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Higher ed’s latest taboo? Bourgeois norms…. – Publications – AEI

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AEI Higher ed’s latest taboo? Bourgeois norms…. … is a slight variation of the title of Heather Mac Donald’s excellent op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal about the controversy that an August op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer has caused, written by two distinguished law professors (“Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture”), here are some key excerpts: To the list of forbidden ideas on American college campuses, add “bourgeois norms”—hard work, self-discipline, marriage and respect for authority. Last month, two law professors [Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander at the University of San Diego School of Law]  published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a revival of the “cultural script” that prevailed in the

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AEI
Higher ed’s latest taboo? Bourgeois norms….

… is a slight variation of the title of Heather Mac Donald’s excellent op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal about the controversy that an August op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer has caused, written by two distinguished law professors (“Paying the price for breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture”), here are some key excerpts:

To the list of forbidden ideas on American college campuses, add “bourgeois norms”—hard work, self-discipline, marriage and respect for authority. Last month, two law professors [Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Larry Alexander at the University of San Diego School of Law]  published an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer calling for a revival of the “cultural script” that prevailed in the 1950s and still does among affluent Americans: “Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. . . . Eschew substance abuse and crime.” The weakening of these traditional norms has contributed to today’s low rates of workforce participation, lagging educational levels and widespread opioid abuse, the professors argued.

[The professors] argued that bourgeois culture is better than underclass culture—specifically, “the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-‘acting white’ rap culture of inner-city blacks.” The authors’ criticism of white underclass behavior has been universally suppressed in the stampede to accuse them of “white supremacy.”

Note: The op-ed triggered uproars at both campuses, as the deans and professors at both school responded with letters, memos and op-eds.

Conclusion: What are university administrators and faculty so afraid of? The Wax-Alexander op-ed confronted important issues responsibly and with solid grounding in social-science research. Each of these administrative capitulations sends a message to professors not to challenge the reigning ideology. The result is an ever more monolithic intellectual environment on American campuses, where behavioral analyses of social problems may not even be whispered. What happens to America if those banned ideas turn out to be true?

Higher ed’s latest taboo? Bourgeois norms….
Mark Perry

Mark Perry
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog.

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