A warning not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes sparked an imbroglio at Yale, which went viral over the weekend. A lecturer asked in an email, “Is there no room anymore for a child to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?”
Students went ballistic. When an administrator (who is the lecturer’s spouse) defended free speech, some students wanted his head. One student wrote in an op-ed (now taken down), “He doesn’t get it. And I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.”
Washington Post columnist (and Tufts professor) Daniel Drezner was initially horrified by the spectacle but ultimately backtracked. Invoking Friedrich Hayek’s insights from “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” Drezner cautions outside observers that “there is an awful lot of knowledge that is local in character, that cannot be culled from abstract principles or detached observers.”
As a Hayek fanboy and champion of localism, I should be quite sympathetic. But this time, I think Drezner’s initial reaction was closer to the mark. The notion that the Yale incident is an isolated one defies all of the evidence.
Reality check: Good, but they’re still missing the point: In an age when working class jobs went to China and lower middle class jobs (title searching, medical dicta, etc.) are being AI-d, arts programs at U’s – who are no longer allowed a canon, remember – must mainly turn out bureaucrats supervising vast and growing masses of entitle-ees.
The budding bureaucrats necessarily cultivate, seek out, and empathize with unproductive feelings, and view independent thinkers and problem-solvers as enemies.
Always have, always will, but they didn’t used to have the upper hand.