The spoiled fruit of liberalism on college campuses

Higher Education
by Cal Thomas

Posted on Thursday, November 19, 2015, at 12:56 pm

College campuses are again in turmoil. According to The New York Times, “Racist, sexist and anti-Semitic incidents on and near college campuses from Dartmouth to Wisconsin to Stanford this fall have provoked worries by education and civil rights leaders that such acts are on the increase.”

But wait. That wasn’t a story in yesterday’s newspaper. That was a story in the Times edition of Oct. 31, 1988. Most campuses where these incidents occurred were known for their liberalism. They included such bastions of feminism as Smith and Wellesley colleges, Amherst and Mount Holyoke, as well as Yale and Dartmouth, and the school many regard as ground zero of liberal academia, The University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In light of recent protests at the University of Missouri and other campuses, it is amusing to read what some believed to be the cause of similar unrest in 1988. Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell blamed the Reagan administration. Bell claimed that Reagan had disengaged the federal government from civil rights causes.

So if Reagan was to blame then, who is to blame now for a repeat of the racial conflict on some college campuses? The left isn’t blaming the first African-American president, Barack Obama, though he has done very little to substantially improve conditions for poor African-Americans.

How about blaming the spoiled fruit of liberalism? The president and chancellor at the University of Missouri abruptly resigned when a group of mostly black students protested that the school administration had not said or done enough in response to racial slights on campus. We’re hearing students speak of the need for “safe zones” and against “microaggression,” a term with which I have only recently become familiar.

Several points about all of this. 

First, the leadership at the University of Missouri didn’t lead at all. They cut and ran. To put a twist on a cliché, it isn’t about the inmates taking over the asylum; rather it is about the children taking over the day care center. Students should be more concerned with the falling value of their degrees and the poor job market for college graduates than causes that will not help them after graduation. No employer will be asking for their protest résumés.

Second, there will always be racists, bigots, and intolerant people among us, though it could be argued that liberals are the least tolerant of all when it comes to ideas and policies with which they disagree.

Over several decades, incidents of discrimination against conservative students, faculty, and even speakers have been well documented. Invitations have been withdrawn, speakers booed, censorship imposed on too many campuses, which are supposed to be oases of tolerance, pluralism, and academic freedom.

Third, getting angry, shouting, and trying to shut people up is not a constructive approach to disagreement or even a good way to respond to an insult.

Conversation is better than forced silence. Isolation, punishment, and expulsion are a recipe for deepening bigotry, not curing it.

© 2015 Tribune Content Agency LLC.

Listen to Cal Thomas’ commentary on The World and Everything in It.

Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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