Saturday, March 19, 2016

On Generalizing and Stereotyping Illiberal Liberals

Of course the main point of this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is really about the illiberal intellectual climate in higher ed.  It's probably a pretty legitimate critique of the academy which, like everywhere else in our society, has been politicized and has become rather polarized.  In talking with our academic friends, it seems horribly stifling, actually, in dire need of reform.  It is really difficult to criticize many of the taboos, especially those which are racially charged, without being perceived as a bigot yourself, which is another legitimate point of the article.  

On the other hand, taking a broader view of history, we should probably admit that, while it might be hard to bring into question such taboos in academia at the moment, it is not impossible.  The cult of "political correctness" is not operating with equal force all disciplines and all schools.  But what really bothers me is that Boyers projects his complaints of American higher education to American society as a whole.  It seems to me a bit exaggerated to claim that "life of ideas is also increasingly compromised in precincts beyond the academy."  On the contrary, at the moment we're witnessing a very public moment where it's not only permissible to reject these taboos of political correctness, but it's also popular to deliberately single out and offend entire groups of people, even to the point of inciting violence, all in the name of being against "political correctness."  Isn't that evidence that the power of the so-called "liberal elite" -- which presumably controls American universities from coast to coast -- is not quite as absolute as Boyers claims?