President Obama decries college’s “coddling” of student sensitivities

September 16, 2015 • 1:10 pm

Well, creationist Ben Carson appears to be nipping at The Donald’s heels as the most popular Republican candidate, but it’s hardly an improvement. I still predict that they’ll both plummet in popularity as the Republicans finally realize whom they’re supporting. Meanwhile, Carson goes around, as he did in Iowa in June, pushing his extreme conservative message, recently time suggesting that the U.S. government monitor colleges for “extreme political bias”—that is, of course, liberal political bias. Carson said this in Corning, Iowa:

“The other function I would give to the Department of Education is monitoring our institutions of higher learning — colleges and universities — for extreme political bias. If it exists, they get no federal funding,” Carson said.

Asked about that in Des Moines, Obama responded first, according to Vox, with a general remark:

“I have no idea what that means, and I suspect he doesn’t either,” he said, then continued: “The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought, or idea, or perspective or philosophy, that person would be — they wouldn’t get funding, runs contrary to everything we believe about education,” he said. “That might work in the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t work here. That’s not who we are.”

I couldn’t improve on that. And then Obama added a pretty strong critique of the “identity politics” tsunami washing over American college campuses (and British ones, too). Emphasis is mine:

“The purpose of college is not just … to transmit skills,” he said. “It’s also to widen your horizons, to make you a better citizen, to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world, to help you be more creative.”

. . . “It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal, and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues, who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side, and that’s a problem too. I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view. I think you should be able to — anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, ‘You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.’ That’s not the way we learn either.”

Note the word “coddled.” So here Obama is setting himself up against the entire edifice of modern liberal education, with its trigger warnings, speaker bans, “no-platforming” of political opponents, “safe spaces” with puppy videos, criticism of “offensive” speech, and so on. And God bless him (if there was a God)! These are the words of a serious man who deals with serious issues, a man who knows how democracy works and how progress is made. They are the words of a good President, and I’m confident that that’s how history will judge him.

125 thoughts on “President Obama decries college’s “coddling” of student sensitivities

  1. Well done Pres. Obama!

    I got a message from one of my (teabagger) cousins last night. (He periodically forwards weird emails to me.) It declared itself the true portrait of Pres. Obama and called him the Evil Destroyer, claiming he was an angry black man. (That’s all the further I got into it.)

    I think they are mostly pissed off because they know he’s much smarter than they are!

  2. Heartening to hear, Mr. President.

    On the Carson front, does anyone think that either of the second Republican debate hosts, or any among the other ‘debaters,’ will have the temerity to ask the man, right out front, whether he believes the earth is 6,000 or so years old? And, if so, why he believes it?

    Oh, yes, a ‘man of science,’ as one of the newscasters called him yesterday. . . .

    1. I sincerely, hope he will have passed from the scene before anyone bother’s to ask him anything like that. But, it would be fun to see him squirm.

  3. “I have no idea what that means, and I suspect he doesn’t either,..”

    Ha! I love that Obama is loose and relaxed as a man who no longer has to run for any office and he can say what he actually thinks. Happily, we will likely see more candid observations from this intelligent man for a long time.

  4. “The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught, and if it’s not the right thought, or idea, or perspective or philosophy, that person would be — they wouldn’t get funding, runs contrary to everything we believe about education,” he said. “That might work in the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t work here. That’s not who we are.”

    Yeah, there you go: Thought police to promote “liberty”. Perfect GOP logic.

    1. I was struck by that too. It is impossible to be more diametrically opposed to the libertarian conservative position than what Carson suggested there. He is literally calling for the establishment of the Federal thought police. I think that comment shows how superficial that ideology really is. When tax increases or government programs are proposed, it’s labeled as onerous regulation, but making sure liberals aren’t too liberal or we’ll pull their funding, well that is just common sense.
      It’s the mindset of a petulant, spoiled brat. And to those of reading from outside the United States, no, I’m not being hyperbolic.

      1. I saw this yesterday and was equally thrilled by Obama’s response. Even Fox, although they didn’t actually praise Obama, highlighted this episode. Several of their commentators recognize what poor candidates Trump and Carson really are, and expose rubbish like this in a fairly subtle way. It’s clear to me that the under-text with both (and a couple of others) is mainly “do you really want this man as president?”

