Sheer Idiocy

Camille Paglia treks merrily ahead in her years-long quest to be as wrong as possible.

Here’s Camille Paglia, writing in Salon (via Phi Beta Cons):

But affluent middle-class Democrats now seem to be complacently servile toward authority and automatically believe everything party leaders tell them. Why? Is it because the new professional class is a glossy product of generically institutionalized learning? Independent thought and logical analysis of argument are no longer taught. Elite education in the US has become a frenetic assembly line of competitive college application to schools where ideological brainwashing is so pandemic that it’s invisible. The top schools, from the Ivy League on down, promote “critical thinking,” which sounds good but is in fact just a style of rote regurgitation of hackneyed approved terms (“racism, sexism, homophobia”) when confronted with any social issue. The Democratic brain has been marinating so long in those cliches that it’s positively pickled.

It’s tempting to not respond to this, since it’s simply a sloppy, ignorant, trite rehashing of long-discredited conservative tropes that have been around since the sixties. There is nothing more boring than someone who graduated colleges decades ago more or less copying and pasting random bits of David Horowitz’s work.

But, for the record: No, Camille, that’s not what happens on college campuses. I should know, as I spent two years on two of the most liberal campuses in the country: Brandeis University and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. A solid proportion of my classes featured vibrant discussions, wide-ranging disagreement, and students openly arguing with professors.

Were there some professors who were too self-assured? Yes. Were some ideas and themes not granted enough critical scrutiny? Certainly. But the idea that liberals have a monopoly on either of these problems, which have arisen in every high-pressure intellectual and pedagogical environment that has ever existed, is dumb. And the idea that an “assembly line” has led to a generation of young people unwilling to question Democratic authority—this when many of Obama’s most vociferous left-leaning critics come from the very campuses Paglia’s bashing!—is beyond dumb. It’s careless and stupid and thoughtless, and the five minutes I’ve spent rebutting it are probably five minutes too many.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.