The Progressive War on Free Speech – Part Three

Published April 20, 2016

“The Revolution devours its children,” wrote French royalist Jacques Mallet du Pan in 1793, but in the case of the American left, the children are now devouring their masters, both literally and figuratively.  For the progressive war on free speech is nowhere more evident than on campus, where it has taken on sinister aspects completely apart from Title IX, about which we wrote in Part Two of this series.

Having been coddled as “special” and “unconditionally loved’ (read “undisciplined”) by the village that now raises them, the children of yesterday are the woefully-unprepared college students of today, too many of whom need “safe spaces” and can’t actually handle the education that they supposedly attend college to receive.

Perhaps the first major example to hit the public eye was at the University of Missouri, which actually fired its football coach (see “A University the Football Team Can Be Proud Of“) in response to unsubstantiated accusations of alleged racist remarks made by people who didn’t even go to school there.  But following closely behind were some of America’s allegedly elite institutions, where cowardly administrators cravenly capitulated to some of the most ridiculous demands imaginable.

Following the example of England’s Oxford and Cambridge, for example, certain Ivy League institutions, namely Harvard and Yale, have had for decades a system that Harvard calls “houses” and that Yale prefers to call “Residential Colleges.” 

Modelled after the actual colleges that exist within Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard Houses and Yale’s Residential Colleges pretend to be communities of scholars within their larger undergraduate colleges and universities themselves, each with resident libraries and faculties.  One such faculty member, called “Dean,” is purportedly responsible for each student’s academic progress.  A second faculty member, known as the “Master” – as in “Master of the House” – is more broadly responsible for setting the “moral and intellectual tone of the college.”

In recent years, after decades of “affirmative action” aimed at boosting the enrollment of non-white “minority” students, it seems that the title of “Master” has become too much for some students – and indeed some faculty to bear. 

Never mind that, led by many graduates of both Harvard and Yale, this nation fought a bloody war to end slavery over 150 years ago, well before Harvard started its houses or Yale began its Residential Colleges in the 1930s.  Never mind also that no student or faculty member alive today was ever a slave or a slave master.  And never mind that the title of “Master” itself has nothing to do with slavery; it’s simply an accolade, British in origin, that refers to the head of the college within the college.

Never mind, too, that “Master” has manifold innocuous meanings.  Schoolmasters are presiding officers of a school, and the U. S. has a Postmaster General.  After receiving their baccalaureate degrees, some college students go on to pursue a Master’s degree, often on the way to a Ph.D.  “Master” is a (typically British also) form of address used for boys and young men in formal correspondence, and the captain of a ship is more formally its “Master.” 

Courts often appoint “Special Masters” to assist judges in fields requiring particular expertise; the martial arts have Masters; and certain peace-loving Buddhist monks and nuns are “Dharma masters.”  Chess has its masters, guilds had master craftsmen, and let’s not forget the “Old Masters” of Western Renaissance painting.   Then of course are the ubiquitous hosts of events from wedding receptions to the Academy Awards, typically called the “Master of Ceremonies.”  Even the American Inns of Court, dedicated to legal excellence, civility, professionalism, and ethics, have “Masters of the Bench,” again derived from British nomenclature. 

In short, the false furor over “master” is as silly as the uproar over the use of the word “niggardly” (which means parsimonious or tight-fisted) that forced the resignation of a white mayoral staff member in Washington, D. C. back in 2007.

Students at Ivy League institutions really ought to know better.  And if they don’t, then they should learn.

[Find Part One Here]

[Find Part Two Here]