        I’ve been collecting Carson inanities for a post on my website. You’ll all be thrilled to know he’s not sure there’s even going to be an election in 2016. Yes, he’s actually said publicly that the End Times could be here before then.

        1. “..the End Times could be here before then”

          I keep seeing (well I’ve seen anyhow, ‘keep’ suggests repeat viewing), reference to September being some sort of prophecy fulfilling period of time. If so we have a little over a fortnight. The beers are on me…nah, kidding, Ben Carson.

      2. Exactly. And the Right wouldn’t much like the ideology czar they’d get at the Department of Education, if such a stupid position were created. Just imagine if Obama had suggested this, and then nominated someone to the left of center to fill the position. The rightwing would be screaming bloody murder.

      1. Me too. I can’t stand Trump, and I think he’d be an absolutely dreadful president, but he’d be better than both Carson and Cruz imo.

  5. I am surprised. I wish Obama would come out as an atheist. My respect for him would be complete.

    Every college just needs a banner:

    Beware: knowledge ahead. If you are not ready, we recommend floating down a river with a man named Jim and come back to see if ya’ ready.

  6. To Professor Coyne and visitors,
    Ben Carson has also said that atheism is a religion. Can he get any sillier?
    W. Stewart

      1. Note that ‘clownshoes’ was one of several popular nicknames for Australian ex-PM Tony Abbott in the commentosphere.

  7. Yup, Obama is bang on right about this but I disagree with how he’ll be viewed by history. The jury is out on the Iran nuclear deal as Rafsanjani and Rouhani squabble with Khamanei and the Guardian Council over its ratification.

    Think about how dysfunctional the Middle East is becoming: the vicious Bonapartism of Sisi’s Egypt; the near disappearance of the Palestinian-Israeli two-state solution; the rise of ISIS in Iraq and in Tunisia, hitherto the poster-boy of Muslim countries’ toleration,; the drift into civil war of a NATO country, Turkey; the Saudi war on its neighbours Yemen and funding of Syrian rebels; the ramping up of the Shi’a/Sunni split between Iran and the Sauds; the spread in Syria of the power of Putin’s kleptocracy and Iran’s theocracy.

    Maybe it ain’t all Obama’s fault but that’s not a good testament. I suspect Nick Cohen agrees. x

      1. Thank you Mark, but I wouldn’t blame Islam – the Koran and the Hadith – in all cases. Contributory factor in some cases, but there’s more to it. x

    1. I think Obama will have many good things written about him in the history books, particularly concerning domestic policy.

      Hopefully, however, there will be a stain on those pages—the surreptitious, ongoing drone strikes in countries like Yemen are an affront to international democracy and the very notion of liberty. They must be documented and remembered.

      1. I was thinking that Obama, with the obvious exception of the terrible mishandling of the democratization of post-Saddam Iraq had extremely favourable events to deal with in the Middle East: the 2009 Green Movement in Iran and the shoots of proto-democracy further west in the Arab Spring of 2011. An entire region in turmoil demonstrating against their own dictators.

        True, in general no democratic leaders of mass parties emerged with the authority to overthrow these miserable régimes, but this opportunity was let slip. Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech certainly gave no succour to the beleaguered secularists in the Muslim-majority countries that the U.S. stood with them.

        The liberation of Iraq from Saddam in all likelihood led directly to Gadaffi’s surrender of his arsenal, his subsequent dethronement from his self-styled and ignorantly Ozymandine honour, ‘King of Kings’. It also probably was the march towards the Arab Spring.

        By 2013, the people who fought longest and hardest for that opening up, the Syrians, learned that Obama could not help them after all. After Assad became the second man, after Saddam, since WWII to introduce his subjects to the delights of death by chemical weapon, Obama discovered that this was not a this-far-and-no-further after all. The red-line became a green flag. Obama’s worst dream and a completely predictable nightmare for the Syrians.

        So now the 2 experiments have been run. U.S. intervenes in the Middle East. Western intervention leads to chaos. The anti-war losers win the argument. U.S. doesn’t intervene in the Middle East. Western non-intervention leads to chaos. Yet, the anti-war losers still win the argument.

