The Neoliberal Arts, and the Paradox of Dogma

Play-Doh Retro Canister

Play-Doh Retro Canister (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is interesting. While I think his definition of “Reaganism”, “Thatcherism”, and even “Clintonism” to be shallow, puerile, demeaning to some good people, not to mention simply wrong; I think he strikes on some great truths about growing up today in the west, and how we are (mis-)educating our kids.

How college sold its soul to the market

recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Source: [Essay] | The Neoliberal Arts, by William Deresiewicz | Harper’s Magazine

This, I think, pretty much goes with it.

College campuses have long been on the forefront of this kind of “speech code,” and Judith Shulevitz recently wrote an eye-opening description of the latest innovation: the campus “safe space.” In this case, the safe space was created in response to that most troubling of events: a debate (in this case, between a feminist and a libertarian).

The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall—it was packed—but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

God forbid anyone should have to encounter viewpoints that go against their beliefs. And on a college campus, of all places!

Source: The Paradox of Dogma: How the Left Is Crippling Itself.

That’s surely sad, that anybody can’t stand to hear idea that they don’t agree with, but more to the point, T.S Eliot said it better:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men. […]

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

And no, I didn’t learn that in trade school, and when I learned it, I neither understood it, not thought it applicable to my life.

 

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About NEO
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6 Responses to The Neoliberal Arts, and the Paradox of Dogma

  1. the unit says:

    There was more free speech messages on the comics of Double Bubble wrapper in the ’50’s. I was a pal of Pud in those days. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    They say old people have trouble sleeping. Guess that’s why I still up. No sleep apnea. Just no sleep. Oh well, I don’t have to get up early these days. So I suppose I get what I need. Old…getting there…at least. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    I see culturallimmts tweet to the right. I do occasionally think to go over to DC Gazette and take a look. Have sort of forgotten about Conservative Citizen. Think I’ll go over there while I’m up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • the unit says:

      Liked your history lesson written June about Runnymede, Ties in with our Prince Charming.

      Liked by 1 person

      • NEO says:

        It does indeed, he remind me a good deal of King John.

        Like

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