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Victimhood Culture and Higher Education BS

Victimhood Culture and Higher Education BS

Higher education is drowning in BS, according to Christian Smith at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Note that many of the problems come from the rising culture of victimhood that Jason Manning and I discuss in our new book. Here’s Smith:

BS is the ascendant “culture of offense” that shuts down the open exchange of ideas and mutual accountability to reason and argument. It is university leaders’ confused and fearful capitulation to that secular neo-fundamentalist speech-policing.

BS is the invisible self-censorship that results among some students and faculty, and the subtle corrective training aimed at those who occasionally do not self-censor.

BS is the only semi-intelligible outbursts of antagonism from enraged outsiders incited by academe’s suppressions of open argument, which primarily work to validate and reinforce the self-assured superiority of the suppressors, and sometimes to silence other legitimate voices.

What Smith calls the “culture of offense” is of course better known as “victimhood culture.” One idea that has come out of this culture that is especially threatening to universities is the idea that speech campus activists find offensive is violence — not even that it is akin to violence, but that it actually is violence. And people have to refrain from violence, be protected against it, and punished for it. The things Smith talks about — speech policing, self-censorship, etc. — naturally follow. And as he point out, the reaction from outsiders it is often semi-intelligible and unprincipled, sometimes even just as threatening to free speech and academic freedom.

The future looks bleak at the moment, and these aren’t even the only problems. Smith’s list of BS is much longer, and that he is able to go on for so long — mostly convincingly — is perhaps the main problem, since the goals of the academy have been undermined in so many ways and from so many sources that saving higher education at this point might be impossible.

(Photo by Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (Tibet-5874 – Something smells here!) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)