This commentary was originally featured in Forbes on July 19, 2017.
Are taxpayers required to subsidize the destruction of their country and way of life?
Last week, a self-described “conservative-libertarian” student said goodbye to Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. The Washington state legislature should consider doing the same. That is, it should look at defunding the state school.
In case you haven’t heard about the goings-on at Evergreen, here’s a recap: At the end of May, Evergreen was forced to shut down for two days after a series of campus protests and disruptions, which included holding the college’s president hostage and threatening Biology professor Bret Weinstein, whose sin was to insist on fulfilling his obligation to teach his students.
As reported on May 25, “The protesters demanded that Professor Bret Weinstein resign over an email he sent questioning the decision to ask white people to leave campus for diversity programming, which he distinguished from a group voluntarily absenting itself.” The protesters turned so hostile that Professor Weinstein reported that the campus police had warned him that he would not be “safe on campus,” because they could not guard him: “To be clear: the police told me I am not safe on campus. They cannot protect me. Students in jeopardy. No contact from admin,” Weinstein wrote on Twitter.
Why would the senior administration refuse to protect a teacher who was only trying to teach his class? This campus video explains why. In it, we see Evergreen President George Bridges’ office, encircled by several dozen protesters, who declared that they were establishing a “physical presence” outside Bridges’ office to guarantee that he and other senior staff “aren’t leaving.”
As reported, “Shortly thereafter, one demonstrator emerges from Bridges’ office and triumphantly informs her companions that Bridges ‘talked to the chief of police and he said police will not show up.’”
In the face of this spineless response by the Evergreen administration, the departing student (whose name was withheld for obvious reasons) penned an admiring letterto Professor Weinstein, thanking the self-described liberal professor for his honesty and courage in advancing the case for free inquiry and debate. “Dear Bret, Thank you. Thank you for standing up to the ridiculousness of this student protest. Thank you for being brave and voicing your opinion on the matter, as well as many other students.” Nevertheless, the student concluded, “Because of the climate on this campus, as well as the rhetoric that I hear on a day to day basis, I will not be returning next year.”
Kudos to this undergraduate for recognizing an irreparable situation and exiting it.
Praise should also go to Washington State Representative, Matt Manweller, who recently introduced legislation to defund the school. Manweller finds it “incredibly frightening that the administration at Evergreen would tacitly support Brown-shirt tactics we have not seen since 1930s Germany. That they would allow students to threaten professors and other students based on their race is simply horrifying.”
Manweller locates the blame: “The administration bears direct responsibility for this situation. They hired the professors who have elevated the pseudo-science of ‘social justice’ to a religious movement. Now all dissent is crushed by threats of violence or actual violence."
None of Evergreen’s atrocities would have been so surprising if we had taken a look at what Evergreen teaches, and doesn’t teach. Examining the school’s website, three red flags emerge quickly.
First, it has no required courses. Its website states: “We don’t have majors or general education requirements for undergraduate degrees, so there are no required courses you have to take.”
Among the courses Evergreen offers, consider these taxpayer-funded twists:
- “Bruce and Jimi”: explores the “lives, art, and impact on popular culture of Bruce Lee and Jimi Hendrix.”
- “Alternatives and Resistance to Global Capitalism: Mexico, U.S., and Beyond”
- Sport: Politics, Economics and Personal Engagement:” Note here the course’s focus on identity politics: “How do sports reproduce and reinforce issues surrounding race, class, and gender identities?” Moreover, “on designated Thursday afternoons class members will play selected sports together in an “intramural” low-key competitive environment in order to develop and enhance the learning community.”
- The 1970s @ 33 1/3: “This course will explore U.S. popular culture of the 1970s through a number of the decade’s seminal albums. These may include The Beatles' Let It Be, The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street, Led Zeppelin IV, Ramones, Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, Steely Dan's Aja, and Patti Smith's Horses.”
- Finally, in a course relevant to the disruptive protests that occurred on campus, Evergreen offers: “Identities, Power, and Relationships in Context”: “Students will examine critically case studies about racism, homophobia, and gender-based violence with special attention to the interplay between identity and power on college campuses.”
As silly and/or seditious as the above classes are, it gets worse for the school, which brings us to the second flag: Evergreen issues no letter grades, providing faculty “narrative evaluations” in place of A’s through F’s. In addition, the school promises students that “You’ll write your own self-evaluation” and “you also get to evaluate your faculty, in return.”
These “grading standards”—if it’s proper to still call them such—are all very nonjudgmental, all very comforting, and all very noncompetitive. Whether they constitute academic rigor is another matter. Consider the reaction of one Evergreen student, as publicized on its website: “My transcripts all sound like letters of recommendation.” Indeed.
What explains this Neverland approach to education?
We find the answer with the third and final flag found on Evergreen’s website. The third item explains the first two. The school announces in its official Mission Statement that “Evergreen supports and benefits from local and global commitment to social justice…"
With its announcement that liberal education at Evergreen takes its bearings from the requirements of “Social Justice,” the veil drops and the campus’s recent meltdown is seen for what it is: the putting into practice of what Evergreen proudly teaches.
I addressed the role of social-justice teaching in promoting campus violence here last December. Little could I have known then that I was describing what would transpire at Evergreen five months hence. I argued that academic Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) “see the job of the teacher to consist in laying bare the injustices perpetrated against oppressed minorities.” This arises out of the project called “consciousness raising,” the Marx-inspired term for liberating the oppressed from the “false consciousness” that blinds them to the reality of their (capitalist) oppression. The dynamic of class struggle, for SJWs, has driven all history: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” reads Marx’s opening sentence in his Communist Manifesto.
Nor is Evergreen alone in transmogrifying its campus into an ideological training camp. A recent study finds that “millennials are most likely to view socialism and communism favorably.” Whereas 54 per cent of baby boomers and 71 per cent of mature adults hold a positive view of capitalism, only 42 percent of millennials are favorably disposed toward it.
In place of learning the “Three R’s,” today’s students are trained in the Postmodern Trilogy—Race, Class, and Gender.
Looking forward, I ask the reader to consider these tactical instructions from Marx to Social Justice Warriors: “[T]here is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”
This returns us to our opening question: Are taxpayers required to subsidize the destruction of their country and way of life?
If not, then Evergreen State College must be shuttered.
Indeed, its noxious brew of silliness and savagery makes it the poster-child for state defunding of failed public universities.