March 27 2013
The Death of Iconoclasm?
One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that many recent college graduates (excepting the young women who come to work at IWF, who have generally been campus mavericks) seem so intellectually docile. Iconoclasm was once prized in academic settings. This doesn’t appear to be the case now.
What’s going on? Kids take out huge loans to go to college and then emerge into the world unable to think for themselves. It is as if many have been mass produced by an intellectual cookie cutter. Reason editor Nick Gillespie put this perfectly in an interview with Greg Lukianoff, author of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Gillespie said:
It's to the eternal shame, I think, of higher education in America that it no longer celebrates itself as a place where anything can happen, anything can be discussed, anything can be taught. And instead, it's all about a kind of rigid and grim enforcement of the status quo or of superior knowledge that extends to how people should live and how people should think.
People make fun of the medieval scholastics. Maybe it is time to make fun of modern universities that don’t teach people how to think. Dennis Prager writes that our universities have become “left-wing seminaries.” Universities may still claim to foster open discourse, but they generally present one point of view.
The inability to think critically and challenge authority affects our political discourse. It surprises me that there weren’t more young women on college campuses saying in 2012, “What do you mean ‘War on Women’? Women are doing very well and I’m smart enough to know that the GOP isn’t remotely interested in coming after my contraception.” But the campaign and all the right-thinking people, including professors, said there was a “War on Women.”
Peter Berkowitz, who introduced me to Lukianoff last year in a piece the deterioration of freedom of discussion in the U.S., wrote this:
The mis-education of American students, Lukianoff argues, has a trickle-up effect. As graduates move into positions of prestige and power in law and business, in the media, in education, and in politics they bring with them the impatience with or contempt for dissent, and indifference to or cynicism about due process that they learn on campus.
Because the free exchange of ideas enables us to see what is flawed in our own opinions and what has merit in the opinions of others, and because due process gives institutional expression to the reality of human fallibility and our justified apprehensions about the tendency of those in power to abuse their power, the unlearning of liberty on university campuses erodes citizens’ ability to grasp the nation’s interests and undermines the country’s capacity to honor its obligation to protect equally the rights of all.
Nothing like going seriously into debt to not get an education.