The other day I was sitting here writing and had the Howard Stern Show on in the background. (I sometimes find it easier to write with background noise.) Since Howard was on vacation, they were rerunning excerpts from old programs, including one on which he interviewed a prostitute. She told him about a client of hers who paid her a couple of hundred dollars to give him a good, swift, violent kick in the cojones. At first she hesitated, not wanting to hurt him, but then, apparently drawing on her high sense of professional honor and duty, she went ahead and did what he asked, whereupon he doubled over in such excruciating pain that he was barely able to stagger out of the room. As she watched him depart, she was overcome with feelings of guilt for having caused him such agony. Two days later he came back with another two hundred bucks and asked her to do it again.
It wasn’t until several hours later that I realized this wasn’t a bad metaphor for the current relationship between what are supposed to be some of America’s – indeed, some of the world’s – very best universities and liberal-arts colleges and the people who send their kids there. What do I mean? This: every year, all over the U.S., countless parents cough up not two hundred but more like two hundred thousand dollars so that their pride and joy, their newly minted high-school grad, can go to Harvard or Yale or wherever. So they pack him – let’s make it a him – off to old Ivy, and next thing you know he’s being roundly scolded at orientation for harboring vile prejudices of which he has, until now, been totally unaware. But don’t worry, he’s told: those prejudices aren’t really his fault – they’re the natural product of a bourgeois upbringing in capitalist, imperialist America, that fount of all worldly evil and the international headquarters of racism, sexism, and classism. It is, furthermore, made clear to the kid that he’s come to the right place: for the next four years, he’ll undergo a thorough re-education that will liberate him from the misbegotten notions on which he was raised and will set him on a journey down the one and only path to truth.
Four years later, having been marinated all the while in postmodernist twaddle and lockstep groupthink – from queer theory to radical feminism – the kid will be handed a diploma and sent home, where his parents, if they haven’t already figured out what’s been happening to their little darling on campus, will get an earful of some of the stuff he’s been “learning” and will realize that he’s learned to despise pretty much everything they stand for. He’s been taught to hate his country, to hate its history (of which he’s been given a thoroughly twisted version courtesy of Howard Zinn & co.), and to view its economic system (thanks to a gaggle of post-Marxist profs) as the root cause of all the planet’s ills. In short, they’ve paid good money – a lot of it – for their precious angel to be brainwashed into viewing them as class enemies. Or, to return to our original metaphor, in exchange for all those staggering checks they’ve been mailing off to the college all these years, they’ve been given the equivalent of a powerful kick in the privates.
And so what do these parents – who, in our hypothetical scenario, have other, younger kids – do? Do they reevaluate their choices? Do they admit to having learned an expensive lesson and change direction? No – they go ahead and send kid #2 to exactly the same place to be brainwashed in exactly the same way. And, in the fullness of time, they do the same thing with whatever other kids they have. In short, it’s just like that guy paying the hooker to slam her heel into his groin over and over again – the only differences being (1) the sums of money involved, and (2) the fact that at least the hooker, unlike the college, felt bad about taking money for doing such a horrible thing to a paying customer.
I’ve spent much of the past couple of years working on a book about some of these matters, so the ways in which higher education has devolved over the last generation or so are very often on my mind nowadays. But the immediate reason why I found my thoughts wandering down these byways the other day was an item by Mark Steyn in which he quoted, first, a Harvard Crimson report that that institution had appointed someone named Vanidy “Van” Bailey “as the College’s first permanent director of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer student life,” and, second, a follow-up “correction” in which the Crimson noted that “[a]n earlier version of this article used the pronoun ‘she’ to refer to Vanidy ‘Van’ Bailey….In fact, Bailey prefers not to be referred to by any gendered pronoun.”
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