I write on various forms of idiocy now — including the facile left-wing attacks on post-9/11 security measures, the knowledge-crushing banalities of “progressive education,” or the charge that policing is shot through with racism. None of them are as tragic, in my view, as the idiocy that brought down the tradition of humanistic learning. The professoriate had been given the greatest luxury society can offer: studying beauty. All that they needed to do to justify that privilege was to help students see why they should fall on bended knee before Aeschylus, Mozart, or Tiepolo, in thanks for lifting us out of our usual stupidity and dullness. Instead, they set themselves up as more important than the literature and art that it was their duty to curate and created a tangle of antihumanistic nonsense that merely licensed students’ ignorance.
— Heather Mac Donald, “Down and Out With Paul de Man,” Why I Turned Right
I like to joke that I’m a wandering exile from the Republic of Arts and Letters, my beloved homeland which has been laid waste by a hostile army of ideological fanatics. I’ve mentioned that in an alternate lifetime I might have been a humanities professor at a tiny liberal-arts college. But humor aside, Mac Donald’s apt summary here honestly rends my heart a bit at the terrible tragedy of it all, and makes me wonder what might have been had I known then what I know now.