Thursday, May 06, 2004

Enforced sensitivity, part 2 

King was a bit uncharacteristically gentle about our enforced sensitivity training this week. It was simplistic and insulting well beyond his kind description, which made the fact that we were being forced to take time from the busiest week of the semester to do this is all the more galling.

The symbol that summed it up best was the t-shirt he mentioned that said "When's Recess?" Perhaps for people still concerned about recess, which would be -- what?-- junior high students?, this might have had some value.

But the most awful part for me as the session ground on was that most of our faculty seemed to be actually trying to participate in the degrading nonsense. I decided that this wasn't even their limit: if, for instance, the leader had told everyone to jump on their left leg, flap their arms, and cluck like chickens the vast majority of the people in the room would have done it.

Then I began to wonder what they WOULDN'T do in the name of political correctness. The people who carried out Stalin's horrors started as pretty decent folks who wanted to be politically correct. Read Dostoyevsky. Then see what they became. I really don't know if the majority of my chicken-clucking colleagues would stop short if they had to be politiclaly incorrect to do it.

I doubt the current generation in the university can be saved. The most we can do is make sure people on the outside world aren't confused about what happens here. If students come to campus, or legislators vote money, or alumni respond to appeals knowing what goes on here, they can take appropriate protective action. People who still expect universities to be what they were a generation or two ago, or, worse, if anyone still harbors Newman's ideals, they could be vulnerable to the sad reality universities have become.

That's what I learned in sensitivity training.