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Creating A-Plus Conformists

Reader Alice comments on the hyperpoliticization of college students:

Understand: they *arrive at universities thinking this way*.

Our US students have been taught since at least grade 6, but mostly since school began, that there are only certain acceptable ideas, and genuflecting to those ideas is what makes you the Top Student, the Front Row kid, the one who checks all the boxes to get into Brown or Oberlin or Yale.

The “best and brightest” accepted to these schools are kids who, consciously or unconsciously, have learned to excel in places by accepting as true the acceptable ideas and never bringing up the unacceptable. Some thoughts are just too dangerous to have. Trajectories that are good for one’s future to the Ivies don’t allow you to engage these unacceptable ideas. So in school and in other places where one deals with adults, these front row kids learn to believe, or at least be comfortable with parroting, these acceptable ideas. Just as there’s a correct answer to a calculus question, there’s a correct answer to questions such as why one country is more successful than another, why there are measurable differences in incarceration rates by race (even as there’s also a contradictory answer to the question of what is a race), what a nation owes non-citizens vs. citizens, how much training can alter […], are sex differences on average innate, are there two sexes, etc.

Meanwhile, if you hear something unacceptable, you’ve also been equipped with the trump card to demolish the argument: arguer is racist, sexist, bigot. So the Overton window is big for trans rights and little for the role of, say, duty to ones’ elders, big for microaggression but little for the personality differences of men and women.

Whether they believe it or not at the beginning is irrelevant. They make the appropriate verbal gestures, they get a reward. After 6-12 years of doing so, they’re not capable of engaging in debate or rhetoric, argument from evidence, even following a line of reasoning or recognizing a fallacy. They’ve never done it, and anyone who tried was actively shut down either calls of “my truth”.

On the past, ignorance and obnoxious self regard were demolished by profs rather quickly. What’s changed is college profs no longer push back on this crap. They no longer demand argument, reason, and counter argument. They simply are stunned that they share no overlap of consciousness with the students they bequeathed to themselves. They are afraid of them and afraid to stand up to the students or spineless weasel administrators.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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