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How to live in a cave your whole life
Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind in 1987, twenty-eight years ago. He made observations about changes in American campus life that dated to about 1965, so we have fifty years of experience now with the effects of political correctness, from its infancy in the 1960s, to its maturity in the twenty-first century. What we're seeing now has had a long time to take hold. Students, faculty, and administrators all have a share in it.
The subtitle of Bloom's book is How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. Someone might have told him, as he wrote the book, "You think it's bad now, wait till you see what it's going to be like thirty years from now!"
Think about the real meaning of the phrase, political correctness. In practice it means, "Think the way we do, or get out. If you do not agree with us, we do not want to associate with you." How in the world did agreement on political and social issues become a criterion for association? Bloom posed a question, "do we want to train students who feel comfortable sitting down with the greatest philosophers who ever lived, or do we want to prepare students for membership in a narrow tribe of people see themselves as true believers?" We can go one way or the other. Bloom cast no doubt about the direction he thought America was headed.
Here's a list of eight sub-headings under a chapter titled "Relationships" in Part One: Self-Centeredness, Equality, Race, Sex, Separateness, Divorce, Love, Eros. Many of the students Bloom observed, and many students we observe now, have become lost. They are unanchored. Their only attachments are to people who think the same way they do. That's a whole mass of seaweed floating about.
The young people who have developed from this unanchored mass resemble no one so much as the Red Guards of Maoist China. The comparison may seem an extreme one, but the only fundamental different to this point is that young people on campus do not have license from the state to practice violence - yet.
We know young people want to respond to good leadership. Good leadership provides an anchor. Right now, a multitude of young people believe themselves keepers of multiple flames - progressive ideals fashioned and fought for with revolutionary fervor in the 1960s. In fact, the traditions they keep are pernicious. They are pernicious not because they are inherently bad, but because the attitudes and tribal outlook of true believers make them so.