Thursday, November 12, 2015

Rage Against the White Elites

What a mess it has become, the latest college brouhaha over race and free speech. One thing is clear: something is wrong on America’s college campuses.

Yesterday, I suggested that some of the difficulties have resulted from policies that admitted students on the basis of racial preferences. I also suggested that the Obama administration, with its capacity to gin up racial animosity also bore some responsibility.

I only mention these again because so few people seem to think they matter. Among the exceptions is Heather MacDonald, who wrote this:

But Missouri’s political class has embraced the patent delusion that the university is rife with racism. Governor Jay Nixon called on college officials to “ensure the University of Missouri is a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.” In truth, the only barrier to such pursuit is a student’s own lack of academic preparedness, should he have been admitted under a racial preference. 

More typical is this column by Andre Perry, in the Washington Post:

In hostile environments, students of color graduate at lower rates, jeopardizing not only their academic careers but also future success.

We know that students of color are more likely to drop out of schools to which they have been mismatched by affirmative action policies. Perry ought to have taken that into account. And he should have understood that diversity policies and racial preferences cannot dictate who students have as friends and whether or not they get along with each other. To dictate human interaction at that level would require a vast left wing tyranny.

Yale graduate Annie Murphy Paul correctly remarks that minority students, students from America’s inner cities, are not really accepted by other students. They are seen as different from students like her, students who went to prep school and were brought up in affluence.

Paul is correct to say that it’s about a sense of belonging—a sense that many Yale students of color emphatically do not feel.

She writes:

As an intimate liberal arts college within a large research university, Yale makes an implicit promise to its undergraduates: When you enroll here, you are joining a community. You belong. For many, including me, this promise is amply fulfilled. From the moment I arrived on campus, Yale felt like home. I loved everything about the place—the cracked green leather of the armchair in my gloriously shabby dorm room, the smell of coffee and bacon in Commons at breakfast—and I felt like the place loved me back.

Paul notes how important it is for a social being to belong to a social group:

Research shows that a sense of belonging is essential for learning. We humans are social beings, wired for membership in a group. Mental resources devoted to monitoring one’s environment for cues of rejection, to fending off suspicions that one doesn’t belong, are mental resources that can’t be allocated to understanding and remembering academic content. The critics who have called Yale’s minority students “crybabies” have likely never had to worry about the security of their own group membership, have never had to operate under the cognitive load that a lack of belonging imposes.

Unfortunately, Paul does not seem to understand what it takes to belong to a community. Her Yale education did not teach her that when people socialize they obey a large number of social codes, of customs and mores. They do it unconsciously and involuntarily.

Even before we had diversity officers, students who went to schools like Yale tended to associate more freely with other students who had come from the same or a similar background. It was not a secret. It was simply a normal part of social interaction. Being friends with someone, belonging to their social circle is not a right.

Schools, like all human communities, have social circles. Some you are born into. Some you join. When you belong to a community you follow the same rules and practice the same customs and mores. You have similar speech patterns and verbal inflections. You dress similarly and have had a similar background and experiences.

Human beings are programmed to get along with others who are like them. Is it really a surprise that on many college campuses Asian students get along best with other Asian students? And is it a surprise that there are fewer microaggressions against students who had a higher barrier of entry, who had to have higher SAT scores than anyone else?

When Paul went to Yale, she felt like she was at home. When many students of color go to Yale they feel like they are in a foreign culture. They do not know the rules, do not know the game, and do not know what they should or should not do to belong to the group. They might believe that the gods of multiculturalism will make them accepted into groups that are dissimilar to those they grew up in. They are decidedly unhappy when they discover that this is not the case. 

Those who come from backgrounds like Paul’s have no real reason to open their arms to people who do not accept their culture.

Students of color do not seem to understand that you cannot force people to accept you as a member of their community. You might force them to tolerate your presence, but if you want truly to belong, you must learn how to conform. Regrettably, as Paul says, some students of color simply lack the social skills that would signify membership in her community. Even more regrettable is the fact, as I mentioned yesterday, that the stigma imposed by racial preferences is imposed on all students of color, regardless of their background and their SAT scores.

As for white students, some of them might suspect that a student of color has been admitted with hundreds fewer SAT points than a best friend from the old neighborhood. They might feel some resentment, out of loyalty to their friend. This does not justify acting it out by making hostile gestures, but if we are so concerned with the emotions of students of color shouldn’t we also say a word about the feelings of the other students?

Speaking of deficient social skills, a Yale student wrote an op-ed in the Yale Daily News in which she said:

I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.

In response to which Rachel Larrimore tweeted:

Is Yale letting in 8-year-olds?

That is precisely the point. This student rejects the marketplace of ideas. She rejects discussion and debate. She wants to rail against white people. And then she cannot understand why she does not belong.

