As liberal adults abdicate, the kids take charge on campus.
By bonfire of the academy we mean a conflict of values about the idea of a university that now threatens to undermine or destroy universities as a place of learning. Exhibit A is the ruin called the University of Missouri.
In the 1960s—at Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley and elsewhere—the self-described Student Left occupied buildings with what they often called “non-negotiable” demands. In the decades since, the academy—its leaders and faculties—by and large has accommodated many of those demands regarding appropriate academic subjects, admissions policies and what has become the aggressive and non-tolerant politics of identity and grievance.
This political trajectory arrived at its logical end this week at Missouri with the abrupt resignation of the school’s president, quickly followed by its number two official. The kids deposed them, as their liberal elders applauded either out of solidarity or cowardice.
The cause of President Tim Wolfe’s resignation is said to be his failure to address several racially charged incidents on campus and the threat by its Division One football team to boycott this weekend’s game unless he stepped down.
The university’s campus, in Columbia, is not far from Ferguson, Mo. Among the charges against President Wolfe was that his response to the shooting of Michael Brown was inadequate, which is to say, he did not sufficiently take the side of the protesters or rioters. Since Ferguson, the left-wing Black Lives Matter group has come to prominence and intimidated even presidential candidates. This has been accompanied by successive claims of racial grievance against public and private institutions.
In the United States, by now the instinct of the overwhelming majority of people is to address such complaints in good faith, investigate them and remediate where necessary. Only the tiniest minority would wish to see racial grievances bleed indefinitely. Yet the kids assert that America is irredeemably racist. Read the rest of this entry »
From NR, The Editors: When, this spring, Brandeis University reneged on its commencement invitation to human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, it revealed the cravenness that characterizes many of America’s leading institutions of higher education. The decision of Yale’s William F. Buckley Jr. Program to invite Hirsi Ali to New Haven as part of its speaker series has exposed the same quality in many of that school’s students.
“Even the most enthusiastic Ivy League shill should know that spending $55K a year to have one’s presuppositions obsequiously endorsed is a waste.”
In an open letter sent to Buckley Program student leaders, members of 35 campus groups say they feel “highly disrespected” by the September 15 lecture “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West.” The letter, drafted by the Muslim Students Association, lays out their complaints.
“But in our age of studious political correctness, where the inmates write the asylum’s curriculum, these students are happy to insulate themselves against any opinions from beyond the Old Campus Quad.”
They are concerned that “Ms. Hirsi Ali is being invited to speak as an authority on Islam despite the fact that she does not hold the credentials to do so.” They accuse Hirsi Ali of “hate speech” and express outrage that she should “have such a platform in our home.” “We cannot overlook,” they write, “how marginalizing her presence will be to the Muslim community and how uncomfortable it will be for the community’s allies.”
Their remedy, of course, is censorship. Read the rest of this entry »
The most important question in this year’s presidential election is not “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” or “What about your gaffes?” or even “Joe Biden said what?” No, the key inquiry comes from none other than John Cusack, the eternally boyish star of Say Anything, Grosse Pointe Blank, and High Fidelity, who asked on the leftist site Truthout.org: “Is Obama just another Ivy League ***hole?”
Most National Review readers would be inclined to say yes, though they might not put it quite so vividly. But the salient part of Cusack’s question lies in the words “just another.” Ever since Ronald Reagan, a Eureka College graduate, rode off into the sunset, the ensuing run of presidents has been distinctly mediocre — and all have been Ivy graduates (college or law school). Regardless of who wins this November, the streak will continue, since Mitt Romney (though he may not entirely fit the Ivy mold) has law and business degrees from Harvard. Is Cusack, an NYU dropout, onto something?
Before proceeding further, I should explain what the Ivy League is. Officially, it’s a group of eight colleges in the Northeast (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale) that play football against one another, rather badly. It was not formally organized until the early 1950s, when the reaction from Harvard was probably, “Wait a minute, we’re in with who?” (Actually it would more likely have been whom.)
