * Studies dept off government campus, forbid tuition assistance for them and any professor who is only qualified to teach one of those subjects is to be removed from the payroll regardless of tenure status.

    Almost all of this foolishness originates from those departments so if the problem isn’t totally solved it is manageable. Make it crystal clear that if the administrators can’t handle the remaining problems new ones can be found. Likewise for any that object to the purge of the Marxists.

    • Alex Furlong

      Eh… I don’t know. University campuses are remarkably insulated from public opinion, market forces and normal feedback loops.

  • bittman

    The taxpayers, the state legislatures, and the donors need to make it clear that the recent behavior by students and college presidents is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

  • happy1ga

    1) alumni need to cease any $$ going to these institutions
    2) parents-no “child” of 17-18 actually needs to go straight from high school into college. Insist they spend a year or two working and FULLY supporting themselves, first.
    3) personally, I’d never pay a cent toward a non-STEM degree
    4) if your snowflake becomes indoctrinated by this garbage, cut off all mommy & daddy funding. Every cent. It’s downright motivating
    5) no, your kid doesn’t need an Ivy league degree, except for very small #s of careers. Bonus-KNOW your child & his/her/etc their true abilities, work ethic, maturity level. Be honest with yourself & them, because a kid that only does a min of work to get top grades, who cannot handle a fast food job, have maturity & drive to maintain their abode, vehicles, belongings, cannot maturely handle interpersonal relationships, etc., isn’t magically becoming this person after 4-6 yrs at Sesame Street U.
    6) don’t hire ’em, but never say that’s why you aren’t hiring them, obviously, unless the situation allows you to do so. I don’t hire them & can find 100 reasons legally not to do so.
    7) take an active role in your child’s life RIGHT NOW, despite their age & teach them yourselves about actual history, current politics, life’s realities. Despite many mistakes I’ve made, I did succeed by making my kids have jobs in high school, teaching them to maintain checking/savings accounts, pay their own credit card bills, shop for & prepare full meals, service autos, properly clean their clothing & domicile, basic home repairs, openly discussing sexual matters & answering questions & making sure they knew when & how to seek medical treatment & what they needed to do to stay healthy, in general. All of this goes to making a confident, self-reliant adult who doesn’t act like these mentally disturbed children that will be seeking mental health treatment in the near future, if they aren’t currently, or self-medicating to deal with their perceived, or perhaps, very real inabilities to be happy & fulfilled in their lives-
    signed, GenX business owner, mom of 2, step mom of 1, grandma of 7.

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