Trigger Warning: This will make you laugh, so if you believe in social justice, avert your eyes immediately.
Among the many shticks on You Bet Your Life was that if you said the “secret word,” a toy duck with a Groucho ‘stache and glasses would drop down from the ceiling with a $100 bill. It was always a common word, the sort one would say in the usual course of banter.
There is almost nothing about this show that could survive today, and certainly nothing that would cut it at Occidental College.
Occidental is looking at microaggression policy after the student group Oxy United for Black Liberation last month submitted a point-by-point list of radical demands — including that campus security ditch their bulletproof vests.
Rather than rejecting that out of hand, Occidental administrators — like their counterparts at the University of Missouri and Yale — said they’d consider the demands. Soon enough, microagression monitoring was on the table.
It’s not enough that the microaggression police are on the job, but their work will be done through secret snitches.
Perhaps most worrying, the plan calls for a microaggression monitoring system that would allow students to report faculty members for offending them. The plan explains that this is necessary to correct “power imbalances between faculty and students.” But students will have too much power if they are granted the right to be safe from microaggressions—which are, by their very nature, subjective and relatively inconsequential. How are professors supposed to teach if they have to worry about being reported and investigated for unknowingly saying the wrong thing to a student?
A few years ago, I proposed that faculty take back the classroom, not only because it’s their friggin’ job to teach students, but because there must be a “power imbalance” if students are going to learn anything. That’s the point of education, to teach mush-minds, not to let children dictate the terms of surrender.
Yet, young people call concepts such as a teacher teaching “condescending,” and demand an equal voice even though they couldn’t be less equal. Rather than take this route, students have gone from concrete complaints to the ephemeral bitch of microaggressions.
A “microagression” is something that isn’t plainly offensive, but might be taken that way if someone looking to be upset thinks hard enough.
So now there will be a microaggression hotline at Occidental, where the duck will drop with a bludgeon in place of a c-note. But it’s important to realize that this isn’t being rammed down the faculty’s throat, in violation of every precept of academic freedom as well as the dereliction of their duty to expand students’ minds and teach them ideas that might not comport with their absolute certainty of right and wrong.
No, the faculty is right on board.
The libertarians at Reason magazine interviewed several students to see if, say, “God bless you” might be a microaggression (as other schools have ruled it). Sure, came the answers.
And it’s not like they don’t realize what’s at stake here.
Mandatory diversity training of all faculty puts even seasoned professors in the position of being told what ideological assumptions they should or even must have. Academic freedom requires professors to follow their own research where it takes them regardless of the opinions of paid consultants.
Finally the requirement that all professors, even hard science professors, incorporate “issues of cultural and racial identity and diversity in their curricula,” violates basic tenets of academic freedom and scholarly independence.
If the faculty decides they want to be burned at the stake, who’s to tell them otherwise? They want to be martyrs to the cause.
We recognize and are inspired by the leadership of Oxy United for Black Liberation and their call for widespread institutional changes in the culture of the College. We affirm that Black lives matter and also affirm the broader ideals of social justice to which their call speaks. We recognize that the structural racism and other forms of oppression of the College violate our commitment to ensuring equity and excellence in our educational programs for all of our students. We also acknowledge that our collective inaction as a faculty body makes us complicit in the failures of the College to make our Mission a lived reality. For this we apologize for failing you, our students.
Oh, you haven’t begun to fail your students.
In a chat about issues swirling around college and law school, a judge made a point to me the other day that, as much as the students are out of their childish minds, that’s to be expected of students. That’s why they’re in school, to learn, because they don’t already know and because they’re still children.
The problem was that we expect the grown-ups in colleges and law schools to behave like grown-ups, to make mature decisions and talk the students off the ledge of insanity. Instead, faculty and administrators are empowering and enabling the children by acquiescing, and maybe even encouraging, their recreating the educational experience into some Kafkaesque joke of social justice.
The judge had an excellent point. That children behave like children is nothing new, even if the manifestations, as demonstrated by anyone taking microaggressions seriously. suggest that they’re just not all that bright anymore and certainly enjoying too fabulous a life if someone saying “God bless you” is enough to make them cry and pull out their hair.
A few years ago, it was still within the realm of possibility that professors could stand at the classroom podium and tell her students that she is the teacher, they are the students, and they do not run her classroom. Now, it’s not only impossible, but the teacher is begging for her knuckles to be rapped by whatever nonsensical trifle offends the craziest future catperson in the room.
Ah, I wrote “future,” and a duck just dropped from the ceiling. But its mouth was empty.