Liberal education as an antidote to identity politics

Whereas postmodernism concealed its dogmatism, identity politics wears its heart on its sleeve. It regards its own grand narrative as comprehensive and unimpeachable. It declares — without any apparent felt need to marshal evidence or examine alternative opinions — that the history of Western civilization is marked by a structural racism and sexism, and by a systemic persecution of the powerless by the privileged. The sister doctrine of intersectionality adds that all crimes and sins committed by the unjustly privileged oppressors — typically white men — are indissolubly connected while righteousness inheres exclusively in the oppressed, comprising people of color and women. Notwithstanding recent wavering about white women (some of whom have had the temerity to vote for Republicans), identity politics affirms that victims are neatly distinguishable from, morally superior to, and entitled to greater political power than, the villains.

Like the purveyors of postmodernism, the ideologues of identity politics align themselves with progressive goals. And no less than postmodernism, identity politics subverts the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. Both teach that free speech, due process, and the very idea of limited constitutional government are frauds committed by the strong to subjugate the weak. Small wonder that progressive elites not only in the academy but also in the media, in government, and in Silicon Valley — all dominated by graduates of our leading colleges and universities — disregard or disparage the norms of liberal democracy.

No antidote to the poison that higher education has been pumping into our politics for three generations can succeed without reforming higher education.

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