A hard les­son in PC mad­ness

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - OPINION - Chris­tine Flow­ers Colum­nist

When I went to Bryn Mawr, over three decades ago, there was only one wo­man con­nected with the school who re­ally im­pressed me, and that was Kate Hep­burn.

I was in awe of the great­est Amer­i­can ac­tress of the 20th cen­tury, and could not be­lieve that I was fol­low­ing in her foot­steps around cam­pus. It wasn’t un­til my sec­ond or third year at the old Ivy-cov­ered home­stead that I re­al­ized the true hero­ine of Bryn Mawr Col­lege was its founder, M. Carey Thomas. The “M” stood for Martha, she was born in Bal­ti­more and she was one heck of an icon­o­clast. To Thomas, it was im­por­tant to pro­vide women with the same ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties as men, and not sim­ply pro­vide glo­ri­fied “fin­ish­ing schools” where they could pass their time learn­ing the do­mes­tic arts that would make them suit­able brides. She was a fierce suf­fragette, a fem­i­nist of the early part of the last cen­tury and a wo­man who truly cared about ed­u­cat­ing fe­male minds.

She was also, by some ac­counts, a racist and an an­ti­semite. There are com­ments at­trib­uted to her that, seen through a 21st cen­tury lens, show that she was not ex­actly the paragon of virtue I was led to be­lieve in those hal­cyon days on the Main Line.

Of course, we are now sup­posed to erase from the cor­ri­dors of his­tory the foot­prints of any­one who did not wear a pro­gres­sive halo. By that I mean, if there is a hint of po­lit­i­cal in­cor­rect­ness in your past, you do not make the fi­nal cut into the Hall of So­cially Ap­proved Fame.

Re­cently, my alma mater ac­qui­esced in the de­mands of cur­rent stu­dents and agreed that it would no longer re­fer to the most im­por­tant build­ing on cam­pus, “Thomas Great Hall” as “Thomas Great Hall.” Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Pres­i­dent Kim Cas­sidy: “While Thomas had a pro­found im­pact on op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in higher ed­u­ca­tion, on the aca­demic devel­op­ment and iden­tity of Bryn Mawr, and on the phys­i­cal plan of the cam­pus, she also openly and vig­or­ously ad­vanced racism and anti-semitism as part of her vi­sion of the col­lege.”

Cas­sidy has de­cided to ban the use of the name “Thomas” from cam­pus, for the fore­see­able fu­ture. As she noted, “We will make a con­certed ef­fort to re­move as many ref­er­ences to the name as is pos­si­ble for this year.”

There are ways to crit­i­cize Thomas, and that in­cludes do­ing ex­actly what Bryn Mawr has al­ways (at least up un­til re­cently) done: Al­low for open and re­spect­ful debate about an issue of fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance to ev­ery­one who has ever walked across that gor­geous cam­pus. What the school has de­cided to do is pan­der to some ex­tremely nar­row-minded young women who be­lieve that they now own the soul and spirit of the school, and that there is no place for dis­sent. In Face­book fo­rums and else­where, alumna who have sug­gested that plac­ing a mora­to­rium on the name of Thomas bor­ders on the ridicu­lous have been harassed, at­tacked and treated with in­cred­i­ble dis­re­spect.

I watched over the past year as col­lege stu­dents on other cam­puses be­came over­heated and emo­tional when they were faced with the prospect of hav­ing to lis­ten to a cam­pus speaker who “trig­gered” in them feel­ings of anx­i­ety and de­spair. Whether you liked Charles Mur­ray, Ann Coul­ter or Milo, or you sim­ply wanted to shove their heads into a meat grinder, there was no ex­cuse for the in­fan­tile way th­ese ba­bies vom­ited all over the First Amend­ment. And smugly, I said to my­self “this would never hap­pen at Bryn Mawr.”

Well, this hasn’t ex­actly hap­pened at Bryn Mawr, not yet. But when you have the school ac­qui­esc­ing to some stu­dents who think that an im­per­fect hero is un­wor­thy of recog­ni­tion, even when they wouldn’t even be get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion if that hero hadn’t moved heaven and earth to will their (and our) col­lege into ex­is­tence, you know that it’s time to make other plans for re­union week­end. It’s also time to re­al­ize that we have cre­ated a gen­er­a­tion of vic­tims.

Or as the great Kate would have said “We are taught you must blame your fa­ther, your sis­ters, your broth­ers, the school, the teach­ers – but never blame your­self. It’s never your fault. But it’s al­ways your fault, be­cause if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

Thank­fully, she’s not around to see this.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.