Thomas Sowell

While the media have been focusing on the flap at Harvard growing out of its president's statement about the reasons for the under-representation of women in the sciences, a much worse and more revealing scandal has unfolded at the University of Seattle, where a student mob prevented a military recruiter from meeting with those students who wanted to meet with him.

 At first, the university president said that the student rioters should apologize. But the storm this created forced the typical academic administrator's back-down under pressure.

 One of the student rioters explained that she didn't want anyone to be sent overseas to be killed. Apparently it never occurred to her that what she wanted was not automatically to be imposed on other people, with or without mob violence.

 Back in the days of the divine rights of kings, it might be understandable why a given monarch might think that what he wanted was all that mattered. But, in an age of democracy, how can millions of people live together if each one asserts a divine right to impose his or her will on others?

 Surely our educational system has failed if it has not taught something so basic in logic or morality. But too many of our schools and colleges have been so busy pushing particular forms of political correctness that they have not bothered to explain why other views by other people cannot be ignored intellectually or disregarded politically.

 When the propagandizing activities of educational institutions were recently criticized in this column, a defender of these institutions sent an e-mail, claiming that there was nothing wrong with pushing particular beliefs, if those beliefs were correct.

 Violating my New Year's resolution to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people, I replied, asking if this man would feel all right, if he were a member of a jury, to vote after having heard only the prosecution's case or only the defendant's case.

 His reply was that he would -- if the people presenting one side of the case were people he knew and trusted.

 Bizarre as that might sound, it is by no means as unusual as it might seem, even though most people who act on that basis do not spell out such a reason to others -- nor probably even to themselves. They don't say that they believe people on a particular issue because those are people with whom they feel simpatico. But that is often how they act.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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