A Conversation with Jonathan HaidtHaidt is rather strange, in that he fights Social Justice, but hates the Republicans who fight Social Justice; he says he will vote for whichever Democrat opposes Trump or Cruz, meaning that he would prefer a treasonous, lying criminal or a Marxist Socialist. Still, his assessment of illiberalism, leftist anti-diversity of thought, and Social Justice is spot on. Odd.
JONATHAN HAIDT: ...I’ve begun calling it, “the Yale problem,” referring to the way that left-leaning institutions are now cut off from any moral vocabulary that they could use to resist the forces of illiberalism.
They’re so devoted to social justice, and they have accepted the rule that you can never, ever blame victims, so if a group of victims makes demands, you cannot argue back. You must accept the demands.
JOHN LEO: To get back to the lopsided faculties – -what are the chances of cracking anthropology or sociology?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Anthro is completely lost. I mean, it’s really militant activists. They’ve taken the first step towards censoring Israel. They’re not going to have anything to do with Israeli scholars any more. So it’s now – it’s the seventh victim group. For many years now, there have been six sacred groups. You know, the big three are African-Americans, women and LGBT. That’s where most of the action is. Then there are three other groups: Latinos, Native Americans….
JOHN LEO: You have to say Latinx now.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I do not intend to say that. Latinos, Native Americans, and people with disabilities. So those are the six that have been there for a while. But now we have a seventh–Muslims. Something like 70 or 75 percent of America is now in a protected group. This is a disaster for social science because social science is really hard to begin with. And now you have to try to explain social problems without saying anything that casts any blame on any member of a protected group. And not just moral blame, but causal blame. None of these groups can have done anything that led to their victimization or marginalization.
JOHN LEO: No. Never.
JONATHAN HAIDT: There used to be this old game show when I was a kid, called “Beat the Clock.” And you had to throw three oranges through a basketball hoop. Okay, that doesn’t look so hard. But now you have to do it blindfolded. Oh, now you have to do it on a skateboard. And with your right hand behind your back. Okay. Now go ahead and do it. And that’s what social science is becoming.
JOHN LEO: Well, but there’s always a possibility of truth and accuracy. I mean, why is the professoriate so…
JONATHAN HAIDT: Spineless? Nowadays, a mob can coalesce out of nowhere. And so we’re more afraid of our students than we are of our peers. It is still possible for professors to say what they think over lunch; in private conversations they can talk. But the list of things we can say in the classroom is growing shorter and shorter.
JOHN LEO: This sounds like the Good Germans.
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes. Exactly. It is. It’s really scary that values other than truth have become sacred. And what I keep trying to say – this comes right out of my book The Righteous Mind – is that you can’t have two sacred values. Because what do you do when they conflict? And in the academy now, if truth conflicts with social justice, truth gets thrown under the bus.
JOHN LEO: What happens to the academy now? You used the word ”die.” Is it dead or dying? Most academics think it’s just aflutter. They seem to have no idea that something important happened at Yale.Read it all, there.
JONATHAN HAIDT: The big thing that really worries me – the reason why I think things are going to get much, much worse – is that one of the causal factors here is the change in child-rearing that happened in America in the 1980s. With the rise in crime, amplified by the rise of cable TV, we saw much more protective, fearful parenting. Children since the 1980s have been raised very differently–protected as fragile. The key psychological idea, which should be mentioned in everything written about this, is Nassim Taleb’s concept of anti-fragility.
JOHN LEO: What’s the theory?
JONATHAN HAIDT: That children are anti-fragile. Bone is anti-fragile. If you treat it gently, it will get brittle and break. Bone actually needs to get banged around to toughen up. And so do children. I’m not saying they need to be spanked or beaten, but they need to have a lot of unsupervised time, to get in over their heads and get themselves out. And that greatly decreased in the 1980s. Anxiety, fragility and psychological weakness have skyrocketed in the last 15-20 years. So, I think millennials come to college with much thinner skins. And therefore, until that changes, I think we’re going to keep seeing these demands to never hear anything offensive.
JOHN LEO Like micro-aggression, trigger warnings, safe spaces and different forms of censorship for anything that bothers them?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, that’s right. Even much of the gender gap in STEM fields appears to result from differences of enjoyment-–boys and girls are not very different on ability, but they’re hugely different in what they enjoy doing. Anyone who has a son and a daughter knows that. But if you even just try to say this, it will be regarded as so hurtful, so offensive. You can get in big trouble for it. And that’s what actually showed up in the article I have online where I gave a talk at a school on the West Coast, and a student was insisting that there’s such massive institutional sexism, and she pointed to the STEM fields as evidence of sexism….
JOHN LEO: Is this the talk you gave at a high school you called “Centerville”?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, “Centerville High.” That’s right. That’s exactly what this was about.
JOHN LEO: Where the girl stood up after your talk and said, “So you think rape is OK?”
JONATHAN HAIDT: Yes, that’s right. It’s this Marcusian rhetorical trick. You don’t engage the person’s arguments. You say things that discredit them as a racist or a sexist.
JOHN LEO: How do they learn that? The young don’t read Herbert Marcuse.
JONATHAN HAIDT: I don’t know whether they get it from one another in junior high school or whether they’re learning it in diversity training classes. I don’t know whether they’re modeling it from their professors. I do believe it’s in place by the time they arrive in college. And colleges are teaching this. Now, some colleges are much, much worse than others. We know from various things we’ve read and posted on our site, that liberal arts colleges – especially the women’s schools – are by far the worst.
JOHN LEO: Women’s schools are worse?
JONATHAN HAIDT: Nobody should send their child to a women’s school any more. And that’s especially true if you’re progressive. The last thing you want is for your progressive daughter to be raised in this bullying monoculture, and to become a self-righteous bully herself.