Friday, May 30, 2014

Tolerating Intolerance

Undoubtedly, it was too little, too late, but Michael Bloomberg’s denunciation of academic intolerance and groupthink at the Harvard commencement yesterday was certainly welcome. (Via Maggie’s Farm)

Bloomberg decried the fact that orthodox liberal opinion had monopolized the marketplace of ideas on America’s college campuses. A brief glance at campaign contributions told him, as it has told many others that nearly all academics lean left.

Effectively, there is no diversity of opinion on American college campuses.

It may feel like a quibble, but Bloomberg is wrong to say that these campuses are infested with liberalism. There is nothing liberal, in the classical sense of the word, in groupthink. There is nothing liberal in shouting down opposing points of view. There is nothing liberal in the total absence of conservative commencement speakers.

What Bloomberg is calling liberal is really radical leftist thought, instigated by extreme leftists and, increasingly, by Islamist radicals.

When new Harvard graduate Sandra Korn—presumably in the audience for Bloomberg’s speech—can promote what she calls justice at the expense of academic freedom and when she identifies it with a movement to single out and punish the state of Israel, the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, we are dealing with anti-Semitic radicalism.

It’s good to call things by their correct names.

Bloomberg was also correct to call out the college administrators who have allowed it all to happen by refusing to punish those who disrupt the speech of speakers whose ideas they do not accept.

In his words:

Last fall, our police commissioner was invited to deliver a lecture at another Ivy League institution, but he was unable to do so because students shouted him down.

Isn’t the purpose of a university to stir discussion, not silence it? What were the students afraid of hearing?

Why did administrators not step in to prevent the mob from silencing speech?

And did anyone consider that it is morally and pedagogically wrong to deprive other students the chance to hear the speech?

And yet, administrators do not make the hiring decisions. If academic departments are filled with empty-headed radicals who see their task more in terms of indoctrination and cultural revolution than in teaching students, the fault also lies with the departments themselves.

The twin demons of political correctness and identity politics have brought us to this crisis point, and under current conditions, there is very little that anyone can do about it.

Unless, of course, the person in question is Michael Bloomberg.

Remember when Bill Gates and Warren Buffett initiated their Giving Pledge, wherein they encouraged the world’s billionaires to give half of their money to charity. In practice, this probably means, giving the money to leftist do-gooders, but, why quibble?

Bloomberg would have made some real news yesterday if he had announced that, as long as American universities insist on presenting only one point of view and as long as they systematically silence dissent, he will not give them any money. Moreover, he will ask other billionaires and aspiring billionaires to make the same pledge.

By now, I fear that that is the only language that the academy will understand.

Call it the Lysistrata Pledge, in honor of the Spartan woman who rallied her sisters to try to end a war by withholding sex. When it comes to America's colleges, money is the real sex.

It’s time to sanction universities for having ceased to be temples of learning and for having become cells for brainwashing students.

True enough, university departments of science, engineering and math will suffer too. It does not quite seem fair because it isn’t fair. Still and all, how else are you going to get the attention of college administrators and take a step toward returning America’s universities to classical liberal values.


Anonymous said...

Let's call it what it is: totalitarianism. It's not even intellectual, it's clearly about spewing simplistic, raw emotion as a substitute for education. It's not about questioning authority and thinking different.

It's ideology as a substitute for thought.

It's violence to shut off debate.

That universities are not embarrassed by this atmosphere they've created is indicative of how low things have gone on campus.


Anonymous said...

The pot calling the kettle black.

Too funny.

Katielee4211 said...

Anonymous, Expand and explain?

n.n said...

Bloomberg is right. This country will neither be held nor inherited by the timid. Left-wing ideologues have conquered what Americans ceded.

Anonymous said...

'Anonymous, Expand and explain?'

Bloomberg as mayor used all his financial, media, and political muscle to denounce and destroy all those who opposed 'gay marriage', indeed to the point where such people effectively could not work for government, open businesses, and be promoted.
He stood silently while all that was going on. Now he tells us he's against PC.

Gimme a break. He reminds me of the two-faced general in PATHS OF GLORY. The one who goads another general to make a reckless attack but then washes his own hands of the fiasco.