Penn and Teller on College

When I applied to college in the fall of 1992, I did it not because I had any groundbreaking aspirations, but because, quite simply, it was the next thing to do. Having attended a school whose sole point was to prepare students for college, and growing up as the son of intellectuals (both my parents have Masters degrees), one of whom is from a family of teachers, education was seen as an end, not a means. So, it was off to college, and all that college stood for.

Even then, though, I found myself nauseated by the attitudes of the poltical correctness activists. While the opinions voiced by students came in all types (albeit with an undeniably “liberal” slant), the loudest voices were those of the hypocrites. These were the people who stole, and sometimes burned, all the copies of the Daily Californian that they could find whenever the student-run (but not university financed) paper took a position contrary to what the leading lights of the Progressive movement deemed acceptable. One such excuse was the publication of a full-page ad denouncing Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The denunciation had to be in the form of an ad, paid for out of a private person’s pocket, because the paper was officially impartial. The paper defended the decision to allow publication of the ad as a purely business decision; that wasn’t good enough for the activists, who even torched one of the distribution stands.

Even worse was when the power got to the heads of the student activists. In the spring of 1995, during the campaign season leading up to the student senate elections, the Daily Californian was again targeted, with copies stolen and distribution stands defaced, when the paper endorsed a candidate for a major position in the student government. At the time, the two major student political coalitions were, loosely speaking, the Progressive activists, and the non-aligned coalition, which included among its constituent groups engineers and, worse, conservatives.

It was easy for me, as a science major, to get by without much of an attempt at indoctrination by the faculty. Perhaps, also, I was lucky to have gotten in at a time when the forced indoctrination hadn’t yet gotten to a fever pitch. To be sure, there were a lot of bullshit classes on offer, taught by what one suspects are almost-failed academics. But for the most part, there was little indoctrination.

As Penn and Teller describe, however, that’s no longer the case, at least in liberal arts curricula:

Mad Minerva says it better than I can:

If you’re a novice about the campus cult of diversity and political correctness, you will find this interesting indeed. As for me, this is the sort of thing I live with! Notice also one statement that shows up in the video: the idea that if Person A is offended by Person B’s words, then the campus should make Person B shut up. Here’s the core of the First Amendment battles on campus: if you have free speech, sooner or later somebody will get offended. But that’s part of free speech. You have a right to free speech, not a right to never be offended.

And, of course, as I like to point out to people, without free speech it’s much harder to tell who the idiots are.

[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]

8 thoughts on “Penn and Teller on College”

  1. Bruce – no it’s not hard to tell who the idiots are in the absence of free speech, they are the only ones opening their mouths! Leastways that was true in the USSR.

  2. Eventually, it will be necessary for those who actually are concerned with individual rights and academic freedom to challenge and confront the advocates of PC victimology about the true objectives of that doctrine—restrictions on ideas and values disliked by the “progressive, leftist” faction in society in general, and on campus in particular.

    I say “eventually” because the major requirement for any successful challenge to this nonsense is that it not be taken at face value by the surrounding community. This would mean faculty who had the courage and intellectual honesty to reject the forms of PC blackmail that are so commonly in use now, and, even more importantly, a larger society in which PC claims didn’t get such a respectful reception by media and social “opinion makers”.

    I’m afraid none of this can happen until the current generation, my baby boomer generation, which holds most positions of power and influence in society at this point, passes away.

    It would be best if such a passage happened in a timely fashion, even if it meant that many who could be kept alive and functioning by medical science were retired from influential positions and replaced by younger, less contaminated members of their profession.

    This may sound harsh, but I’m convinced the myths of the “counter-cultural revolution” of the 60’s have so permeated and debased the mindset of the boomers that there is little hope that we can overcome it in any meanigful sense.

    It is unfortunate that the millions of my aging contemporaries will be active, and demanding of enormous resources for medical and retirement amenities, for a few more decades. Repairing the damage we have done to society, the cultural life of the nation, and especially the educational systems, and content, of the great part of western culture will take a few generations of determined effort, and rigorous intellectual and ethical standards.

    If this work is not taken up and completed successfully, there is little chance a civilization so divided against itself could survive the challenges that are, and will be, all around us.

    We are, as a civilization, at the point Lincoln was talking about when he made the speech I referred to above. We will not prevail long if we are so conflicted between those who value freedom and those who are utterly opposed to it.

  3. “We will not prevail long if we are so conflicted between those who value freedom and those who are utterly opposed to it.”

    Yes we will.

    Those who value freedom will defeat and transcend those who oppose it.

    Chin up, sir.

  4. You misread me, lex—I was not accepting defeat, but speaking to the need to engage in the difficult intellectual and moral work required for the victory we both seek.

    But, I will repeat that such a struggle is necessary if collectivism is to be rolled back, whether of the secular or religious kind.

  5. Hilarious! I can’t believe they got Noam Chomsky on the show.

    ‘Ol Noam was much too canny to give them much to work with on tape, but they did throw out that little tidbit about how they tricked him into appearing by promising that they would introduce him to Kristy Alley. They made Chomsky look like a fool, and put him in a position where he had to either raise a public stink (or possibly a defamation suit), or just shut up and let it stand. But Chomsky had to know that Penn and Teller knew that any publicity about the incident would only be a boon to Penn and Teller. Furthermore, Penn and Teller would know that Chomsky, as the world’s smartest academic, had to know that they would know that this was true even if there had been no actual promise to introduce him to Kristy Alley.

    Therefore we can conclude, by simple application of Vizzini logic, that Penn and Teller never promised to introduce Chomsky to Kristy Alley. They just made it up to snooker him.

  6. I think that those Penn & Teller went too far this time, I mean who could buy that Noam Chomsky was convinced because of the promie of Kirsty Alley? that’s almost an insult to anyones intelligence, the sad part is that it worked, they took advantage of those who don’t read and barely think to fool them into thinking Chomsky is stupid HE IS NOT, for me he’s one of the few americans that notices what kind of country he’s living in.

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