The College Problem Begins in High School

Run, don’t walk, to take in Jonathan Haidt’s latest article at his splendid new site HeterodoxAcademy about how the trouble on college campuses is inculcated at the high school level. Remember that Haidt is a liberal, but one chastened by reality.

The whole thing is worth taking in, but here is a sample about his recent experience delivering a talk at a high school in California:

[The discussion period] was the most unremittingly hostile questioning I’ve ever had. I don’t mind when people ask hard or critical questions, but I was surprised that I had misread the audience so thoroughly. My talk had little to do with gender, but the second question was “So you think rape is OK?” Like most of the questions, it was backed up by a sea of finger snaps — the sort you can hear in the infamous Yale video, where a student screams at Prof. Christakis to “be quiet” and tells him that he is “disgusting.” I had never heard the snapping before. When it happens in a large auditorium it is disconcerting. It makes you feel that you are facing an angry and unified mob — a feeling I have never had in 25 years of teaching and public speaking. . .

The Yale problem refers to an unfortunate feedback loop: Once you allow victimhood culture to spread on your campus, you can expect ever more anger from students representing victim groups, coupled with demands for a deeper institutional commitment to victimhood culture, which leads inexorably to more anger, more demands, and more commitment. But the Yale problem didn’t start at Yale. It started in high school. As long as many of our elite prep schools are turning out students who have only known eggshells and anger, whose social cognition is limited to a single dimension of victims and victimizers, and who demand safe spaces and trigger warnings, it’s hard to imagine how any university can open their minds and prepare them to converse respectfully with people who don’t share their values. Especially when there are no adults around who don’t share their values.