gender, language, other topics, politics

The Anomalous Society

In recent years, America has become an anomalous society, bereft of many of the social rules, explicit and especially implicit, that previously we lived by. That may sound good – liberating and innovative, free of the burdensome constraints that plagued our ancestors and slowed progress. But too much of a good thing is not always wonderful, and on occasion freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. The loss of our system of culturally based rules may even be responsible for part of the fix we are in.

 

The rules I am talking about here are not the explicit ones we recite to our children: Say Thank you. Put away your toys. Don’t make fun of other people. The rules I am talking about are the ones most adults used to figure out by themselves in the course of arriving at maturity, implicit assumptions about how to be human, how to be a person of gender, how to manage work, friendships, and intimacy, and many more. A great many of these are currently gone or contested. Continue reading

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other topics, politics

The “Intolerant” University

 

I am usually a fan of Nicholas Kristof’s op-eds in the New York Times. But as a recovering academic, I must take issue with his latest.

 

As its title suggests, the op-ed argues that academia is, despite its vaunted tolerance, intolerant – of conservatives. At first glance, Kristof appears to have the facts on his side. Especially in the humanities and social sciences, faculty members skew strongly liberal: only 2% of English professors identify as Republicans; 18% of social scientists claim to be Marxists. Most of the faculty members of every linguistics department I know are liberal. According to Kristof, faculty members express in surveys a preference for liberal colleagues. Most despised of all are evangelical Christians: according to another survey, this one conducted by an evangelical Christian sociologist, “59% of anthropologists and 53% of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.”

 

Well, that sounds pretty intolerant, making academics look deeply hypocritical – demanding openness of others but creating for themselves closed societies of similar thinkers. Kristof goes on to suggest that, since “universities should be a hubbub of the full range of political perspectives” (because a necessary part of education is exposure to a spectrum of ideas), academia is the very worst place for such intolerance to exist. How embarrassing! Continue reading

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