(Centennial Fellow) File this one under, let’s see… hoisted on one’s own petard… or when the chickens come home to roost… or wonderful in theory but not in practice.
We have seen many far left Progressives (excuse the redundancy) who have been forced to believe in dogma which cannot not work in practice. Suddenly, they find they cannot keep their own doctor or, their premiums have increased and they have less coverage.
Now comes one of the most interesting examples of the difference between theory and practice.
The original feminist movement was a good and important movement. However, because liberals and progressives are always seeking the perfection of a utopia, they have no definition of success. The feminist movement has succeeded. The problem for feminist activists, had they admitted the success, is that they would be out of jobs, looking for other good deeds to agitate about. Thus, the only real solution is to change the rules. Feminism has now become radicalized and is no longer a movement for normal people.
One example of the radicalization has been in the area of sexual harassment. I think we can all agree that in the bad old days there were too many examples of sexual harassment, from the proverbial casting couch to the outright quid pro quo. Not being satisfied with mere success, the feminists moved toward policies of zero-tolerance, defined not by the act but by the perception of the allegedly aggrieved party.
Roll out the petard and the chicken coop. The University of Colorado’s tenured professor, Patti Adler, has announced that she is being forced to retire, which the University categorically denies. As reported in the Daily Camera, the incident seems to have been a “skit” in Prof. Adler’s Social Deviance class. (Rhetorical question: do sociologists any longer believe there are deviant behaviors in America?).
To alert the class to the different ways in which America perceives prostitution, Prof. Adler had her teaching assistants dress up as a spectrum of prostitutes, from the “crack whore” to the high – end escort. One might argue successfully that this is actually an interesting and informative way in which to show how people who are doing the same activity, selling sex for money, are perceived in very different ways. What is the problem?
The problem seems to be that some of the teaching assistants felt forced into dressing up in the various demeaning costumes. That is, they felt harassed. Also, some of the students in the class were made to feel very uncomfortable by the performance. The University of Colorado has issued a statement that to the effect that in these times there is a zero tolerance level for sexual harassment. This would seem to be a reasonable stance given the possibility of lawsuits but contrary to the mission of a liberal education. Specifically, sexual-harassment has trumped education.
Why is this so ironic? One can make a reasonable assumption, in the absence of facts, that the university administration has heretofore been in favor of zero tolerance policies. Prof. Adler, commonly known for her far left, radical stances, may also be put in that category. Now it has, to stretch my metaphor creation to the limit, come back to bite them on the….
What makes this most interesting is the insight it gives to the far left mindset. Everything sounds like a good idea when one is sitting in the faculty lounge discussing ideas which will never have any real consequence. However, when the progressive agenda worms its way into public policy there are always unintended consequences. Pres. Obama has seen this in Obamacare – what might be a brilliant lecture in a policy class is an abject failure when placed into the real world. The fundamental flaw is, as stated above, that when you seek utopia there is only one definition of success – the complete destruction and rebuilding of society. Concomitantly, there is no definition of failure. All government programs can and will be successful if only we can say the right words, tweak the policies correctly or, more importantly, convince the American people that these programs are good if we just do not look behind the web.
Editor’s Note: The author has been a member of CU-Boulder’s political science faculty for many years. Late developments from CU suggest the administration is scuttling to make peace with Prof. Adler and the aggrieved faculty. But Prof. McGuire’s point in this post is no less valid. If anything, the official climbdown only illustrates the internal contradictions and logical incoherence of contemporary leftism.