Sunday, August 13, 2017

Post Script: Bowdoin’s school year and self-evident truths…

Let’s begin with a relevant quote:

Illiberal Education

At root the problem is American education, which has become thoroughly dominated by the illiberal thought-world in which social outcomes always trump universal principles. That’s where the battle has been lost.

- from a National Association of Scholars report

Another favorite:

Kenneth Minogue writing in National Review, Nov. 18, 1991:

An ideological movement is a collection of people many of whom could hardly bake a cake, fix a car, sustain a friendship or a marriage, or even do a quadratic equation, yet they believe they know how to rule the world. The university, in which it is possible to combine theoretical pretension with comprehensive ineptitude, has become the natural habitat of the ideological enthusiast. A kind of adventure playground, carefully insulated from reality in order to prevent absent-minded professors from bumping into things as they explore transcendental realms, has become the institutional base for civilizational self-hatred.

(And this is from 25+ years ago!!!! Before current college students were even born!)

One of the chronic afflictions Side suffers from is the curse of an active mind, which in this particular case means we kept thinking of more comments after we published this post three days ago:

http://othersideofbrunswick.blogspot.com/2017/08/the-social-justice-year-in-review.html

As we thought about the materials in that post, and our hypothesis on why there could be so much anxiety among the Bowdoin student body, we recalled some words from the Declaration of Independence, which for some of us matters more than ever, but for a growing number, is a dusty and worthless remnant of America’s founding by the very essence of ‘white privilege.’

Here are the words we’re focusing on:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In particular, the notion of ‘self-evident truths’ seemed entirely apropos our earlier essay.  It is, we think, at the core of our hypothesis, that much of what students are confronted with and marinated in inside the Bowdoin bubble and the wider culture is in direct conflict with a multiplicity of realities that society has considered exactly that – self evident truths – for centuries.  Realities they are now being told are relics of the past, simply social constructs from an unenlightened age.  The overarching issue, of course, is at the heart of post-modernism: that there is no such thing as objective truth.                                               

From Wikipedia:

Postmodernism asserts to varying degrees that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political discourses or interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, irreverence and self-referentiality.

                                       

(The Ouroboros, shown above, a dragon that continually consumes itself, is used as a symbol for self-reference.)

Surely having larger truths with the stature of 2 + 2 = 4 in human knowledge and understanding suddenly declared obsolete, myths, or otherwise no longer politically acceptable can cause cognitive dissonance and mental conflicts, and eventually lead to anxieties calling for ‘professional’ help.  As well as behaviors that only make things worse.  When large groups in a common setting begin to experience such consequences, all sorts of responses and reactions are possible, as we are seeing more and more frequently.

Given our list of notes made subsequent to the earlier post, we decided we’ll follow the “random comments” approach to pass them along, rather than go through the struggle of fitting them into a “structured,” linear narrative.  Coherence is so outdated, don’t you agree?  So here we go.

*  Bowdoin Leadership:

At the MSMT production of “Newsies” the other night, we were watching the preshow listing of sponsors on the large video displays.  One of them was Bowdoin, calling itself “a leader in studies of the environment.”

We thought to ourselves that given the growing need for therapy to deal with anxieties, maybe the college should focus more on the psychic environment within which students spend their 4 years.  Which is to say the environment between their ears, and the effects the college is having on it.  Are faculty and administration doing everything in their power to see that student mental equilibrium is ‘sustainable?’

* A Research Idea: 

How about this for some research associated with the above comment?  First, come up with an “Anxiety Index” that can be established by a certified professional, with appropriate scales, types, and factors.

Once that is created, require applicants and/or incoming freshman to submit their Index as part of the intake process.  Then repeat the evaluation during their senior year.

Compare each student’s Index for their intake and senior years to see how much it has decreased or increased during their time at Bowdoin.  Analyze the results for the student body as a whole to see just how much effect matriculation at Bowdoin has on the collective student body.  Comparing the two should help clarify whether each student is inherently neurotic, or the Bowdoin experience, in all its glory, has created the anxiety or amplified it.

                                      

We must allow, surely, for the possibility that one can suffer from Anxiety Free Anxiety Disorder: the irrational fear of not having a socially acceptable anxiety disorder.

* Language Revision:

In keeping with the trend of putting “preferred pronouns” in the official record for each student, we’re wondering just how this trend of redefining the meaning of accepted, commonplace words in the English language will proceed.

Terms like mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother and their various derivatives are grotesque and primitive biological stereotypes.  Assign a task to incoming juniors to develop a list of replacement for these ancient and hurtful terms.  This easily warrants a “field of study” designation, and creation of courses that address the abuses that have existed for most of recorded history.

Extending the concept, what should expecting “parents” tell friends and relatives?

“We’re having a TBD!”

“It’s a male (female) at the moment, but he (she) will decide later what they are (at that moment).

How about the Doctor in the delivery room?  When he holds the baby up by its feet in the classic delivery pose, and examines the plumbing with which it was delivered, among other things, what should be his allowable choice of declarations?  Here’s what we believe on this subject: our conviction is that sex (or gender) is biologically ‘assigned’ at conception, and becomes undeniably apparent at birth, except for an extremely small number of sad cases where a child is delivered with anomalys.  Later excursions on the gender expression axis, which now contains more than 50 identified variants, do not change biological reality.  Gender ‘fluidity’ makes a mockery of biological science as we see it.

Should we finally get rid of those boring blue and pink color stereotypes we’ve all used for centuries as themes for layettes and nurseries?  Gray would be ever so much more sensible, don’t you think?  Or beige?

* Is Bowdoin a College, or Day Care?

Just for fun, read this item, and think hard about it in the context of triggers, micro-aggressions, safe spaces, etc:

“This is not a day care.”  http://www.okwu.edu/blog/2015/11/this-is-not-a-day-care-its-a-university/

* Sexual “Objectification?”

Perhaps feelings that you, as a female (whatever that means to you at the moment!) at Bowdoin, are sexually objectified stems from some terribly obvious behaviors on your part with the willing support of college administrators, including benign indifference.  Such as calling male partners “f_ck boys;” getting up in front of audiences to talk about your vagina; letting it be known that you willingly participate in the hook-up culture; publishing columns in the campus newspaper that discuss pudenda shaving,  prostate stimulation, and other fine points of hooking up; and an administration that litters the campus with bowls of free condoms.

Be honest for just a moment; the entire campus is obsessed with matters of sexuality in all its splendor and variations.  The notion that any element of ‘mystery’ might best be reserved for adult years, when one is more mature and interested in an enduring relationship and a family of one’s own has been tossed by the roadside like so many empty beer cans.

Just look at trending “studies” areas, and the all consuming challenge of determining what one’s gender expression is this month and might be next month, all while flitting from one sexual escapade to the next, leaves little time for other traditional pursuits.  These issues of gender and sexual expression permeate and envelop an ever growing number of classic “liberal arts” subject areas.  In the classroom, out of the classroom – one cannot escape being bombarded with the views of others on these most personal of subjects.  Or at least they used to be.

* One observer’s view:

After 20 years of observation on the campus of Brunswick, we’ve concluded that the majority of residents, and the overwhelming majority in the governing elite and establishment classes, either graduated from Bowdoin, act like they have, or at the very least, wish they had.

             

We’re going to sign off with this from our extensive ‘favorite quote’ archives:

"The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive." -- Thomas Sowell

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