        What remains is Syria, a war which lasted longer than WWI. And, for the first time since the end of the Cold War a geo-political scene like ‘1984’. War without end in Syria, where neither proxy state, the U.S. or Russia, really wants to defeat the other.

        Does Obama think like Big Brother? Of course not. But that, I think, will be Obama’s long-term legacy. x

    2. Much of the current turmoil in the Middle East is due to the Bush Administration’s ill thought out invasion of Iraq. Just as the economic implosion was due to the laissez-faire economic nostrums and the deficits caused by the tax cuts for the wealthy of the Bush Administration. Obama has spent his entire administration cleaning up the mess left behind by Bush and Cheney, with the opposition of the Rethuglicans in Congress at every turn.

      1. Indeed. Those are two reasons why I will never consider voting for a Republican presidential candidate again unless they propose a single health care system, like the civilized world has. I think it’s probable I’ll die before I get the chance.

      2. True. Funny how even history that current gets forgotten so quickly by so many. Especially Republican party politicians, their talking heads and the followers they feed their appropriately modified propaganda to.

        Or even funnier. When arguing politics with a particular person of my aquaintence, who drinks all the kool aid and has all the vices, racist, antisemite, anti climate change, mysogynist, you name it, I have on occasion managed to back him into a corner with facts that are very difficult to deny only to have hims say, “yeah well I didn’t like Bush either.” He was sure enthusiastic about Bush when he was in office.

    3. Things are going to shit again in Serbia, too.

      But it’s not fair to blame all the world’s ills on Obama. That would be like blaming the rise of European fascism and the start of War 2 on FDR — or blaming the collapse of Metternich-style balance-of-power and the start of War 1 on Wilson.

    4. I regard Obama similarly to Blair – I tend to agree with a lot of what they both say, but disagree with most of what they actually do.

      However, also like Blair (and Clinton) Obama will look a whole lot better in retrospect when the next rightist f***wit comes in.

      In the UK we’re even starting to pine for the good old days of the Tory/Liberal coalition…..

  8. Well said President Obama! I can’t believe the staggering difference in comparing Obama to any of the GOP hopefuls. Talk about a group of people with absolutely no class. We’ll see in 2016 if money will beat reason. If any GOP wins, the future of America will be dim.

    Reminds me of a cartoon with the caption:
    Due to budget restraints, the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off indefinitely.

    1. It should be pointed out that, with all her faults and they are manifest, Ms. Clinton is heads and shoulders above any of the Rethuglican candidates.

          1. Well, the Republicans are doing all they can to make Bernie Sanders electable, whereas Hillary Clinton is too scandal-ridden and generally disliked to make her election anything like certain.

    2. Yes, there’s a staggering difference between Obama and the GOP hopefuls.

      How anyone can conclude that the two parties are essentially the same (and so why vote? etc.) is beyond me.

  9. I suspect Carson might mean certain politicized topics like global warming, biology, women’s studies and health and American history. If they can stop people from specializing in climate science that means climate change isn’t real, right?

      1. “Until NYC is underwater.”

        And when it is, they still won’t acknowledge climate change as the reason. They’ll say that this is God punishing America for its tolerance of gay marriage, or whatever.

      2. hmmmm- in 2009, abc news presented Earth 2100 with interviews with scientists, which, through dramatization, predicted that by 2015 NYC WOULD be under water (also that worldwide over a billion people would be starving from crop failures, large numbers of super hurricanes — hurricanes have been pretty quiet since Katrina).

        As Bohr said, prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

        1. I won’t defend a missed prediction by someone interviewed on TV. Usually such predictions are conditioned on assumptions, such as projecting a worst case scenario. Most competent scientists do not give hard predictions about exactly when NYC will be underwater, only that it is very likely, at some point, depending on a lot of factors not well understood.
          I take a broader view that says, taken together, unusual weather phenomena being experienced recently are, in part, likely caused and exacerbated by global worming. Predictions about the future are difficult within such a complex global system. Over the long run the evidence is compelling that we are going to see very significant, and likely unwelcome changes, if mitigation efforts are insufficient.

