Friday Ephemera
Friday Ephemera

An Anomalous Professor

“Sensitivity” is letting other people’s reactions to you decide your behaviour. So instead of choosing to do what you think is right and then defending it, you say something or try out something or listen to other people demand something… and try to adapt to that.

Peter Robinson talks with Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield about grade inflation, illiberal “liberals” and the state of academia. In five parts:

1. Leaning left.

2. A culture of self-criticism.

3. Everyone is excellent.

4. Diversity in all things (except of course in thought).

5. “Sensitivity,” indignation and the right to be agreed with.



"The right to be agreed with." :)


“The right to be agreed with.”

Well, it’s plausible shorthand for some common attitudes. For instance, think of how doctrinaire feminists reacted to Daphne Patai or Christina Hoff Sommers.

Or the firing of Thomas Thibeault.

Or think of Professor Jere Surber, who regards his own leftist politics as the only “respectable” position for his students to adopt.

Or Professor Maureen Stanton, who took to her fainting couch when faced with views at variance with her own.

Or Margaret Morganroth Gullette, who objects to both sides of a political argument being given a fair hearing, and insists that if you don’t agree with her then you’re “promoting hegemonic values” and are therefore unfit. (“Teachers who hold such views cannot lead useful debates.”)

And these are champions of “diversity,” remember.


Uncommon Knowledge is a great series.

I'm surprised you didn't quote the bit right at the end:

"Conservatives are more tolerant than liberals... they're much more tolerant of people who disagree with them."

Uncle Deetou

Thanks for the links... interesting

carbon based lifeform

Excellent interview. Another money quote:

"[Black people and women on campus] were encouraged to react with indignation whenever they felt put upon. Thus the notion of sensitivity led to less toleration rather than more."

I bet he's glad he's got tenure.


“Thus the notion of sensitivity led to less toleration rather than more.”

It’s a common outcome, one I’ve illustrated several times. And “sensitivity” of this kind encourages its devotees to favour certain tribal groups - and the most aggressive or delusional members of those groups - and to assign intellectual credibility based on physical characteristics. Not the most obvious recipe for “progress.”

Some readers may recall a commenter named Far-Center Loony who seems to believe that people who belong to Designated Victim Groups (feminists, for instance) should receive special favours in debates – a certain immunity from criticism - regardless of their illogic or unreliability. Conversely, people who are “privileged” and belong to Designated Oppressor Groups (me, for instance) should just Shut The Hell Up. Apparently, arguments should be judged not by their own merits or lack thereof, but by the pigment, genitalia and group affiliation of the person making them.

This is the “logic” of sensitivity, so conceived.

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