blueollie

Frogs and some college issues…

Frogs There is an African frog, known as the rubber frog, which evidently found a way to mimic the chemical signature of a particularly vicious type of ant. The ants don’t recognize this frog as something to attack and eat. This is called “chemical camouflage”.

Colleges and universities There have been a few articles in the news about student unrest in universities; for example. Now I linked to an article from The Nation (written by a professor) which, of course, enables this sort of behavior (e. g. students issuing “demands” to college presidents and the like).

What is going on? Jerry Coyne directs us to this Jonathan Haidt article: he claims that certain groups are conferred “victim status” even while in high school and everyone else is told to “shut up and listen” (so to speak). He comments that this happens in high school:

And Centerville High is not alone. Last summer I had a conversation with some boys who attend one of the nation’s top prep schools, in New England. They reported the same thing: as white males, they are constantly on eggshells, afraid to speak up on any remotely controversial topic lest they be sent to the “equality police” (that was their term for the multicultural center). I probed to see if their fear extended beyond the classroom. I asked them what they would do if there was a new student at their school, from, say Yemen. Would they feel free to ask the student questions about his or her country? No, they said, it’s too risky, a question could be perceived as offensive.
You might think that this is some sort of justice — white males have enjoyed positions of privilege for centuries, and now they are getting a taste of their own medicine. But these are children. And remember that most students who are in a victim group for one topic are in the “oppressor” group for another. So everyone is on eggshells sometimes; all students at Centerville High learn to engage with books, ideas, and people using the twin habits of defensive self-censorship and vindictive protectiveness.
And then… they go off to college and learn new ways to gain status by expressing collective anger at those who disagree. They curse professors and spit on visiting speakers at Yale. They shut down newspapers at Wesleyan. They torment a dean who was trying to help them at Claremont McKenna. They threaten and torment fellow students at Dartmouth. And in all cases, they demand that adults in power DO SOMETHING to punish those whose words and views offend them. Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture, which weakens students by turning them into “moral dependents” who cannot deal with problems on their own. They must get adult authorities to validate their victim status.
So they issue ultimatums to college presidents, and, as we saw at Yale, the college presidents meet their deadlines, give them much of what they demanded, commit their schools to an ever tighter embrace of victimhood culture, and say nothing to criticize the bullying, threats, and intimidation tactics that have created a culture of intense fear for anyone who might even consider questioning the prevailing moral matrix. What do you suppose a conversation about race or gender will look like in any Yale classroom ten years from now? Who will dare to challenge the orthodox narrative imposed by victimhood culture? The “Next Yale” that activists are demanding will make today’s Centerville High look like Plato’s Academy by comparison.

There are some tough issues that deserve a fearless and complete intellectual investigation (e. g. is affirmative action a good idea?) and shouting down different points of view…well…that does no good at all. After all, are people spending lots of time, effort and money to find ways to be offended?

And speaking of higher education, I wish that columnists who write “colleges and universities should do this” actually knew what they were talking about. This person does not. Example: when he talks about faculty and summer, he should have researched the topic; he would have found out that many of us (tenured professors) have 9-10 month contracts. As far as costs: the new technology (computers, internet) is a huge cost driver. A professor writes a nice response.

December 3, 2015 - Posted by | education, frogs, science | , , ,

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