  10. Choosing between Carson and Trump is like choosing between a bull in a china shop and and bull enraged in a bullfighting ring.

    I find Trump to be sinister in a way I do not find Carson, but both are capable of enormous damage.

  11. I’m extremely proud to see Obama talk this way. I agree, he will be remembered very favorably by history.
    Now, ““safe spaces” with puppy videos” is so, so, ripe for satire. There must be some comedians having fun with it. Anybody know of any?

    1. I was also very pleased to see Obama’s message to Ahmed Mohammed, the schoolboy who was taken, handcuffed, into custody by the police after some stupid teacher or administratot at his school had got in touch with them, saying that the clock the boy had made and brought in to school to show his engineerin teacher was possibly a bomb.
      Obama has been a very good president in many ways, though I wish he had done, or been able to do, more about the embracing of torture by the US and more about putting a few bankers and hedge-fund managers behind bars.

      1. I’m with you. Look at:

        – Presided over righting the economy after the Shrub left it in the worst shambles since the Great Depression.

        – Got near-universal healthcare (I wished and continue to wish for single-payer; but it was something anyway.)

        – Got us out of two disastrous wars

        – Stopped us getting into any new wars

        – Acted like an intelligent adult on the “world stage”, unlike his predecessor.

        – Good SCOTUS appointments

        – Prevented the worst excesses of the GOP

        Compare him with Bush Jr. You can pretty much invert everything above.

        I am disappointed about the torture issue and the too-free use of drones. But, overall, he will look like a shining light to history compared to the Shrub.

        1. The pedant in me has to point out that “near-universal healthcare” should be “near-universal health insurance”.

          IMO one failing of the President was an unwarranted desire to be cooperative with an insane opposition in the first two years of his term. This led to a watering down of the ACA. And, I think, it led to disappointment among his supporters who then failed to turn out at the polls in 2010. This allowed the Republican take-over of many state governments, including mine here in Wisconsin. The results have been catastrophic.

          Otherwise, I pretty much agree with you. And he has been a better president since he stopped trying to “work with” an opposition that is completely unwilling to reciprocate.

          1. You seem to be arguing that Obama could have gotten a better deal out of a very conservative congress. While that is a possibility, I think the fact of near universal insurance is more significant than you think. It finally forces acknowledgment that healthcare is a right, not a privilege. This legislation will be built upon and eventually serve the ultimate purpose. The problem for Obama was, resistance was so high healthcare legislation had to be addressed as an interim phase, otherwise no progress would have been made. Look at Clinton’s attempt. Too much too soon.

            1. No, I’m arguing that he could have gotten a better deal from a liberal congress. Both houses at the time were controlled by Democrats.

              The point is, however, that he didn’t try. He began by refusing, for example, to even put discussion of universal coverage “on the table”.

              Do not misunderstand my position. I am a supporter of the ACA. But the administration allowed the first two years to be dominated by bending-over-backwards to be cooperative with an uncooperative minority party. They continually entered negotiations by taking things off the table before sitting down to talk. This led to the perception of weakness and to a dispirited Democrat electorate in the mid-term election.

              There was a similar timidity that resulted in “looking forward” and not holding anyone responsible for war crimes. Or banking crimes, for that matter. It all added up to the catastrophe of 2010.

              1. Well, you are right, now that you mention it. There was that 2 year window. I can only think he was calculating that a stronger health bill still would not pass even with a democratic congress, and maybe would have been shot down later even if it did pass initially. Look at the dozens of attempts to eliminated it over the past 5 years. Maybe he figured the risk was not worth it knowing the smaller bill would surely be enlarged eventually.
                It’s hard to say what would have happened if he had gone for the whole enchilada. I certainly hope it is expanded and improved under the next administration.

        1. Nice clip, but I am hoping for a satire focusing on the helpless students in need of protection from ideas. Maybe SNL?

          1. SNL certainly could tackle something like this. I think their talent exodus the past few years really sent them down the tubes. But, it’s historically been a cyclical show and they showed signs of coming back. If you haven’t seen much Bill Burr though, I highly recommend watching some clips. The guy just doesn’t give a shit, but he’s a beacon for free speech.

