by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thomas Bertonneau writes for the Martin Center about his retirement from higher education.
In May of 2020, my wife and I took our retirement after more than 30 years of teaching college, the last 20 years of which we spent at what I will call Upstate Consolation University, a mid-tier state college somewhere in the Northeast. My wife taught French and I, a wide variety of courses, some 23 altogether over the years, in the English Department—concerning which, more to come.
Apart from wanting what remained of our active lives to be ours and not the institution’s, the main motive for our decision was the intolerable decline of Upstate. It had gone from a more or less serious academic organization, typically liberal but not yet politically correct or “woke,” into a copy of the ideological collective that, in the manner of Star Trek’s “Borg,” has digested and transformed virtually every center of post-secondary education in the nation.
“Resistance is futile—you will be assimilated.”
In the following paragraphs, I review my Upstate gig while highlighting the major symptoms of the aforesaid decline I observed. While my situation was specific to Upstate, Upstate is typical. My observations, therefore, have application well beyond the place where I gathered them.
Although all state colleges and universities shout “diversity” and preach “tolerance” at the top of their lungs, they in fact demonstrate monolithic bigotry and homogeneous narrow-mindedness.
I begin, however, with students, or rather with the accoutrement, apparently mandatory, to being a student on a contemporary college campus—the backpack. The backpack by no means offers itself an obvious place to begin a survey of the academy’s moral condition. I would nevertheless call attention to its ubiquity on campus.
Most college students would likely feel naked without a backpack and suffer embarrassment for lacking it. The backpack has grown in my perception as a symbol of the way in which the increasingly inhuman desert of four-year university life alienates and demoralizes students.