There’s a price paid when an influential part of society embraces a kind of fundamentalist hysteria reminiscent of the grassroots religious movements common in the Middle East and also plagued Medieval Catholicism. The New Yorker’s Benjamin Wallace-Wells is just the latest climatista to suggest that constitutional democracy as we know it may not be up to meeting the apocalyptic challenge.
In many places, the worst intolerance pertains to issues relating to gender or race. Holding up the banner of social justice, campus activists have ejected liberal values for those of Mao’s Red Guards, chasing those with differing ideas, including distinguished professors, off campus, as recently occurred at both Harvard and Cambridge. These tendencies are hardly weakened by the fact that so many college administrations — Oberlin, Evergreen College , Williams — have not only tolerated assaults on those considered, often falsely, as racist or sexist, but seem to embrace them.
Some progressives such as Cass Sunstein fear that students raised in current homogeneous college environment “are less likely to get a good education, and faculty members are likely to learn less from one another, if there is a prevailing political orthodoxy. A recent survey of first year reading assignments at 350 schools by the National Association of Scholars found that most are now dominated by contemporary authors, usually focused on progressive topics like racism, Islamophobia, or gender issues. Not on the reading list: Pretty much anyone who wrote before 2000, including Homer, Confucius, Shakespeare, Milton, de Tocqueville, V.S. Naipul or the Founding Fathers.