Squelch U.

Though this article is about an Obama adviser insulting Hillary Clinton and the
consequences she faced as a result, it actually says more. Here’s the
basic context:

A former adviser to Barack Obama, who resigned Friday
after calling rival Hillary Rodham Clinton “a monster,” said Obama may
not be able to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within a year
as he has promised on the campaign trail.

Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winner author, made the comments in
two separate interviews with foreign media while promoting her latest
book. The comment that led to her resignation came in an interview with
The Scotsman, and she immediately tried to keep it from appearing in

“She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to
anything,” The Scotsman quoted her as saying. A few hours after the
comments were published, Power, an unpaid adviser and Harvard
professor, announced her resignation in a statement distributed by the
Obama campaign.

Therein lies the subtext. Starting with the fact that she’s a Harvard professor, home of

the recently released Final Report of the Task Force on General Education,
the result of years of labor by the Harvard faculty. One acute
observer, himself a denizen of the academy, notes that as a result of
that heavy-lifting, “we now have a useful, readable constitution for
postmodern undergraduate education in America. The only problem is that
it is a constitution for an intellectual and moral banana republic.”

Too harsh? Try this, from the aforementioned report: “The aim of a
liberal education is to unsettle assumptions, to defamiliarize the
familiar, to reveal what is going on beneath and behind appearances, to
disorient young people.”

No doubt Socrates thought he was doing something vaguely akin to
that. But Socrates “disoriented” young people with all of those probing
questions in order to get them to grasp the truth of things.


The basic assumption of the Harvard faculty report is
that there is no truth-of-things; it’s all “appearances,” all the way

Appearances are what count. How things look and feel and seem, trump the way things are. Politics and academia are intimately bound.

No doubt there are honorable exceptions on the Harvard
faculty — teachers who believe that their responsibility is to
introduce some of the brightest young people in the world to the riches
of the intellectual life, understood as reason’s quest for truths worth
believing because they are, well, true. But for those members of the
Harvard professoriate whose views dominated the Task Force on General
Education, reason can’t get at the universal truth of things, for there
are no such universal truths.

The report says that one of the goals of a Harvard undergraduate
education is to empower students to “choose for themselves what
principles will guide them.” But isn’t the question of what those
principles are important? Apparently not, if you’re comfortably
perched, with tenure, in the intellectual sandbox of postmodernism.

One of the students thus empowered is now running for president. And he’s one Harvard adviser down, at least for the record.


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