You can fail to note that many Asian students do not fit in to the more white culture, but do not care. But, you should understand that Asian students have often been raised according to the Confucian principle of propriety. They will not be out there throwing tantrums in the quad.

In Paul’s fictional world people are all the same and should all be accepted equally. But this is patent absurdity. Social groups have rules of behavior; they have codes. These are not the same throughout society.

Students who want to talk about their pain are not going to be very high up on anyone’s desirable friend list. Students who rage against their professors are not going to be on the list either. If they take class time to rant about social injustice other students will think that they have not done the reading and are covering it up by being disruptive.

Social circles run harmoniously or they do not run at all. If you do not play by the rules and if your presence draws everyone’s attention to you then you are not going to become part of the group.

When students go off to college they tend to gravitate toward other students who are just like them. It is human nature to do so. They can more easily read each other’s gestures and will feel more comfortable and connected for having had common experiences. Such is life.

As for safety, it’s a two edged sword. Undoubtedly, the racial slights are real. Students of color-- with the exception of Asian students who apparently do not count as being of color-- seem often to be subjected to derogatory and insulting remarks. This has caused them to feel unsafe. Now they are seeking out safe zones where they can feel protected.

One cannot argue with their experience, but one notes that some of them at the University of Missouri hail from minority communities in St. Louis and Chicago. Question: do they feel safe in those communities? Would you feel safe in those communities?

And then there was Yale undergraduate who let loose with a rant about safe spaces and the like. She got seriously in the face of her college master, Prof. Christakis. She was insolent, arrogant and thoroughly obnoxious. Would you invite her to your next dinner party? Doesn’t her behavior tell you why she is not one of the group?

Reason summarizes her mindless tantrum. She began:

“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman. You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?”

When Christakis replied that he didn’t agree, the student thundered back, “Then why the fuck did you accept the position! Who the fuck hired you?”

Christakis began to say that he had a different view of his role at the college, but the student cut him off, saying:

“Then step down! If that is what you think about being a [inaudible] master, then you should step down. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here! You are not doing that. You’re going against that.”

If you want to present yourself in a state of fulminating rage you are not going to be accepted into social groups. You will not belong. Admittedly, minority students have more difficulty fitting in. They were not to the manner born. And yet, if they do not make the effort to behave like upstanding members of the community, if they do not try to learn the local customs, if they believe that their role is to disrupt the university, then clearly they will, by their own behavior, be excluding themselves.

But perhaps this student had always in the past behaved with perfect decorum. Her behavior at that moment might have been the exception, not the rule.

I would respond that if she was brimming with rage, the chances are infinitesimally small that she kept it hidden from everyone at all times and in all places. In truth, social cues are very subtle and extremely difficult to control voluntarily. Human organisms are instinctively primed to distinguish friend from foe, often on the basis of seemingly minor cues. If you think that this raging student had kept it all hidden, I would respectfully disagree.


JP said...

I'm pretty sure that the Yale student's problem was not that she was unable to fit in with a group due to lack of affluence or social skills.

priss rules said...

Given current college debating styles and its concept of 'justice', today's reality isn't much different from the court scene in IDIOCRACY.

As with illegal immigration issue, the problem is a combination of PC and Corporatization.

Yes, PC does rule the university, but the refusal of the football team played a key role in forcing the president to resign.

Hollers and Dollars.

Likewise, the homo thing and amnesty thing have the backing of both PC and Big Money.

priss rules said...

Biggest joke is the most violent and aggressive members of society tend to be black, and this goes for colleges too.

When blacks who cause the most trouble complain the most of being 'disrespected', it is downright surreal.

To some extent, this is a reaction to the homo movement having sent black movement to the back of the bus.

priss rules said...

Favorite culture among blacks is rap music. Blacks are into thug culture and 'ho' culture. But they complain about how they are such sensitive and scared victims of white bigotry?

We also need to redefine 'racism'. Ism means belief, so race-ism should just mean belief in races and racial differences. It should just mean honest talk about race.

We need it more than ever. Without such honest talk, we have everything being called 'racist'--like calling any woman a 'witch'--and the automatic conclusion that anything labeled as 'racist' is wrong or evil.

But we need honest talk about black violence and black academic failure and why.

priss rules said...

A lot of black students in elite colleges are actually not members of the black American community. Many happen to be immigrant blacks, often of Igbo background. Igbo of Nigeria are thought to have high IQ compared to most Africans.

So, ironically, Affirmative Action is now used to favor the descendants of slave sellers(as blacks captured slaves and sold them to whites).

Also, it is not true that most black students in colleges come from the ghetto. If anything, Affirmative Action favors affluent and middle class blacks over poor whites(who often score better on tests than blacks).

The reason why blacks tend to stick together is because they want to. But it's not unusual for Jewish students to hang with Jews, Asian students to hang with Asians, etc.

