A professor’s probing challenge


Professor Robert George of Princeton tells us on his Facebook page of  a fascinating challenge he makes to his students and of the somewhat depressing response he gets. Perhaps it was always like this? Has every generation been as myopic, as unschooled in any sense of the realities of historic time and place as this one? It again seems to confirm a everything that Professor Paglia fumed about in a post here a few days ago. Frighteningly it seems to be more evidence of the fulfillment of Allan Bloom’s dismal predictions of 30 years ago about the consequences of the ‘closing of the American mind‘.

Professor George writes:

Undergraduates say the darndest things. When discussing the history of racial injustice, I frequently ask them what their position on slavery would have been had they been white and living in the South before abolition. Guess what? They all would have been abolitionists! They all would have bravely spoken out against slavery, and worked tirelessly in the cause of freeing those enslaved. Isn’t that special? Bless their hearts.

Of course, it is complete nonsense. Only the tiniest fraction of them, or of any of us, would have spoken up against slavery or lifted a finger to free the slaves. Most of them—and us—would simply have gone along. Many would have supported the slave system and, if it was in their interest, participated in it as buyers and owners or sellers of slaves.

So I respond to the students’ assurances that they would have been vocal opponents of slavery by saying that I will credit their claims if they can show me evidence of the following: that in leading their lives today they have stood up for the rights of unpopular victims of injustice whose very humanity is denied, and where they have done so knowing (1) that it would make THEM unpopular with their peers, (2) that they would be loathed and ridiculed by wealthy, powerful, and influential individuals and institutions in our society; (3) that they would be abandoned by many of their friends, (4) that they would be called nasty names, and (5) that they would possibly even be denied valuable educational and professional opportunities as a result of their moral witness.
In short, my challenge to them is to show me where they have at significant risk to themselves and their futures stood up for a cause that is unpopular in elite sectors of our culture today.

There are those who may say, “well this is America” and “you cannot say the same for Europe or the rest of the anglophone world.” Oh yes you can. This myopia, this non-sense of history is endemic in much of our culture. All you have to do is look at the documentation of it by the British-based Spiked Online campaign for freedom of speech and related freedoms from ignorance.

Princeton – where some at least are opening minds against the odds.



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