What Have We Learned? Lessons from the Last Decade

November 12, 2020 / Jennifer Ruth

Academe Blog

by Jennifer Ruth

November 12, 2020


This is the first in a series of posts attempting to articulate lessons from the last decade of polarization. The series is entitled “What Have We Learned?” but I’m keenly aware that the “we” is highly ambiguous and mostly fictional. We are not one group and there is no consensus on what is meant by the “common good.” So let me clarify: I do not speak for the AAUP, however involved I am in the organization, and I am not speaking to those of “us” who have concluded that a new strain of left totalitarianism has descended on academia.

Some of the posts in this series will be reposts of work I’ve found useful in making sense of our moment. I begin by highlighting the work of students at Princeton who have been contributing thoughtful commentary, such as this, to The Daily Princetonian. Brittani Telfair in particular got my attention with a piece on racial speech and when “You’re not entitled to ‘civility’” came out in late October, I asked for permission to repost it here. It makes one lesson abundantly clear: It’s past time to retire the snowflakes trope. Brittani and her co-thinkers are rocks not snowflakes. They have to be, because they have to be relentless in reminding their peers and their professors that, as the title of Philip Alcabes’s 2016 essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education explains, “Our Idea of Tolerant Isn’t.” Speaking to boomer academics, Alcabes wrote:

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