Keeping up with the follies in American higher education is a task far too large for mortal man and perhaps not all that interesting. Here and there an incident reveals an as-yet unexplored frontier of silliness. A mathematics professor at the University of Hawaii demanded in a blogpost that “white cis men” resign from professorial positions to open the way for “women of color and trans people.”
An assistant professor of philosophy, Rebecca Tuvel, at Rhodes College published a peer-reviewed article in the feminist journal Hypatia, in which she argued that “transracialism” is as valid as “transgenderism.” Outrage ensued; one of the journal’s associate editors apologized for publishing the article; the editor-in-chief stood behind the article.
Many of these stories don’t deserve more than a nod. They are familiar in outline as we have grown accustomed to academics who make outrageous declarations and seem to welcome the returning tide of outrageous recriminations. That’s much of the dynamic in higher education today. To defend our civilization from its progressive descent into the cultural equivalent of the La Brea Tar Pits, it is best to look for the stories that bring forward some of the deeper patterns.