Seething Rage in former Institutions of Higher Learning

"Their [the pro-life visitors at Yale] smug civility was infuriating; their invitations for debate [about foetal personhood and abortion ethics”] inflammatory. I could barely seethe out my opinion about the misogyny of holding such a debate at all … The discussion never should have been entertained [at all] because simply opening space for this ‘logical, respectful’ debate itself is a threat to human rights that should never be up for debate … Some arguments aren’t worth engaging with, and quite frankly are dangerous for even existing." -- Hyerim Bianca Nam, Editorial, Yale Daily News

Logical argument, especially “civil respectful debate,” is not, apparently, very welcome at Yale these days, and why should it be when the children who go there, to, so to speak, “study” already know everything?  “Seething”, as opposed to thinking, the latter of which requires free and “logical respectful” debate, is, apparently, what “educators” at Yale convey to their pupils nowadays.  On the other side of the ledger, however, it was logical and respectful debates that long ago made Yale a place people wanted to go to learn (back in the “old days” when learning, as opposed to indoctrination, was seen as desirable). 

If Yale were the only educational institution teaching intolerance and hatred this might not be a major cause for concern.  However, GWU Law professor and constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley points out that:

A Berkeley columnist denounced civility and called for violent resistance. Dartmouth faculty and students demanded that the university shutdown a conservative newspaper. Wellesley editors endorsed shutting down conservative speakers and said that “violence may be warranted.”  We have also documented repeated incidents where university newspapers have fired writers and editors for questioning Covid masks, challenging systemic racism claims, or holding other opposing views. There has also been a repeated attack on civility as racist or reactionary.  Reporters at National Public Radio have denounced civility as a “weapon wielded by the powerful.” Hillary Clinton has called for the end of civility toward Republicans.

The rejection of free speech has seeped out of our universities into K-12 schools and into the culture generally, where it breeds dogmatism, hatred and even violence (talk about fascists?). One would think that anyone of even modest intelligence would see how dangerous this is but the enormous levels of narcissistic self-absorption, an essential concomitant to the dogmatic intolerance promulgated by the left, instilled into the young over the past decades, prevents people from seeing anything beyond their own imagined reflections.

It is only common sense that the reason adolescent undergraduates refuse to debate certain issues is that they cannot defend them.  If one is really confident in one’s views, one is happy, even eager, to debate them respectfully and civilly.  It is likely that, at some level, the undergraduate censors know that their rote recitation of slogans and bumper stickers in a homogeneous leftist echo-chamber does not constitute a serious position.

Unfortunately, Bianca Nam advanced certain theses. She needs to defend them. She has claimed that a discussion about fetal personhood and abortion ethics is misogynistic (woman-hating).  But is it?  Perhaps not discussing these kinds of things is misogynistic.  Many early feminists, who opposed abortion on the grounds that it undermines the very thing, childbirth, that makes females distinctively different from men, disagreed.  Some early feminists argued that abortion as “a revolting outrage against … our common humanity” and a form of infanticide.  New York born feminist and abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) held that abortion is “child murder” that results from “the degradation of women”.  Suffragette Victoria Woodhall, first female candidate for president of the United States in the election of 1872, wrote that “Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never … think of murdering [a child] before its birth.”

Many early feminists would see Bianca Nam as the misogynistic consequence of a deeper societal degradation of women.  After all, we have a Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Jackson Brown who doesn’t know what a woman is (actually she does know but we are expected to play along with the childish word-games).  Much bigger and stronger “trans women” who were assigned a male gender at birth, now regularly defeat natural born women, even Olympic medalists, in sports.  Since many contemporary females also disagree with Bianca Nam, what gives her the right to keep women of the past and present cancelled and “invisible”? 

Bianca Nam has claimed that “logical respectful debate itself is a threat to human rights that should never be up for debate”.  But is that true?  She needs to defend this thesis.  How does one determine what is a human right and what not?  Abortion is certainly a threat to the rights of the “child” (Joe Biden’s word).  What are its rights?  There is a long and very sophisticated tradition of ethics and moral philosophy that discusses such issues.  The answers cannot be found printed on the back of the orientation booklet at Yale.  See Judith Boss, Analyzing Moral Issues, 3rd edition, Chap. 2!

Bianca Nam has claimed that “Some arguments aren’t worth engaging with … and are dangerous for even existing.”  How does she know that these arguments are not worth having and are dangerous without having them?   Did the answer fall from heaven into a burning bush in the Yale Arts Quad?

In fact, in all these cases Bianca Nam is simply committing the fallacy of “begging the question” (assuming what one purports to prove), one of academia’s most useful fallacies these days.  Unfortunately, for what remains of our former universities, fallacies do not mysteriously become persuasive rational arguments just because spoiled adolescents cannot or will not defend their positions.

If empirical studies are any guide, some of these children will, in several decades, have become conservatives (and not a little embarrassed about their youthful silliness).  Probably more will have returned to traditional “liberalism” and embrace moderate center-leftist values but readily acknowledge the need for freedom of speech and thought.  Some will, probably, have retained their indefensible authoritarian intolerance and run for political office where they can make loads of money pushing people around and speaking gobbledygook while surrounded by taxpayer-funded armed guards and layers of spying devices.

Socrates, in Plato’s Gorgias, argues that it is better to lose an argument than to win it because one learns something when one loses an argument.  Our universities have taught students not to learn anything by staying within the confines of their safe little bubbles where they cannot be challenged.  It is, therefore, not even these intolerant children that are primarily responsible for their seething intolerance.  The primary fault lies on the universities that have let this unrealistic fascistic culture develop. This failure is not, primarily, one of intellect.  Passing tests and writing nice papers is the easy part.  Machines can do that quite well.  This results from a failure of courage on the part faculties and administrations because, unfortunately, courage cannot be acquired by reading books and attending lectures.

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