Banality Brushback

As has been noted here already, there is a huge rush to issue conformist statements adhering the the party line about BLM, white supremacy, and the rest of the Woke Catechism. Nowhere more so than on college campuses. Peter Wood notes in his fine piece “The Mandatory Banality of College Presidents” that:

The statements from the college presidents individually do not mean much, but taken as a whole, they testify to the sterile conformity among the leaders of American higher education. No one wants to be caught flatfooted by failing to acknowledge the enormity of Mr. Floyd’s killing. No one dares to miss the occasion for reasserting his college’s surpassing commitment to racial justice, along with his secure belief that America is a profoundly racist nation.

Is there any notable resistance to this conformity? Yes, there is, and you can probably guess where: Hillsdale College, which is fast becoming about the only college in America where you can send your kids and rest assured that they won’t be assaulted by politically correct nonsense.

Even Hillsdale has been getting pressure to conform apparently from some alumni, so today the administration (though it sounds like the voice of Larry Arnn, the president) issued a statement dismissing the “silence is violence” slogan that deserves to be read in full:

Amidst the events of recent weeks, a number of alumni and others have taken up formal and public means to insist that Hillsdale College issue statements concerning these events. The College is charged with negligence — or worse.

It is not the practice of the College to respond to petitions or other instruments meant to gain an object by pressure. The College operates by reasoned deliberation, study, and thought. The following observations, however, may be helpful and pertinent.

The College is pressed to speak. It is told that saying what it always has said is insufficient. Instead, it must decry racism and the mistreatment of Black Americans in particular. This, however, is precisely what the College has always said. 

The College is told that invoking the high example of the Civil War or Frederick Douglass is not permitted. Perhaps it is thought that nothing relevant can be learned about justice and equality from the words and actions of great men and women in history. Instead, the College is guilty of the gravest moral failure for not making declarations about … justice and equality. 

The College is told that it garners no honor now for its abolitionist past — or that it fails to live up to that past — but instead it must issue statements today. Statements about what? It must issue statements about the brutal and deadly evil of hating other people and/or treating them differently because of the color of their skin. That is, it must issue statements about the very things that moved the abolitionists whom the College has ever invoked. 

It is told that failure to issue statements is an erasure, a complicity, an abandonment of principle. The silence of the College is deafening. 

The College founding is a statement — as is each reiteration and reminder of its meaning and necessity. The curriculum is a statement, especially in its faithful presentation of the College’s founding mission. Teaching is a statement, especially as it takes up — with vigor — the evils we are alleged to ignore, evils like murder, brutality, injustice, destruction of person or property, and passionate irrationality. Teaching these same things across all the land is a statement, or a thousand statements. Organizing our practical affairs so that we can maintain principles of equity and justice — though the cost is high and sympathy is short — is a statement. Dispensing unparalleled financial help to students who cannot afford even a moderate tuition, is a statement. Helping private and public schools across the country lift their primary and secondary students out of a sea of disadvantages with excellent instruction, curricula, and the civic principles of freedom and equality — without any recompense to the College — is a statement. Postgraduate programs with the express aim of advancing the ideas of human dignity, justice, equality, and the citizen as the source of the government’s power, these are all statements. And all of these statements are acts, deeds that speak, undertaken and perpetuated now, every day, all the time. Everything the College does, though its work is not that of an activist or agitator, is for the moral and intellectual uplift of all. 

There may be something deafening in the culturecertainly there are those who cannot hear — but it is not from the silence of the College. 

There is a kind of virtue that is cheap. It consists of jumping on cost-free bandwagons of public feeling — perhaps even deeply justified public feeling — and winning approval by espousing the right opinion. No one who wishes the College to issue statements is assumed to be a party to such behavior. But the fact that very real racial problems are now being cynically exploited for profit, gain, and public favor by some organizations and people is impossible to overlook. It is a scandal and a shame that compounds our ills and impedes their correction. Hillsdale College, though far from perfect, will continue to do the work of education in the great principles that are, second only to divine grace, the solution to the grave ills that beset our times. 

Responses