God and children at Yale

“We find that in the absence of demonstrable truth, the best we can do is to exercise the greatest diligence, humility, insight, intelligence, and industry in trying to arrive at the nearest values to truth.”

                                                                       Wm. F. Buckley, Jr., God and Man at Yale


“But when I became a man, I gave up childish things.”

The Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11

Things are roiling at the home of Skull and Bones. Apparently a large group of wannabe adults can’t select their own Halloween costumes without professional assistance. And, we refer not to the salesperson at Halloween Express.

When a professor responded to a query for help, she was pilloried for her response. Her response was, in a nutshell, “You’re adults. Figure it out.”

Says The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf:

[N]o fewer than 13 administrators took scarce time to compose, circulate, and co-sign a letter advising adult students on how to dress for Halloween, a cause that misguided campus activists mistake for a social-justice priority.

As for the professor in question, Erika Christakis, her words were by nearly any measure benign:

This year, we seem afraid that college students are unable to decide how to dress themselves on Halloween. I don’t wish to trivialize genuine concerns about cultural and personal representation, and other challenges to our lived experience in a plural community. I know that many decent people have proposed guidelines on Halloween costumes from a spirit of avoiding hurt and offense. I laud those goals, in theory, as most of us do. But in practice, I wonder if we should reflect more transparently, as a community, on the consequences of an institutional (bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.

Implying that adults should act like adults is now the great transgression. Such is the state of the modern academy. Friedersdorf suggests such students are coddled. I’m quite certain a chorus of “amens” just sounded.

USA Today’s Glenn Reynolds suggests raising the voting age to 25 as these 18-22 year old citizens convince few they have the social acumen to evaluate the country’s needs.

Like infants without a playpen Yale’s intellectual children flail, absent reassuring mental or emotional boundaries. Borrowing Steve Taylor’s memorable phrase, they are “so open minded that their brains leaked out.” They do not need anyone to tell them what to think, yet it is clear someone needs to teach them how. Yale and other university’s are not for learning, in the infantile mind, they are for being like home. “Make me comfortable. Don’t challenge my preconceptions no matter how idiotic.” Has anyone checked the Yale dorms for those cribs that expand to junior beds? As one commented on Yale’s newspaper site:

“It is not about creating an intellectual space!”


Says a student to faculty. Unchallenged. At a college. We fail.

There is a reason Buckley sub-titled his book, “The Superstions of ‘Academic Freedom.'”

Many on the Left demagogue Tea Partiers and other Conservatives for questioning the consensus on climate change and other issues in the public discourse. But, those on the Left might well attend to their own compatriots who oppose free thought in the name of free thinking. Liberalism hardly recognizes itself on American campuses anymore. Unless, that is, liberalism’s stigmata is whining, pouting, hurt baby feelings, spit-puddle-shallow thinking, and moral ambiguity so adrift dandelion seeds on the wind appear anchor-chained by comparison.

Such ignorant infantile irrationality makes it difficult (or will) to work through actual incidents of racism, bias, sexual misconduct, and on. So many crying “wolf” will ultimately deafen ears when legitimate alarms are raised.

The student complaint does not seek justice, nor is their response learned, reasoned discourse. It barely marks the difference between preemie diapers and “big boy” pants since the content is the same, only the volume differs.

Yale grads the world over should be checking their diplomas for expiration dates.

“Pointy-headed liberal” columnist, and Yale attendee, Colin McEnroe sees, as have others, a cheapening of real protest in the Yale debacle:

Right now, I’ve got this to say to the Yale students engaged in bristling, expectorating confrontations with authority: You’re overindulged. You don’t know how to act right. You’ve come so completely unglued in a very low-stakes game that it’s tempting to conclude you’d be useless if the going ever got tough.




To recap: Most — perhaps not all — of the current uprising is the fallout from a campuswide conversation about Halloween costumes. Not Ferguson. Not Afghanistan. Not immigration. Not Planned Parenthood.


Halloween costumes. And not any particular Halloween costume. Nope. It never got that far. Yale has lost its mind because one dean sent out an email urging students to choose costumes with an eye toward offending absolutely nobody. A faculty member, Erika Christakis, responded with an email suggesting, in the nicest possible way, that trying to control something as subversive and rowdy as Halloween might be fruitless and that there might even be a place — even on a modern college campus that is helicoptered, cosseted and refereed to a fare thee well — for mildly upsetting naughtiness on this night of revels.

We should use Yale to discount the real possibility of legitimate racial tensions at other institutions. (This seems to the be the case at Mizzou. See also this narrative from Mizzou associate professor Cynthia Frisby.) However, we also should not let legitimate grievances elevate the status of the “protesters” at Yale. Children should not be encouraged to pull fire alarms when there is neither smoke nor fire. But, nor should adults ignore the evidence when there’s fire down below.

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Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.