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Vassar, Bowdoin, Rochester, … There is no difference.

The end of liberal education — Part One, the Vassar experience
100 Power Line / by Paul Mirengoff / 8 hours ago
(Paul Mirengoff)
Have left-liberals killed liberal education? I’ve come to think so, and recent developments at Vassar and Bowdoin help confirm my fear.

The indispensable Stanley Kurtz is on top of both stories. At Vassar, the subject of this post, he reports on attempts to block a speech by Alex Epstein, a proponent and defender of America’s conventional energy industries. Epstein was invited to speak by Vassar’s Moderate, Independent, Conservative Alliance (MICA).

The presentation of Epstein’s point of view was particularly important at Vassar. For, as Kurtz demonstrates, the college has attempted, in the context of an aggressive fossil-fuel divestment campaign, to brainwash its students on issues of climate change, energy, and the environment. As one student told Kurtz, “I don’t feel that [conservative students at Vassar] are able to freely express their views at all.”

The reaction to Epstein’s appearance is consistent with that impression. Posters advertizing his lecture were promptly covered or ripped down. The head of MICA, whose room lock was broken, was ridiculed mercilessly and eventually came under pressure from leftist students to pay Epstein not to appear. One student threatened to inflict bodily injury on himself at Epstein’s lecture in order to disrupt it.

At the lecture, protesters (some believed to be from the Occupy Wall Street movement) appeared. Some of them wore Dick Cheney masks. Wearing masks, a cowardly act, is an Occupy tactic. Vassar students told Kurtz that the presence of masked protesters created considerable tension that detracted from the lecture experience.

About half an hour into the lecture, a protester interrupted Epstein to read a prepared statement. Then, on cue, approximately 30 people (about a third of the audience in the room) walked out. The good news is that some students criticized the protesters as they left.

How did Vassar respond? Its acting president issued a tepid statement to the effect that the students who left the lecture lost an opportunity to engage and question the speaker. Apparently, he has not addressed the tearing down of posters, the attempt to pay Epstein not to speak, the threat of a student to harm himself if the speech occurred, and the interruption of the speech itself.

As Kurtz concludes, Vassar appears to have passed a tipping point beyond which the classical ideals of liberal education no longer meaningfully operate where they are most needed. And Vassar is not an isolated case, as I will argue in my next post on the subject.

They’ve won by the way, at least as far as I am concerned.

4 Responses to “You Say Tomatow I Say Tomatto”

  1. Mark says:

    Hey, paying him to speak seems like a Coasian bargain to me

  2. Harry says:

    I wondered what is happening at Bowdoin after WC’s post about that daffy Perfesser who came from Princeton, but then I wonder about my own alma mater Trinity, where the speech code is ruled by a philosophy professor from Amherst with whom I explored far-out ideas in classes I still remember vividly, even to who was there in the small class in the library.

    We who got a liberal education are in denial that it has ended, but being in denial, I hope this is temporary, this referring to the obliteration of free thinking.

    I blame this intolerance on my classmates, founders of yuppie think, some of who moved into the academy, but also into government and big business. Relativism corrupts all, devaluing human behavior standards, where the urge of the next moment is all.

    However, I am optimistic about the future because I think people are disposed to liberty, a condition that young people, who outnumber me, will find appealing, even worth fighting for.

  3. Harry says:

    I also wonder about what effect campus speech codes have on forums such as this, TUW, or Steve Landsburg’s blog. Talk about the end of liberal education.
    (Steve has a robust group of free thinkers who have yet to be cowed, but who knows how long that will last , with the Spanish Inquisition alive.)

    Some may assume that WC and I and other commentators here are mere like-minded clones. Rather, I would assert that I and many other followers of TUW look for refreshing new ideas, or perhaps new angles on ancient ideas, and I too get frustrated by the crickets.

    My question to you crickets; what makes you silent? Is it grades! Getting laid? Fear of being wrong? Fear of being ostracized?

    A cynic might say it all comes down to sex, where the cool people will not touch you unless you think as they do. Or, if you are not a socialist sympathizer, no one will sell you a joint you can share with your girlfriend, to further the Goal.

    I know there are people there at the U of E who follow their own star, and I hope you are not offended by my comments.

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