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What alarmed me most … was what I saw in the eyes of the [Middlebury College] crowd. Those who wanted the event to take place made eye contact with me. Those intent on disrupting it steadfastly refused to do so. They couldn’t look at me directly, because if they had, they would have seen another human being.

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Intelligent members of the Middlebury community — including some of my own students and advisees — concluded that Charles Murray was an anti-gay white nationalist from what they were hearing from one another, and what they read on the Southern Poverty Law Center website. Never mind that Dr. Murray supports same-sex marriage and is a member of the courageous “never Trump” wing of the Republican Party.

Students are in college in part to learn how to evaluate sources and follow up on ideas with their own research. The Southern Poverty Law Center incorrectly labels Dr. Murray a “white nationalist,” but if we have learned nothing in this election, it is that such claims must be fact-checked, analyzed and assessed.

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[W]hat the events at Middlebury made clear is that, regardless of political persuasion, Americans today are deeply susceptible to a renunciation of reason and celebration of ignorance. They know what they know without reading, discussing or engaging those who might disagree with them.

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8 Responses to “Allison Stanger in the New York Times”

  1. Matt McKeon Says:

    You’ve got two arguments here:
    Unpopular speakers should NOT be shouted down or roughed up.

    Is Charles Murray is worth listening to?

    No they shouldn’t on the former, no he isn’t on the latter.

    As far as wringing our hands on the end of rational discourse and the celebration of ignorance, OK, although Middlebury College isn’t where I would start worrying about that.

    I read this blog nearly everyday. First comment!

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Matt: Thanks for the comment. For me the question is not whether in some purely intellectual sense Murray is worth listening to, but rather Did a legitimate group of students at Middlebury legitimately invite him?

    They did; and Stanger’s willingness to be involved affirms my sense that the invitation was intellectually and pedagogically legit. Of course its legitimacy lies not merely in the fact that a serious group of conservative students wanted to listen to him and question him; it also lies in the fact that Murray’s work is influential; it is taken seriously by serious people, and continues to have an impact.

    Some of his ideas are repulsive. Almost all of Ezra Pound’s ideas were repulsive, plus for good measure he was an open fascist and a traitor. And he is generously and uncontroversially represented in Middlebury’s course catalogue.

  3. dmf Says:

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/1994/12/01/the-tainted-sources-of-the-bell-curve

  4. EB Says:

    dmf, that’s a great article. Thank you for linking. If the Middlebury students who attacked Murray and Stanger had, instead, sponsored a forum that raised up those powerful facts, they would have had a better impact on the public discussion around race and intelligence. Instead, they unwittingly gave ammunition to Trump/Bannon/the alt right.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    EB: Yes – that’s the saddest part. Plays into the hands of the other side.

  6. John Says:

    “unwittingly” is too kind.

  7. dmf Says:

    “raised up those powerful facts, they would have had a better impact on the public discussion around race and intelligence”
    EB, that’s the fundamental error that the folks in higher-ed need to come to terms with, the irony being that pointing out this fact to them just sends us back around the backfire effect merrygoround:
    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds

  8. JackOH Says:

    FWIW-I’ve listened to speakers whose views I didn’t like much. They were always personable, and always challenged whatever brain gunk I dragged to the lecture. I’ve listened to speakers with whose views I’m pretty simpatico, and struggled to find a question that might elucidate whatever they were talking about.

    Long story short from this non-academic: I’d be okay listening to Dr. Murray. I’m okay with research on intelligence, that brain thingie, which I regard as very severable from policy applications. I’d have no problem asking respectfully of Dr. Murray: “Dr. Murray, a lot of your followers seem to take your thinking as an excuse to bash Black folks about. It’s almost as though they’re taking revenge on the folks who roughed them up in gym class or intimidated them at a bus terminal. Can you respond?”

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