By Ziva Dahl, Originally published in The Hill
Recently I attended a Vassar College event sponsored by the “Dialogue and Engagement Across Differences” program, established by the president of the college to help students and faculty discuss contentious issues.
The chosen topic, “Conversation About Israel/Palestine,” is one that, in the real world, generates striking differences of opinion. The underlying assumption of a “dialogue across differences” is that participants hold different opinions. However, the two speakers, Hartford Seminary’s Professor Yehezkel Landau and Duke University’s Turkish Imam Abdullah Antepli, differing in nationality, religion and life history, espoused the same opinions, i.e., that although Israel has a right to exist, it is an oppressive human rights abuser of innocent, victimized Palestinians. Landau and Antepli called each other “soul brothers” and their message represents the prevailing campus narrative about Israel. Their views are well known at the Poughkeepsie college, and predictably, their conversation was a duet rather than a dialogue.
Vassar described this program, before and even afterwards, as a model for dealing with conflict, despite the absence of any discernible conflict between the speakers. To comprehend how intelligent college administrators could promote such a sham, one needs to understand the current condition of higher education on elite liberal arts college campuses like Vassar.
Traditionally, a liberal arts education sought truth by exposing students to a marketplace of ideas, studying the past for insights into the present. However, over the last half century, the university has undergone an astounding revolution. Rather than using the past to understand the present, academics today create their own conclusions about the present and use the past selectively to achieve a political objective. Under the guise of “social justice” (redistribution of wealth and power), these academics look at the world through the lenses of power and oppression, blaming all inequities on the moral failures of Western civilization and demanding equality of results rather than equality of opportunity.
They insist that victims of these societal failures deserve compensation for past and current injustice. This philosophy is called “postcolonialism,” a narrative of good and evil legitimized by pointing to examples in history, literature, and even science. Those who reject this orthodoxy, intentionally or otherwise, will not only be bullied into admitting their error, but also be subjected to “sensitivity training” about incorrect speech or thought, the undeserved benefits of “white privilege,” and the victimization of gays, women and people of color.