Harvard Sophomore Rachel Huebner has offered us a glimpse into the belly of the beast. (via American Digest.) Since Harvard is one of America’s greatest institutions of higher education, it is frightening to see what it is doing to its students.
Camille Paglia once declared that American college students have minds like Jello. One would be happier if Harvard students and faculty were not working so hard to prove her right.
According to Huebner, Harvard students, with the support of empty-headed faculty members are more concerned about learning how not to offend each other than with learning anything. One suspects that will reject any fact and any opinion that contradicts the dogmas they have learned in the Church of the Liberal Pieties.
One does not know how much time it will take, but if this is what students are learning at Harvard, this will surely diminish the value of their degrees.
If students waste valuable time and mental energy policing the thought of everyone they encounter, they are not going to be very effective employees at any company.
To her credit, Huebner sees the problem in therapy culture terms. In particular, she analyzes it in terms of the tyranny of feelings. I and a few other people have been warning against the dangers of defining yourself in terms of your feelings—you are what you feel—and it is good to see an undergraduate articulating the point.
More than a few dimwits in the therapy world are averse to thinking, probably because they do not know how. They fall back on feelings and believe that they are being totally professional when they ask idiot questions like: How did that make you feel?
In more advanced therapy they share their own feelings, explaining that this makes them empathetic. If you review my post about failed therapy a few days ago to see how bad this gets.
Meanwhile, back at Harvard, and surely not just Harvard, when you dispense with any objective frame of reference, when you ignore facts in favor of feelings, you will soon discover that everyone is the ultimate authority on what he or she feels. When this is taken to its logical extreme each person gains the right to assert the value of his feelings and to tyrannize anyone who would dare injure them.
In the old days this would have been a sign that you were thin-skinned. Today, we call it depression. As Huebner points out, this habit of thought has either produced or aggravated student mental health problems. It mimics the way depressed people think and if you mimic depressive thought you are likely to become more depressed.
What constitutes a Harvard education? According to Huebner, too much of it is about learning what you are not allowed to say in order not to offend anyone. Naturally, the more diverse the class the more you need to worry about offending someone. No one is pointing it out, but if diversity causes so many problems for so many students, someone somewhere is going to get the idea that we should go back to the bad old homogeneous student body.
More specifically, it should be obvious that when students undergo this type of thought reform they will, at the first opportunity, cease to associate with anyone from a different cultural, religious or ethnic background or with different opinions.
The tyranny of feeling is more about policing and punishing than about getting along with people of different ethnic or ideological backgrounds. Thus, the net result will be that the students who have been threatened in their classrooms will take every opportunity to avoid outside contact with anyone who is even slightly different.
Huebner describes the scene:
Since the beginning of my freshman year, I have come to believe that a more fitting way to describe the current culture on college campuses is a culture defined not by open expression—but by sensitivity. This undue focus on feelings has caused the college campus to often feel like a place where one has to monitor every syllable that is uttered to ensure that it could not under any circumstance offend anyone to the slightest degree. It sometimes feels as though pluralism has become an antiquated concept. Facts and history have been discarded, and instead feelings have been deemed to be the criteria that determine whether words and actions are acceptable.
You are not allowed to speak freely. You are not allowed to discuss controversial subjects, like the Bible. You are not allowed to ask certain kinds of questions. You are not allowed to refer to certain kinds of people as certain kinds of people. Effectively, your mind is going to be so overburdened by worrying about what you cannot say that you will not be able to learn much of anything.
In a class I attended earlier this semester, a large portion of the first meeting was devoted to compiling a list of rules for class discussion. A student contended that as a woman, she would be unable to sit across from a student who declared that he was strongly against abortion, and the other students in the seminar vigorously defended this declaration. The professor remained silent. In a recent conversation with peers, I posed a question about a verse from the Bible. A Harvard employee in the room immediately interjected, informing me that we were in a safe space and I was thus not permitted to discuss the controversial biblical passage. And these are just stories from the past three months.
If you should slip up and offend someone, you can find yourself in deep trouble. Some students at Bowdoin College decided to throw a tequila themed party. The student who organized the event was from Colombia. The result:
The students who hosted the party were put on social probation (which appears on one’s permanent record) and were kicked out of their dorms. Two student government representatives who attended the party faced impeachment charges, and other students who were present at the event or were photographed wearing sombreros have also been subject to disciplinary action.
And yet, Huebner notes, a few months earlier the school had run a party where everyone wore mustaches and sombreros. They had also had a Soviet-themed party and a Mexican night. How are students to know that a tequila themed party would subject them to severe punishment while a Mexican night was perfectly acceptable?
The solution to these problems, mentioned here and in many other places, is for wealthy alumni donors, masters of the universe, to stop contributing to these schools. Academic administrators do understand money, and if the donations start drying up, they will probably take notice.
And, yes, I understand that these masters of the universe have children who want to attend schools like Harvard. And I also understand that if you are a partner at an investment bank and your child wants to go to Harvard, the admissions committee will take a very close look, not so much at his GPA, as at your record of contributing to the school. It will surely care about how much you pledge to give the school after your child has been accepted.
So, if you stop contributing to Harvard it will surely compromise your child’s chances of getting in to the school. All things considered, you might be doing your child a great favor. Unless, of course, Harvard is merely a symptom of something that is going on at all American universities.
In that case, American universities should adopt this motto:
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.