    1. Yeah. It’s amazing how they go on about Obama creating Big Brother, then can go on and suggest something like this with a straight face.

    2. Yeah, what Carson has proposed would have been called in the Soviet Union “the Commissar to prevent counter-revolutionary thought in education.”

      1. Obama said: “That might work in the Soviet Union, but that doesn’t work here. That’s not who we are.”
        It is disheartening that Obama has apparently forgotten that the Soviet Union ceased to exist 25 years ago. This seems to be a mental disorder that affects many Americans, Right and Left.

        1. Please. Substituting “might work” for “might have worked” in an ad hoc comment is hardly evidence for his having forgotten that the Soviet Union doesn’t exist. Your comment seems to be evidence of unquestioning bias against the President, however.

        2. Obama has been a good president, considering that all presidents are pretty much owned by the same moneyed interests that control the “free” press. He, Hillary and Kerry, like Bush & Co., promoted chaos in the Middle East, and continue to portray Russia – using slanted (or invented) news stories and State Department half-truths – in the same light reserved for the Soviet Union in the 1980s. If Obama’s USSR comment was a slip, it was one that fits well with Washington’s policy of strife and vilification.
          I made a significant (if not substantial) contribution to Obama (not the DNC) when he ran for president the first time and will probably do the same with Bernie Sanders.

          1. Obama’s problem in Syria is not his demonising of the Russians. His problem is that, in his more ‘diplomatic’ moments he appears to believe their good intentions. As he said, “And the good news is that Russia shares with us a concern about countering violent extremism and shares with us the view that ISIL is very dangerous.” Does he really think that Russia wants to defeat ISIL in Syria for the same reasons as the U.S.?

            Nobody on earth believes that.

            Russia’s aim in Syria, at the minimum, is to retain its Mediterranean naval base. But further to continue its influence in the region. So it does so by building up its several hundred ‘military advisors’ supporting Assad, expanding one of his airbases. And recently, in revising its stance to build an ‘international coalition’ to fight ISIL in Syria. This means the retention of Assad in power and a de facto alliance with Iran. General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, Iran’s military adviser to the ‘Supreme Leader’, sees the ‘wisdom and logic’ of continued ‘military and spiritual support’ to Syria and Iraq.

            The good general alleges that “the US has on its agenda the disintegration of the Islamic countries to infiltrate the region.” He seems little to understand Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech which ceded to Islamic countries the authority to determine the human rights according to the local theocrats’ whim – the subjugation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.

            So we are left with the prospect of Sunni theocracy and its proxies spreading from the western border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean coast. All financed by the oil and gas bonanza of Putin’s Russian kleptocrats. And the further perspective of Saudi Wahabbi push back against Iranian encirclement of the Gulf.

            The joker in the pack is the Iranian people themselves. Although the régime seems to have been strengthened by the nuclear deal, despite internal bickering within it about whether to accept, there is always the possibility that the theocrats will be overthrown. That would be a defeat for Russia. The more time Russia has to support Assad, the greater will be Russia’s role in the region: and the more remote the chances of democracy in Iran and Iraq, never mind Syria. x

            1. Yes, I went through my mind the current dictatorships & he’d probably get away with North Korea but who needs crazy NK flipping out over nothing?!

      1. Yes exactly. Although it was interesting that they had the wherewithal to at least politely listen to what Sen. Sanders had to say. I do not, however, believe that makes up for the extraordinary regimentation and religiously/politically-motivated constraints they impose on students’ conduct and the crap they teach. But the latter should be handled by accreditation agencies (don’t know whether that school does or doesn’t have accreditation).

    1. More I think about it, the play for Barack would have been to say “thanks for the idea, Dr. Carson,” then immediately to appoint Skip Gates the first “Dr. Benjamin Carson czar for ideological litmus tests” at the Dept. of Ed.

  12. It should also be pointed out that the newly elected leader of the Labor Party in Great Britain, Jeremy Corby, is just as big a whackjob as Carson and company are, albeit from the left side of the spectrum.

