College Faculties: Advocating Self-Discipline Is Now Discriminatory Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, September 21 2017
According to U.S. Census, the likelihood of living in poverty in America approaches zero if a person does three simple things: (1) stay out of prison, (2) graduate high school and (3) avoid having children outside of marriage.

George Orwell once observed, "There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them." 

Were Orwell alive today, perhaps he would revise his adage to, "There are some ideas so manifestly true that only a college professor could deny them." 

Consider the professorial community's latest collective eruption. 

In an August Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, two maverick law professors had the audacity to lament the erosion of traditional American "bourgeois norms" like hard work, civility and self-discipline, and advocated their restoration. 

Apparently, that's what now merits outrage in deans' offices and faculty lounges across the country. 

The rogue authors in question are Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego School of Law.  In their piece entitled "Paying the Price for Breakdown of the Country's Bourgeois Culture," Ms. Wax and Mr. Alexander confront the societal scourges of generational poverty, opioid abuse, student underperformance and violent crime: 

The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture. 

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow:  Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake.  Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness.  Go the extra mile for your employer or client.  Be a patriot, ready to serve the country.  Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable.  Avoid coarse language in public.  Be respectful of authority.  Eschew substance abuse and crime. 

Cue the campus meltdown. 

Less than a week later, Dean Ted Ruger of the University of Pennsylvania Law School took to the pages of Penn's The Daily Pennsylvanian.  After curiously emphasizing that Professor Wax was tenuredperhaps suggesting that she otherwise might have faced employment consequencesDean Ruger bizarrely noted that white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, occurred just days after Professor Wax's column.  He proceeded to emphasize that, "Institutionally and collectively, we must permit every student and faculty member to speak, but we need not remain silent or imply endorsement of ... divisive, even noxious, views." 

In a separate letter to The Daily Pennsylvanian, 33 members of the Penn Law faculty wrote "to condemn recent statements our colleague Amy Wax, the Robert Mundheim Professor of Law at Penn Law School, has made in popular media pieces." 

At Professor Alexander's University of San Diego, Dean Stephen Ferruolo expressed his disapproval as well, and students at both Penn and USD requested that Professors Wax and Alexander be banned from teaching core first-year courses. 

But while Professors Wax and Alexander triggered faculty and student hysteria, most Americans today, and certainly past generations, would consider their points uncontroversial to the point of truism. 

A recent Gallup survey, for instance, found that a 62% to 38% majority of Americans believe in "the opportunity for a person in this nation to get ahead by working hard."  And that's after nearly eight years of the most sluggish economic cyclical recovery in U.S. history under Barack Obama. 

Basic demographic and sociological data undergird Professors Wax and Alexander as well.  According to U.S. Census, the likelihood of living in poverty in America approaches zero if a person does three simple things:  (1) stay out of prison, (2) graduate high school and (3) avoid having children outside of marriage. 

That's obviously not to condemn or morally judge those who falter on any of those categories.  All humans are fallible, and America is the land of second, third, fourth and innumerable chances.  Moreover, a small number of people are unable to satisfy those requisites.  Professors Wax and Alexander themselves stress that exceptions exist, and they avoid moral condemnation of individuals. 

That said, the real-world statistics are what they are, and they establish the validity of the professors' commentary. 

It's also false, by the way, for offended faculty and students to claim that unwed motherhood is a longstanding byproduct of racism.  As Dr. Thomas Sowell (himself African-American) has emphasized, U.S. Census data "going back a hundred years, when blacks were just one generation out of slavery ... showed that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults.  This fact remained true in every census from 1890 to 1940." 

Meanwhile, colleges often fail in their fundamental duty of educating students to become informed, productive citizens. 

As just the latest illustration among many, a recent Brookings Institution survey of college students found that 44% believe that the First Amendment doesn't protect what they consider "hate speech."  Another 51% favor shouting down campus speakers "known for making offensive and hurtful statements," while 19% actually find physical violence against controversial speakers acceptable. 

But hey, professors appear to be doing a great job of reliving their 1960s activism vicariously through their students, and creating hair-trigger outrage drones for a life of street violence and protest. 

As college costs and student borrowing become increasingly unsustainable, however, they shouldn't be surprised if more and more people tune them out and refuse to purchase what they're selling.