But in general, the loudest and most disruptive student body tends to be black.
I know from experience.
But OF COURSE, it is so raaaaaaaaaaacist to say blacks tend to be louder and rowdier.

priss rules said...

"When many students of color go to Yale they feel like they are in a foreign culture. They do not know the rules, do not know the game, and do not know what they should or should not do to belong to the group."

One would think that the main rule is 'study hard and plan for the future', but gee, that advice might be 'racist'. What isn't these days?

Anonymous said...

I hope they do succeed in shutting colleges down. All of them. Consequences create clarity. Layoffs for college professors, administrators, clerical workers, student work-study people, etc. All of them. Cut all subsidies to communist theoreticians. Watch the pain. We're grilling Trump about how awful it will be when immigrants get deported. Let's see what it's like when those head-in-the-clouds workers in higher education are prevented from earning a living. Idiots must suffer so we can carry on as a sensible society, especially when they choose their suffering by filling these minds with such tripe. And who cares? They'll find $15 an hour jobs. They're everywhere. -$$$

Ares Olympus said...

The 1 minute video clip (and transcript) at Reason is instructive, although I'm not sure what lesson we can learn. My personal lesson would be "Don't argue when you're angry, and if you do, hope no one is recording your incoherence for the world to see."

But I could also go to George Bernard Shaw's quote against "being reasonable":
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Somehow these loud angry people are forcing issues to the forefront that are never convenient to talk about. So all of us who want to "be reasonable" and step back and see what truth we can find in that rage we can't personally endorse. At least we know creativity can follow destructive rage, especially if you're suddenly willing to talk about something that previously had to be suppressed.

If no one's livelihood was at stake, and everyone's physical safety intact, my preference would be to "let the experiment progress naturally, let the anger work itself out."

And usually the loudest people are those who feel powerless in some way, so if you can find a way to give them power or responsibility, the tables will suddenly be turned, and they'll be accountable for other people's immature rage and blaming.

The chaos within the Republican party is of a similar reasoned irrationality. That student was only too happy to have that guy resign for failing his responsibility (as she saw it), than to see he had any redeeming virtues within him.

Similar the republican voters seem interested in punishing qualified candidates on the grounds that they are qualified, because "the pattern" is clear. You vote for people who say one thing, and do something else. But we'll see how far this "temper tantrum" goes among the republican voters.

Sometimes if you just let someone rage and listen, and don't try to contradict them, their rage will become spent, and they'll calm down and look for common ground again rather than scalps.

There is some sort of art of leadership, and perhaps the most important part of that art is to not panic, be patience, seeing "This too shall pass."

Maybe Yale will rehire Christakis after some process of clarity of purpose for his role.

Maybe this will lead to new discussions for all college students, an agreement like:
"By attending this school, I take responsibility for my own discomfort, and if I can't handle a space of open intellectual freedom, I will temporarily withdraw or ask for help without making others wrong for being or thinking differently, and if that process fails me, I will acknowledge I am not emotionally suitable for a University education, and I will resign my role as student."

Well, something on that line.

Anonymous said...

One thing I notice is that these episodes of complaining and venting are associated with schools with a critical mass of females in the student population.

It is hard to imagine that this foolishness would occur at an institution that is mostly male. If males get riled up, it is usually real and serious.

This is what happens when you get large groups of women together. That is why there are no successful all-female corporations, bands (other than some flash in the pan novelty group) or otherwise serious organizations. If you had your own business and were serious about success, would you hire an all female staff? If you were a female owner, would you hire all girls?

These campus incidents are pointing to the erosion of university education. The university is now another "stamp" that must be collected and is really a socialization mechanism. The black students are there to get a social approval stamp. When they sense that they still cannot "fit in" they feel sold out. The males will accept it, work hard and move on. The females will shout out and complain - asking for male support in a way.

Anyway, the internet is going to transform education in the next generation. The bricks and mortar institutions will slowly degrade and will remain as a means of social proof. The really bright people will learn everything they have on on line.

Dennis said...

I would suggest that the most apt term I have seen for much of the drivel that emanates from academe and its environs is "The Salem Witch Trials." I would also, by extension, define what has been pushed by feminism is a larger form of the same philosophy. NOTE all of the various rights like due process, free speech, et al under attack by those who lack the intellectual skill to operate in a free society.

When one has, in academe, a professoriate that lacks the courage of their convictions then one gets graduates the reflect that. Sadly, too many of these people have had freedom without consequence that, even with the example of Paris and terrorism,they don't realize how quickly it can disappear. There seems to be a disconnect in the recognition of the how where, what they take for granted came about.
If they want to know how Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini et al came about all they have to do is look in the mirror for they are the dictators and fascists of today.
with the same desire for power and control.

Dennis said...

I generally like spell check, but there are times when I would like to do damage to the people who came up with it especially when it tries to think for you.