Words of the Week: Theo Baker

Across the many conversations and hours of formal interviews I conducted for this article, I’ve encountered a persistent anti-intellectual streak. I’ve watched many of my classmates treat death so cavalierly that they can protest as a pregame to a party. Indeed, two parties at Stanford were reported to the university this fall for allegedly making people say ‘Fuck Israel’ or ‘Free Palestine’ to get in the door. A spokesperson for the university said it was ‘unable to confirm the facts of what occurred,’ but that it had ‘met with students involved in both parties to make clear that Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy applies to parties.’ As a friend emailed me not long ago: ‘A place that was supposed to be a sanctuary from such unreason has become a factory for it.’

Readers may be tempted to discount the conduct displayed at Stanford. After all, the thinking goes, these are privileged kids doing what they always do: embracing faux-radicalism in college before taking jobs in fintech or consulting. These students, some might say, aren’t representative of America.

And yet they are representative of something: of the conduct many of the most accomplished students in my generation have accepted as tolerable, and what that means for the future of our country. I admire activism. We need people willing to protest what they see as wrong and take on entrenched systems of repression. But we also need to read, learn, discuss, accept the existence of nuance, embrace diversity of thought, and hold our own allies to high standards. More than ever, we need universities to teach young people how to do all of this.

Source: Theo Baker, “The War at Stanford” (The Atlantic; temporary gift link provided)

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