    1. Yes he is. The Labour Party will be destroyed at the next election, if Corbyn is still in charge in 2020 and the party hasn’t imploded under his leadership. I predict the emergence of a new left-of-centre party in the UK, mainly comprising ex-Labour members. It’s also given the SNP the chance to consolidate their position, which was a bit wobbly before.

      1. Heather and colnago80, there has been a huge wave of euphoria in support of the SNP over the last 12 months or so, true. And yes, ex-Labour voters have gone over to them in droves. I know of English solid-as-you-like Socialists who live in Edinburgh and who evangelize for the SNP.

        When you point out that during the Scottish Parliament of 2011-2015 the Tories voted with the SNP 81 times it has no effect: the Tories ensured the SNP government. It also emerges that the SNP, which prides itself on its welfare and socialistic reform, reduced health and education spending, while south of the border, the Tories, much as I hate to say it, actually increased it: none of that has any effect on the golden shower raining on the devious Nicola Sturgeon.

        As for Corbyn, the euphoric reaction to his election has seen the real ultra-leftists rejoining the Labour Party: his domestic economics are a mish-mash of Keynesianism – fair enough – but nobody seems to have pointed out the dirty secret that the last time we tried it, we had $3 billion of Marshall Aid in 1947 to undergird it. The world is broke: where are we gonna get the money now?

        As for his foreign policy, all the ‘smears’ about his friendship with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran etc. are true. Believe me, I’ve researched them. Orwell said that just because it’s in the Telegraph doesn’t mean it’s not true. And there is a huge amount of cognitive dissonance within the Labour Party about the Zen-calm Corbyn and his genocidally anti-Semitic ‘honoured friends’. At the moment nobody on the British left is interested in the disgusting company he keeps: hell, Caroline Fourest, formerly of Charlie Hebdo, is jumping up and down warning us with little or no effect.

        Here’s summat I posted earlier on Facebook on the real heroines who fight for Middle Eastern human rights, contrasting that with Corbyn’s cover for Iranian theocracy.

        Iran has a great and ancient culture. 2,500 years ago the deeds of Cyrus the Great were detailed by the first historian Herodotus: and Cyrus appeared in the Old Testament as a Messiah.
        Iranians via the great sceptical scholar and poet Omar Khayyám hold on to their rich cultural heritage.
        And still despite the murderous sharia, Iranian oppositionists produce such classy, dignified and determinedly-humane documentaries as this. And women who understand the psychology of the torturer as acutely as Orwell.
        When Jeremy Corbyn appears on Iranian state TV, he jibbers about Bin Laden’s death like a bat-shit crazy truther.
        The beautiful women in this documentary, none of whom will ever be an MP never mind a frontbencher, are 10 times the man JC is.
        And btw. the Farsi for ‘régime change’ is ‘régime change’, as if to underline their ultra-modern sophistication. PARENTAL WARNING: some upsetting scenes. x

      2. Corbyn seems to be almost the perfect stereotype of a middle class lefty.

        Great news for the Tories and the SNP, terrible for everyone else.

        It should be good for the Liberals, who should pick up a load of disillusioned Labour supporters, but first we’d have to remember who they are.

        1. Most people imo don’t go that deeply into it. They look at the effect on themselves and vote accordingly, which is perfectly understandable.

  13. Yes, well, let’s see him lean on the Department of Education to clean up its act with regard to its attempts to push policies which are so in conflict with the First Amendment. It seems as if he doesn’t realize that he is the head of the administration, and can do more than just talk.

  14. Let’s not forget that it was the Obama administration that saw the Temple U. physicist Xi Xiaoxing charged, based on the arrogance and the scientific illiteracy of people in his Justice Department. That same Justice Department essentially gave a pass to the Wall Street miscreants behind the 2008 crash. I think the best comment on the great phenomenon of Obama Disappointment came from Cornel West: “You think you’re getting John Coltrane, but what you get is Kenny G with brown skin.”

  15. They want trigger warnings and coddling? How about a big sign at every entrance to every college that says something like, “Warning, reading publications and engaging in conversation with staff or students of this facility may expose you to viewpoints you don’t agree with. Deal with it.”

      1. We’ve got Warren Harding to thank for that — although Taft proved to be a better justice than most the six that Taft himself nominated to the Court while president.

