Those PC Clowns

By Goode, Stephen; Lehrer, Eli | Insight on the News, November 16, 1998 | Go to article overview

Those PC Clowns


Goode, Stephen, Lehrer, Eli, Insight on the News


A pair of authors says the key to challenging the politically correct mind-set that dominates college campuses is to expose the hypocrisy surrounding PC policies.

The bad news from American higher education :is that the plague of the politically correct, which first began to hit campuses about 15 years ago, isn't subsiding. "It didn't peak anti men decline," which seems to be the impression some people have, says University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Kors. On the contrary, Kors, who has been an outspoken PC critic from the outset, tells Insight: "It's worse than you think. It's happening everywhere: community colleges, elite universities. At big schools and small, it has become the heart and soul of academic life."

The good news? The power of the politically correct can be challenged and challenged successfully, says Kors. Federal and state courts don't like the speech codes and other spin-offs of the politically correct policies now found on most American campuses. They see them as clear violations of First Amendment protections of free speech.

But what the politically correct mania can't stand is public exposure, says Kors, who has detailed the problem with attorney Harvey A. Silverglate, his closest friend since their undergraduate days at Princeton, in The Shadow University, The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses. Many are calling it the best book written on the the problems that plague American academic life in recent years. Quoting Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Kors says, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant." When politically correct policies are publicly aired for all to see -- before the public, university trustees and everyone else -- Kors claims they don't stand the test of common sense and of American traditions of academic freedom. Colleges and universities back down, fearful of public censure and ridicule.

What bothers Kors and Silverglate most isn't so much the curriculum and the classes students at American universities are offered these days, although both have come under frequent criticism in recent years. "Students can find good teachers. There's word of mouth and you can avoid the worst of the self-indulgent, indoctrinating classrooms," Kors explains. But there's no place for students to hide from what Kors and Silverglate dub "the shadow university," which has little to do with the faculty and about which faculty may be almost totally ignorant.

The shadow university is made up of a host of sensitivity seminars, required programs in the residential halls and the daily advice of residential counselors, speech codes and innumerable other ways in which university administrations impose politically correct views and modes of thinking and acting on students. They come under the general rubrics of "diversity training" and multiculturalism and always are leftist in bias. But whatever their name, their aim is to "control" student minds, says Kors.

If anyone doubts how potent all of this is on campus these days, Kors adds, they should peruse the want ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education, where the numerous and lucrative job offers for administrators and counselors who specialize in diversity are posted. (And if there's any doubt about the goals of diversity training, consider the reply made by a diversity trainer to this reporter seven years ago when asked how he knew he'd achieved what he wanted in sensitivity training: "When I see white male students feel guilty and cry," he declared.)

To be sure, not everyone thinks these programs are totally bad. George Mason University historian Lawrence W. Levine, for example, tells Insight that "students have always been taught by universities in one way or another to be sensitive in one way or another." On the whole, the new developments "have been good for higher education," says Levine, who two years ago published The Opening of the American Mind, a highly positive assessment of American higher education today which argues that universities are better, in many ways, than they ever were. …

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