Unofficially, of course, the Ivy League, even avant la lettre, has for centuries been a symbol of everything Middle America hates: rich, snobbish, exclusive, Eastern, and too smart for its own good. With the exception of Cornell, a post–Civil War parvenu, the schools were all founded before the Revolution, and ever since, they have been filling the ranks of America’s Establishment: intellectuals, bankers, lawyers, businessmen — and now, increasingly, presidents.
In that capacity, their record has been decidedly mixed. To be sure, the Roosevelts (Theodore and Franklin, both Harvard grads) managed to stay highly popular while taking bold actions that changed the country and the world, for good and for ill; but if you look at the last 50-odd years of presidents, starting with JFK, the Ivy grads have been talkers and dreamers, while the non-Ivy grads have been doers. LBJ (San Marcos State) had Vietnam, to be sure, but also the space program, civil-rights legislation, and the Great Society. Richard Nixon (Whittier) established relations with China and the USSR, signed the first strong environmental legislation, ended the Vietnam War and the draft, and even began affirmative action. Jimmy Carter (Annapolis) . . . well, we’ll come back to him. And of course Reagan dealt a mortal blow to Communism and at least a glancing one to dirigisme, while making the political world safe for conservatism.
Now let’s look at the Ivy Leaguers. JFK (Harvard, after a semester at Princeton) is best remembered — except for his untimely death — for almost starting a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis; Gerald Ford (Yale Law) was overwhelmed by events during his brief term in office; Bush 41 (Yale) let Reagan’s defeat of Communism play out, won an easy war, and then raised taxes and couldn’t even get reelected; Clinton (Yale Law), while coasting on the peace dividend, flopped with Hillarycare and lost the Democrats’ 40-year hold on the House; Bush 43 (Yale, Harvard MBA) made grandiose plans but had considerable trouble following through; and Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) narrowly passed a health-care law that everyone hates, plus he’s given some nice speeches.
This pattern has been going on for a long time. George Washington (no college) established the standard for every president since; Jefferson (William and Mary) bought much of the continent from France, defeated the Barbary pirates, and got the slave trade abolished; and Monroe (William and Mary) had a doctrine named after him. In between these, John Adams (Harvard) showed irresolution against the French, was pressured into signing the Alien and Sedition Acts, and lost control of his own cabinet; and Madison (Princeton) started a disastrous war with Britain that saw the nation’s capital set on fire.
Then came John Quincy Adams, who set the pattern for most modern Ivy League ***holes (IL*s) in the White House: earnest, smart, eager, ambitious, self-righteous, and uncomfortable with practical politics. In his first annual message to Congress, he proposed, to general mirth, that the federal government should establish a national university and build an astronomical observatory. The Washington political machine, much smaller back then but no less vicious, chewed him up and spat him out, and in the 1828 election he was routed by alpha-alpha male Andrew Jackson, whose success ushered in a series of hastily countrified hacks, time servers, generals, and amateurs that ended only with Abraham Lincoln (a genuinely countrified amateur, and a brilliant one).
For more than seven decades after JQA, the only Ivy graduate to serve as president was Rutherford Hayes (Harvard Law). Then the arrival of the 20th century brought Theodore Roosevelt (Harvard) and William Howard Taft (Yale), followed by the Great Ivy Presidential Smackdown of 1912, a three-way free-for-all that pitted those two against Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson. The nation has yet to recover.
Now, you may have noticed that while the Ivy League has eight members, the same three schools keep popping up. Indeed, within the league, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton have hogged the presidency the way they used to hog the football championship. That’s why some think Barack Obama’s most path-breaking accomplishment was becoming the first Ivy president to break the Big Three’s monopoly.
Obama did go to Harvard Law School, though, and never mind black vs. white, East vs. West, or uniter vs. divider, because here’s the true, the fundamental conflict in Obama’s soul: Is he a Columbia ***hole or a Harvard ***hole? The answer is important, because those are two very different types of ***hole. Both are obsessed with showing you how smart they are, but the Columbia ***hole does it by telling you everything he knows, while the Harvard ***hole does it by acting bored with whatever you say. The Harvard variety is at least laid back, and the Columbia variety can be interesting; but put them together and you have a world-weary pest. That may not be an exact description of Obama, but he’s certainly getting there….