Vincent Lloyd tells Yascha Mounk how an anti-racist seminar he taught at Telluride got derailed, and how (not) to fight for social justice.
"'Either you tell the students what a college seminar is, and then we can have a conversation with them, and you, about how to move forward, or we won't continue.” The leadership decided that they did not want to intervene."'
That's a major problem. The people in charge of academic institutions are scared of their "customers" because they fear ending up in a Twitter pile on. Ceding control to students and DEI bureaucrats leads to predictable meltdowns of said institutions, which then become even more rigid and extreme.
I graduated from the Ivy League in 1986 and taught at a Tier-1 research university for 15 years. My children are mixed race and I honestly don't know if I want my grandchildren to attend college. That's a problem.
Lloyd’s vision is so radical and totalizing that it feels impossible to argue against. But here’s a start:
-- Why Atlantic slavery in the US alone? Why not Atlantic slavery in Jamaica or Brazil? Why not African enslavement of other Africans, the trade in slaves of all colors to the Byzantine, Arab and then Turkish empires, feudalism in Western Europe, serfdom in Russia, the caste system in India…? If one wants to study “domination,” shouldn’t one abstract out the causes of domination from multiple cases rather than choose one, however fashionable?
--And however lucrative? It becomes harder and harder to see the privileging of (to use the jargon), i.e., the exclusive emphasis on, “anti-blackness” as anything more than a power play. This tale of a seminar in which the white students become silent, two Asian-American students leave for unclear reasons, and the black students, or all the remaining students under their influence (it’s not clear who’s left standing), dictate to Lloyd the circumstances under which they will condescend to eat food he and his family have prepared, is a tale of domination in action. Morally the students lose. But who won the power play within Telluride? And why did Lloyd put up with such rudeness?
--Because he believes that a political program dedicated to the destruction of the institutions of American culture is the only way to right the historic and current wrongs done to black people, that nobody else matters, and that once that destruction has been complete, discussion can ensue? Jesus wept.
Play in Pandora's Box and then claim no responsibility as the demons are unleashed.
Higher learning is a mess because the academics in charge have lost their ability to discern what is ideology from what is real scholarship. And because the academics have lost their way, the administrators are only too happy to push it to a political agenda for cash.
This attempt to wiggle between the lines claiming the the original sessions were noble and good and only got corrupted into bad stuff by others... well that isn't the story. The story is activism creeping into everything education. And now academics are alarmed that so many students have been turned into extreme activists from their campus experience.
Maybe, just maybe, if the instruction had been neutral and without any, even subtle, attempts at ideological capture, the kids would be in much better shape today.
This “I feel harmed” nonsense is a real problem. We’re teaching kids that if they encounter something that makes them uncomfortable they only have to declare they feel harmed and everything stops until we figure out a way to make them feel better. I can’t think of anything more antithetical to education. The problem isn’t the kids - they’re kids! They have underdeveloped prefrontal cortexes. The problem is the grownups. The proper response to a kid saying “I feel harmed” is “Get over yourself or leave and don’t come back until you’re able to engage in a debate without melting down.” College administrators have lost the plot.
A certain note of 'reality' is missing from this discussion. We live in a country where the crassest racism (so long as it is PC) can get you a job at the NYT (see the Sarah Jeong debacle). Of course, the insanity doesn't stop with the NYT. At Yale, a talk was given titled "The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind". No one (at Yale) objected. The current obsession with 'anti-black' racism is on a par with the obsession with 'capitalist roaders' in China during the Cultural Revolution. Of course, China didn't have any (outside of prisons and death camps), but China was obsessed with them. Today, the USA is obsessed with 'anti-black racism' witch does exist to any substantive extent. Lysenkoism is the USSR in the 1930s provides another parallel to our era.
I found Professor Lloyd's article in _Compact_ to be a vivid account of his experience at Telluride. https://compactmag.com/article/a-black-professor-trapped-in-anti-racist-hell
His conversation with John McWhorter and Glenn Loury may also be valuable.
It has long been an article of faith the extreme intolerance characterizes the left in the US (and other countries). This is just one more supporting data point.
The real test will be when today's students leave their undergraduate and graduate worlds behind to earn a living. How will they handle the stresses of the work environment? One not-uncommon scenario is to start work on Project A only to be told that Project A is dead and that the employee - yes, they are now employees - must find another job within the organization or, perhaps, leave for another organization. How will today's students handle situations where nothing is personal, in fact, it's all rather impersonal, and their feelings and opinions are not considered in the decision making process?
(Continued)...require that the student express and defend a point of view. Clearly this is a skill few have been taught. They were taught by listening to lectures followed by a test which the school teaches skills to pass. What they are uncomfortable with is reading a text and critiquing it through dialogue between students , moderated by a skilled and informed teacher. In short they have not been taught to judge arguments and use their reason to find truth.
More disappointing, their solution is to claim injury from the Socratic method, insisting the method be cancelled, and the Telluride organization apologize for the pain they have caused. Cancellation of Socratic dialogue to teach must-be cancelled.
I suggest the students next read the University of Chicago manifesto on micro-aggression and cancel culture. We have here proof that as early as 10th or 11th grade America’s gifted students are already programmed by culture and parents to believe they are vulnerable, must not be challenged, and are to be isolated from any idea or pedagogy that makes them uncomfortable. This must, somehow, be remediated
What I see here is college cancel culture
Teenagers are morons. The only exception I can think of is Malala Yousafzai when she first took on the Taliban.
My remarks assume that generally the 16 year old high school students who apply and accepted to this summer school seminar program taught by gifted college professors are excellent students destined for admission to excellent colleges and universities. In about two years.
Two phenomena revealed in this interview reveal two possible reasons why the experiment failed. First the students plead to be taught by lecture rather than by the scotratic method of difficult question that require student and