In a scene from one of my favorite movies, Hoosiers, the new basketball coach Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman) has a showdown with the self-appointed assistant coach, George. After Coach Dale tells George that his “coaching days are over,” the latter sheepishly says to him:
“Look, mister, there’s... two kinds of dumb, uh... guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don’t matter, the second one you’re kinda forced to deal with.”
Increasingly, the growing number of radical protestors on college campuses are akin to the “second guy”: they’re going to have to be dealt with before things get out of hand, and higher education in America further descends into irrelevancy.
The latest bit of insanity comes from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. By now, most of you have heard that Bret Weinstein, a biology professor at Evergreen who describes himself as “deeply progressive,” was protested outside his classroom by a group of 50 students who called him “racist” and a “white supremacist.” Eventually, he had to hold his class off campus because campus security could no longer guarantee his safety.
The catalyst for the protest and epithets was Professor Weinstein’s very sane and just objection to a forced “Day of Absence,” on which white students, faculty, and staff were requested to stay off campus for the day—‘cause, you know, systemic racism.
Evergreen is frequently ranked as one of the most liberal colleges in America, which makes it surprising that its students would accuse it, essentially, of not being as liberal as it should be. Yet it is just one more incident of what the title of a recent New York Times editorial referred to as “the left turn[ing] on its own.”
I must say that I loathe writing about the growing intolerance on college campuses. Simply put, it’s intellectually uninteresting to me. One reason why is that the student purveyors of these recent specimens of intolerance are so childish. They brazenly exalt themselves as enlightened representatives of the oppressed while lacking humility, charity, a basic knowledge of history, and logically coherent positions.
I also find it intellectually uninteresting because I think you’d be hard-pressed to find better examples of “self-evident truths” than the values of free speech and free intellectual inquiry—especially at institutions of higher learning. It’s hard to gin up the energy to defend what shouldn’t need defending.
At the same time, I feel the need to check my lack of interest with a reminder from the philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, who was one of the few German intellectuals to oppose the Nazi regime during its rise. As Carl Trueman stated in a column for First Things:
“Von Hildebrand offered an interesting insight into why opposition to Nazism was so hard. It was not because it was risky, though that was undoubtedly true. It was because it was tedious. To stand in opposition to something takes time and energy and yields little or no results and rarely brings immediate social credit (in fact, it typically brings the opposite). Sooner or later most people become tired of being indignant and simply accommodate themselves to what appears to be an invincible force. They may not privately approve but they publicly acquiesce.”
If America’s universities are to be preserved—not for what they’ve become, but for what they were—the time has come to deal with the radical students and faculty who are undermining the very principles on which these great institutions of Western Civilization were founded.
I admit that I’m not yet sure how to “deal with” them. Certainly not in the way of the caller who on Thursday threatened “to execute as many people on the campus as I can get ahold of.”
One obvious option would be for college administrators to stop kowtowing to these students, and actually start handing down serious disciplinary actions for their intolerant, and sometimes violent, behavior. Though these students may have been subjected to a curriculum high in cultural Marxism, as I’ve written elsewhere, they’ve also been trained to be degree-seeking mercenaries. The majority of them are not yet so radical as to be immune to threats to their obtaining of those degrees.
Another option is the proposal of legislators in Washington to defund Evergreen State College by revoking the $24 million the school receives annually from the state. Perhaps Ivan Illich was right when he wrote, “Only by channeling dollars away from the institutions which now treat health, education and welfare can the further impoverishment resulting from their disabling side-effects be stopped.”
Presumably, public colleges are supposed to exist for intellectually forming students to promote the public good. When, instead, they’re forming students to hate the very ideas upon which that good is based, there no longer remains a reason for them to receive public funding.
The subsidizing of radical behavior on America’s college campuses will only guarantee more of it.
Dan is a former Senior Fellow at Intellectual Takeout. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (MN), and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his academic work at Academia.edu.