For the past two weeks, in my capacity as editor of my college newspaper, I have been traveling in a strange and unfamiliar world, one of intrigue and occasional fury. I have published a two-part critical essay on Skidmore's cultish obsession with community "dialogues," a staple of our school's diversity and peer mediation programs. And the blowback has been considerable. Part I is here, and Part II here.
I post this here because I know many of you here share my concerns over the dissolution of rigorous education into a froth of pseudo-activism and "consciousness-raising." I'll just supplement the links above with a few reflective remarks (Skidmore is on spring break now, so if the controversy develops, it won't be until after this week.)
The reactions to the essay have been, relative to the Skidmore bubble, quite extraordinary, which is not to say sober or considered. Against my judgments on the distinctly postmodern flavor of the institution of "dialogue," many are lashing out in the only language they know, i.e. in terms of power dynamics and Hollywood Marxism. Some people, proving my point about how dialogue cultivates a hyperemotional irrationalism, have come into the news room, crying. Others have congratulated me for making things "interesting" again. Still others have called me, in print and in person, everything from a bigot to a sexist to a neo-nazi.
But most conspicuous is the astounding lack of responses from those who claim my analysis to be radically off-base, out of touch, or simply wrong. Every since publishing the first piece I have been quite nearly begging for Letters to the Editor; today I received the first one that expressed anything beside ad hominems or vague disapproval. I see it as a sad confirmation of my argument, that my college's impulse for debate and deliberation has been made null and void by our culture of pity.
It is also telling that certain faculty have gotten in touch to support my efforts, while student government has been throwing me glances with a sufficiently hairy eyeball.
All part of the job, I suppose. Anyway, I thought a few of you might be interested to see what this kind of thing looks like from the inside of a vaguely but pervasively "liberal" school. Be sure to scroll through some of the comment sections in each piece to get an idea of the bile I now slip on while walking the hallways.