A former liberal Harvard president is warning of the “creeping totalitarianism” of unbridled political correctness on America’s college campuses.
Larry Summers, who also served as Treasury secretary for the Clinton and as an economist for the Obama Administration, said that notions of microagressions were absurd and the propagandizing of America’s youth must stop.
In an extensive interview with Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Summers said the answer to “bad speech,” he said, is “different speech;” not shutting down speech.”
Summers cited several examples of what he calls the “creeping totalitarianism:”
“The main thing that’s happening [on campus] is what always happens, professors teach courses, students take courses, students aspire to graduate, they make friends, they plan their lives… That said, whether it’s the President of Princeton negotiating with people as they took over his office over the names of schools at Princeton, whether it is attacks on very reasonable free speech having to do with adults’ right to choose their own Halloween costumes at Yale, whether it’s the administration using placemats in the dining hall to propagandize about what messages students should give their parents about Syrian refugee policy, there is a great deal of absurd political correctness.
Rather than shielding college students from differences of opinion, they should be actively exposed to it, he said.
“I’m somebody who believes very strongly in diversity, who resists racism in all of its many incarnations… But it seems to be that there is a kind of creeping totalitarianism in terms of what kind of ideas are acceptable and are debatable on college campuses. And I think that’s hugely unfortunate. I think the answer to bad speech is different speech. The answer to bad speech is not shutting down speech.”
Summers also blasted the absurdity of “microagressions.”
“The idea that somehow microaggressions in the form of a racist statement contained in a novel should be treated in parallel with violence or actual sexual assault seems to me to be crazy. I worry very much that if our leading academic institutions become places that prize comfort over truth—that prize the pursuit of mutual understanding over the pursuit of better and more accurate understanding—then a great deal will be lost.”
About Robert Gehl
Robert Gehl is a college professor in Phoenix, Arizona. He has over 15 years journalism experience, including two Associated Press awards. He lives in Glendale with his wife and two young children.