In my continuing investigation of the mindset of American academia in our era, I have found it helpful to visit the pages of Ivy League student newspapers because it is there that woke silliness can be found in its purest form.
Case in point, this early November 2021 op-ed, Calm Your Ambition: A Call for Student Activism from The Harvard Crimson. The title speaks for itself, but I have not finished lampooning the piece yet.
The key point, of course, is that this young person, having secured a place at what is generally considered the most famous and most prestigious university in the United States and one of the top institutions of higher education on the planet, is exceedingly annoyed that her fellow students choose to spend their time studying and learning things rather than joining her in agitating on behalf of whatever left-wing cause is exercising her at the moment.
True, this is just one undergraduate and so what if she is agitated that other people are not agitating? Why am I bothering writing about her? Well, a) I have to fill my blog with something every so often and b) it really is a social problem that so many Ivy League students are so obsessed with social problems.
"Why is that?" you ask. Because students who spend their time in endless activism are taking spots at Ivy League universities that could have gone to students who want to be educated. If this young person wants to spend her time demonstrating, she should drop out of school (though, sadly, it would be too late for a student who wants to go to college to actually attend college to get the spot that the activist writer would no longer occupy). But at least her peers would be freed of her scoldings over their infuriating unwillingness to remain ignorant.
Let’s examine some of what the writer says. Let’s start here:
…the Harvard undergraduate community’s focus on personal ambition combined with our subsequent subservience to authority causes us to be the exact opposite of what the world needs
Hmm, given that she made it to Harvard and is writing in the pages of its famous student newspaper I would think that she is not lacking in ambition. And given that the aim of her piece is to tell other people what to think and do, she seems ready enough to join the ranks of those who enjoy wielding authority.
She is very approving of her fellow students when they engage in the usual radical antics and, like most radicals, she is very into spoiling important occasions that mean something to other people and shutting down speech:
they disrupted President Bacow’s speech to freshman families
That strikes me as a selfish thing to do. But the writer seems to think that Harvard serves no purpose other than to further her personal political agenda, so why show consideration for those who actually care that their family member has worked hard to get there?
You kind of have to wonder how the admission process worked with this censorious clod. Did she write in her application essay, “I hope to be admitted to Harvard so that I may pour scorn on every aspect of it.” I suppose that this is the sort of thing that admissions officers are looking for these days.
This person is irked by those of her fellows who, being students, study. She says:
Numerous students weren’t willing to picket during time that could have been spent doing homework.
Applying themselves to their studies. Horrors!
She goes on:
How can we expect to better the world if we aren’t willing to sacrifice for it?
Playing hooky and not doing your homework is not sacrifice. Those two things are naughtiness in the first instance and sloth in the second. It is also hard to get into medical school and obtain skills that would alleviate human suffering if your undergraduate grades are cruddy.
What is saddest about this activist having taken a place at Harvard that could have gone to a person who actually wanted to gain knowledge and engage in truth-seeking is that the writer seems unaware of the fact that most of the most effective activists and agitators who ever lived (say Martin Luther King, Martin Luther, Nelson Mandela, Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Václav Havel, Mary Wollstonecraft, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, Karl Marx and so on) were ideas people and quite well read. True, many of them engaged in violence and street protests. But they also went to great effort to educate themselves. The writer assumes that frenetic agitation is the only possible way to better the world and, like young people throughout the ages, assumes that everyone in authority is her enemy. Like Harvard is unfriendly to leftists?
Harvard students may leave this place unprepared to shake things up and transform our world wherein violence, oppression, and inequality are a constant and systemic presence. For that, we would need to protest, defy authority, and risk our own personal ambitions for the greater good.
I am trying patiently to figure out what personal ambitions this person is putting at risk. To reiterate: She is at Harvard. She is given a platform in her famous college’s famous newspaper. She does not want to study much, but she also doesn’t seem inclined to leave her privileged perch and, addressing her fellow Harvard students, indicates that she would like to be powerful someday:
Many of the world’s most powerful people have passed through Harvard. You or I might join them one day.
In the meantime, she spends her time urging her fellow students to self-sabotage their own careers thereby rendering themselves useless when it comes to making any actual impact on the world. She is so taken with the excitement of the picket line that she does not seem to realize that much of the labor movement’s success has come about through hard intellectual work like often done in, you know, think tanks or in, you know, legislative work or in political party grunt work and policy paper writing.
Basically, this person thinks she is idealistic whereas she actually has a quite coercive view of how people should conduct themselves and what it is acceptable to believe in. That is the essence of wokeness. And it is eating away at American higher education and turning our greatest universities into activist factories.