Saturday, May 27, 2017


If you hear that Jason has a degree in Chemistry, you figure he’s got some smarts and done some hard work. Likewise with a degree in Italian literature: Jason had to put in a lot of study to learn it. You might wonder how many jobs would be available for the latter degree, but college isn’t always a vocational school.

But a degree, or perhaps merely progress to a degree, in sociology doesn’t elicit the same respect. It gets more respect than gender studies, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Students in college tend not to have a list of accomplishments to their credit, aside from the stuff used to impress the admissions office. This is perfectly natural, but youth is often impatient.

Thinking over the list of targets of venom in the news lately: James Watson, Robert Heinlein, Charles Murray, Matt Taylor, even Bret Weinstein (and remember Larry Summers?): they all have this in common: they have accomplished things, earned respect—perhaps as a Nobel prize winner, perhaps as a ordinary professor. Their attackers generally are not in the same league. Those trying to intimidate Weinstein were students, not other professors. I didn’t hear of any Nobel prize winners in the line-up complaining about Watson at U of I. I've not heard that any of those claiming Heinlein was a terrible racist could write a tenth as well as he did.

Perhaps envy may play a big role in the noisy attacks. There's a lot of tribalism too, and of course the screamers get publicity, and often they get their way as well—something is structurally wrong there. When did it get to be carved in stone that youth are wiser and more noble than their elders?

But I get a strong smell of malicious envy from the social justice warriors.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think there is something to that - and often accompanies advanced degrees in education as well. (Though some take their Master's for career advancement, able to resist the indoctrination part.)

There is some tendency toward this in my field. While nearly all the clinicians are liberals, the frequency is much lower among MD's who are likely to have less jealousy about other career paths. Social workers can deeply resent that they have an MSW but don't get paid as well as STEM grads with a Bachelor's.