  16. Ben Carson apparently believes that separating conjoined-at-the-head twins is a qualification to be president of the United States. If Carson has ever thought through a non-medical issue, nothing he has yet said on the campaign trail displays any evidence of it.

    1. I like Sam Harris’s comments on Sarah Palin:

      What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world’s only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

      “Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child’s brain?”

      “Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I’m an avid hunter.”

      “But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind.”

      “That’s just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink.”

  17. Obama has had his struggles, and he has compromised to a degree to cause irritation with his democratic base. But I agree absolutely that over time we will learn to very much miss him in the oval office. There will be a lot of nostalgia for this president in the years to come.

    1. I think two sad things about this, and one not so sad.

      1. His presidency was not as liberal as everyone expected. Especially when it comes to police powers, warrantless wiretapping, etc.

      2. Even with #1, his presidency will probably be more liberal than either a (H.) Clinton or Biden presidency.

      Not so sad: if you’re talking about history, every other plus and minus of his presidency will fade into the background compared to the passage of a comprehensive health care legislation. (He’ll also be remembered for Gay Rights, but I don’t think anyone will necessarily give him credit for it, and they probably shouldn’t).

      1. Well, yeah.

        But also, extricating us from Afghanistan and Iraq. Righting the economy after its worst upset since 1929. Acting like and intelligent adult.

        First sitting president to publicly support gay rights, especially gay marriage.

        True, he got an easy act to follow in the Shrub.

      2. His presidency was precisely as liberal as I expected it to be, which is why I didn’t vote for him either time. Back in 2008, there were plenty of us who were looking at what he said, and the types of people he was surrounding himself with, and could guess what was coming. If you want to read their predictions, I recommend Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank (eds.).

  18. I love this post. A few days ago, Mike Klag, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health was assailed by a Twitter mob for using the phrase “throws like a girl.”

    Fortunately, I had read the recent Atlantic piece the Coddling of the American Mind ( and recognized that the phrase had taken on a trigger-word status.

    In response, I posted the Atlantic’s article. Sadly the main mob-like antagonist, a scientist with >30k followers, skimmed it but didn’t seem to see how it applied. He even went after me a bit. I tried to stay calm, but my heart was racing fearing that so many of his thousands of followers would see him berate me and then hit their like buttons. I wrote that while I’m a feminist, people shouldn’t be shamed into silence for micro-offenses – that the culture of offense is bad for our sanity. And then I said that I hoped that Mike Klag continues to engage because his activity fosters a sense of community for Hopkins. None of us can engage free-spiritedly online without offending somebody, and mob frenzies for words reactionarily interpreted as sexist (or anything politically incorrect) are damaging.

    I wrote my dear dean (I’m a Hopkins alumna) to share the Atlantic piece, extend my empathy and support, and to say that I’m unpersuaded that “throws like a girl” is a “sin.”

    Certainly, the opportunity to have a discussion about sexism was there. That didn’t happen. Instead, a mob got to feel like it put a dean in his place. I’m unconvinced that this did anything for feminism, but completely convinced that it contributed to censoring.

    30k Twitterers coddled in one fell self-righteous trigger-swoop.

  19. whyevolutionistrue said: “…here Obama is setting himself up against the entire edifice of modern liberal education”

    I’ll just point out that the use of the word “liberal” there is peculiarly American. To my (British) way of thinking, liberal education with its emphasis on considered criticism of competing points of view is pretty much what Obama is standing up for. Obama is a man who reveals himself as a recipient and beneficiary of liberal education almost every time he speaks. The “folks on college campuses who are liberal” that Obama disparages are, in my opinion, better described as authoritarian progressives. They’re not really liberal at all.

  20. Perfectly spoken by the President, and it fits beautifully with this week’s discussion over at Uncommon Descent where Ben and others have taken a headfirst dive into the world of opposing ideas. It shouldn’t be any other way.

  21. They are the words of a good President, and I’m confident that that’s how history will judge him.

    Didn’t they say that about Kennedy? Ominous thought, considering the number of gun-nut-wacko-(and “Waco”) lunatics in the country.

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