Thursday, November 29, 2012

Colleges and Tyranny

Michael Barone surveys two new books at NRO both of which expose how ideological liberalism at our colleges and universities both harms and tyrannizes students. Barone writes:
In recent weeks, two books have appeared about another of America’s gleaming institutions, our colleges and universities. Either of them could be subtitled “The Shame of the Universities.”

In Mismatch, law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor expose, in the words of their subtitle, How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It. In Unlearning Liberty, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), describes how university speech codes create, as his subtitle puts it, Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.

Mismatch is a story of good intentions gone terribly awry.

Sander and Taylor document beyond disagreement how university admissions offices’ racial quotas and preferences systematically put black and Hispanic students in schools where they are far less well prepared than others.

As a result, they tend to get low grades, withdraw from science and math courses, and drop out without graduating. The effect is particularly notable in law schools, where large numbers of blacks and Hispanics either drop out or fail to pass the bar exam.

University admissions officers nevertheless maintain what Taylor calls “an enormous, pervasive and carefully concealed system of racial preferences,” even while claiming they aren’t actually doing so. The willingness to lie systematically seems to be a requirement for such jobs.
It might be pointed out that affirmative action is insidious in another way. It tacitly diminishes the achievement of those minorities who do succeed in college. They're stigmatized both in school and beyond graduation by the suspicion that the only reason they succeeded is because they were given preferential treatment. This stigma is an extremely painful insult to have to bear throughout one's life, and the fact that colleges nevertheless continue to perpetuate it by continuing the practice of affirmative action in their admissions is an example of how liberal good intentions actually result in acts that are basically cruel to the people the liberal thinks he's helping.

Barone goes on to discuss campus speech codes:
The willingness to lie systematically is also a requirement for administrators who profess a love of free speech while imposing speech codes and penalizing students for violations.

All of which provides plenty of business for Lukianoff’s FIRE, which opposes speech codes and brings lawsuits on behalf of students — usually, but not always, conservatives — who are penalized.

Those who graduated from college before the late 1980s may not realize that speech codes have become, in Lukianoff’s words, “the rule rather than the exception” on American campuses.

They are typically vague and all-encompassing. One school prohibits “actions or attitudes that threaten the welfare” of others. Another bans e-mails that “harass, annoy or otherwise inconvenience others.” Others ban “insensitive” communication, “inappropriate jokes,” and “patronizing remarks.”

“Speech codes can only survive,” Lukianoff writes, “through selective enforcement.” Conservatives and religious students are typically targeted. But so are critics of administrators, like the student expelled for a Facebook posting critical of a proposed $30 million parking garage.
There's much more at the link. When liberals have authority they tend to use it to control other people's lives in order, they think, to bring about a just world. They want to control what people say as well as what they do, but the more they try to control individual speech the more oppressive they become and the less freedom people have. Barone cites a survey that shows that only 30% of university seniors feel they're free to voice opinions at variance with the university orthodoxy.

Liberalism's insistence on conformity is the greatest threat to freedom in the Western world today, but unfortunately too many students have grown up thinking that the way things are is the way they should be. They lack the time horizon to see how much their freedom is eroding, and, like the frog in the pot of boiling water, too many of them are unaware, or unconcerned, that it's happening.