As political correctness swept through universities, professors and administrators encouraged students to take offense at the “classics.” Students who refused to read the works of “dead white males” like Shakespeare were applauded. But now that political correctness defines the curriculum at most major American schools, students are expected to be a little more docile. They aren’t to challenge the received wisdom but to be “challenged” by it.
A few incoming freshmen at Duke University recently learned this lesson after complaining about a lesbian graphic novel that appeared on their summer reading list. They found the school’s choice of the cartoon book, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, perplexing on both moral and academic grounds. One student, referring to its visual depictions of lesbian sexuality, was quoted as saying: “I am a Christian, and the nature of Fun Home means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature.”
This complaint, coming from a more sympathetic minority group, might have put Duke officials in an awkward spot. But since it is coming from Christians, they had no trouble dismissing it and lecturing the students on the need to be open-minded—a stand they rarely take when a conservative speaker or book draws student fire.
“Fun Home was ultimately chosen because it is a unique and moving book that transcends genres and explores issues that students are likely to confront,” Duke spokesman Michael Schoenfeld told the press. After all, he added, it is “one of the most celebrated graphic novels of its generation, and the theatrical adaption won the Tony Award for Best Musical, and four others, in 2015.” Then he suggested that the students just ease into their indoctrination: “It would be impossible to find a single book that that did not challenge someone’s way of thinking. We understand and respect that, but also hope that students will begin their time at Duke with open minds and a willingness to explore new ideas, whether they agree with them or not.”
To parents paying tens of thousands of dollars for their children to read cartoons under the tutelage of LGBT professors, Duke reassures them that their children have been exposed to the best of pop culture. The rationale for higher education grows less and less serious. It has become little more than training for how to live in a politically correct society that is at once puritanical and pornographic. The same universities that will punish frat houses for vulgar signs off campus won’t police obscene speech on it.
One day they are lecturing students about “patriarchal rape culture”; the next they are urging them to abandon their scruples for acceptance of all lifestyles. Students are taught that sexuality is beyond choice and control, then handed elaborately minute sexual consent forms.
The mixed messages are coming at them quickly, but some of the students apparently figure them out. According to a recent story, some college students are deserting cigarettes for marijuana, which illustrates that the politically correct instruction on “smoking” is having an effect. Pot use is at a “35-year high” among college students, say headlines, which is what one would expect in a culture that scolds children for cigarettes while legalizing marijuana.
As seen in the Duke controversy, the modern university’s nannyish aversion to risk has many limits. In approved areas of immorality, students are encouraged to “be experimental” and scoff at the possibility of corruption. While administrators shield students from the “bigotry” of Islamophobes and other odious conservatives—lest exposure to speakers such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali damage the student body’s delicate ears—they shame Christian students into reading a “lesbian coming-of-age” graphic novel. Needless to say, Duke’s defense of a cartoon wouldn’t be so bold if the work in question came from Charlie Hebdo and the offended students were Muslims.
Duke’s motto is “Eruditio et Religio,” meaning knowledge and religion. It should be changed to pop culture and political correctness. Christian students at Duke seeking wisdom and virtue have been told to find them not in classical works or traditional religion but in “Tony Award”-winning lesbian propaganda, and if they don’t like it, too bad. That’s life in 21st century America.