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Op-ed: The ‘bubble’ in liberal arts education has left students clueless about American society

“What’s wrong with college students?”

That’s the question being pondered after protesters shut down conservative scholar Charles Murray at Middlebury College, James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley write in The Wall Street Journal.

The problem, for many, is “the bubble,” write Piereson, president of the William E. Simon Foundation, and Riley, a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

The authors note that “Sarah Lawrence College professor Samuel Abrams warned of the ‘tiny bubbles of liberalism’ that tend to form at small liberal-arts schools.”

Meanwhile, Middlebury has been accused of being a bubble for “white privilege.”

From the op-ed:

Last year students at the college were required to take a seminar covering topics like inclusivity, identity, privilege and inequality. The purpose? To get them out of their bubbles.

Many liberal-arts colleges like Middlebury were established in remote locations or in small towns precisely to provide students with a respite from the “real world.” The traditional idea of the liberal-arts college was that it provided students with a temporary oasis from practical life, a period when they could immerse themselves in the great questions and develop a foundation for going forward in life. It was a “bubble,” but a useful one.

The “useful” bubble has been replaced with an ideological one that’s left today’s college students with “little understanding of American society—and little sympathy for most Americans struggling to make a living,” Piereson and Riley write:

The original rationale for the liberal-arts college has been displaced by the ideological impulses that fly under the banner of diversity, inclusion and equality. Colleges like Middlebury now wish to be “relevant” and on the cutting edge of social change, with the goal of redeeming American society from its exclusionary heritage. Many liberal-arts professors succumbed to this temptation in the 1960s.

Today, ideological conformity has been institutionalized on the nation’s campuses. Students are encouraged to look upon American society from a perspective of righteous indignation. Anyone challenging the assumptions underlying this perspective risks provoking the kinds of confrontations seen at Middlebury, Berkeley and elsewhere.

Read the op-ed.

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