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美国大学过于“安全”了

更新时间:2017-3-15 11:48:02 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The Dangerous Safety of College
美国大学过于“安全”了

The moral of the recent melee at Middlebury College, where students shouted down and chased away a controversial social scientist, isn’t just about free speech, though that’s the rubric under which the ugly incident has been tucked. It’s about emotional coddling. It’s about intellectual impoverishment.

不久前,明德大学(Middlebury College)的学生们大声喝止一个有争议的社会学家的发言,并把他赶走,这场闹剧的寓意不仅仅事关言论自由——虽然报道这起丑陋事件的标题是这么写的。它还事关情感上的溺爱,以及智识上的贫乏。

Somewhere along the way, those young men and women — our future leaders, perhaps — got the idea that they should be able to purge their world of perspectives offensive to them. They came to believe that it’s morally dignified and politically constructive to scream rather than to reason, to hurl slurs in place of arguments.

那些年轻的男男女女或许是我们未来的领导者,他们在人生道路上的某个时候形成了一个想法,觉得应该可以把不中听的观点从自己的世界中涤清出去。他们开始相信,用尖叫来代替说理,用辱骂来代替论辩不仅在道德上是高尚的,在政治上也具有建设性。

They have been done a terrible disservice. All of us have, and we need to reacquaint ourselves with what education really means and what colleges do and don’t owe their charges.

他们受到了可怕的误导。我们都受过这种误导,我们需要重新认识教育的真正含义是什么,以及大学应该以及不应该给予什么。

Physical safety? Absolutely. A smooth, validating passage across the ocean of ideas? No. If anything, colleges owe students turbulence, because it’s from a contest of perspectives and an assault on presumptions that truth emerges — and, with it, true confidence.

给予人身安全?绝对要。提供一个顺畅的、认证过的通道,让你穿越思想的海洋?不,如果说大学应该对学生做什么,那就是提供动荡,因为只有通过观点的争论,通过对种种假设的攻击,真理才会显现出来——并且是带着真正的自信显现出来。

What happened at Middlebury was this: A group of conservative students invited Charles Murray to speak, and administrators rightly consented to it. Although his latest writings about class divisions in America have been perceptive, even prescient, his 1994 book “The Bell Curve” trafficked in race-based theories of intelligence and was broadly (and, in my opinion, correctly) denounced. The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled him a white nationalist.

在明德大学发生的事情是这样的:一群保守派学生邀请查尔斯·默里(Charles Murray)来演讲,学校管理层公正地予以赞同。虽然默里关于美国阶级分裂的最新文字是敏锐的,甚至是有先见之明的,但他1994年的著作《钟型曲线》(The Bell Curve)贩卖的是基于种族的智力理论,遭到了广泛谴责(在我看来,这种谴责是正确的)。南方贫困法律中心(Southern Poverty Law Center)称他是白人至上主义者。

He arrived on campus wearing that tag, to encounter hundreds of protesters intent on registering their disgust. Many jammed the auditorium where he was supposed to be interviewed — by, mind you, a liberal professor — and stood with their backs to him. That much was fine, even commendable, but the protest didn’t stop there.

他带着那样的标签来到了校园,遇到了数以百计的抗议者,这些人一心要表达对他的厌恶。在他本应做对谈的礼堂里——与他对谈的是一个自由派的教授——有很多抗议者,这些人站起来背对着他。这样做也还好,甚至值得赞许,但抗议并没有就此打住。

Chanting that Murray was “racist, sexist, anti-gay,” the students wouldn’t let him talk. And when he and the professor moved their planned interchange to a private room where it could be recorded on camera, protesters disrupted that, too, by pulling fire alarms and banging on windows. A subsequent confrontation between some of them and Murray grew physical enough that the professor with him sought medical treatment for a wrenched neck.

这些学生们反复高喊默里是“种族主义者、性别歧视者、反同性恋者”,不让他有说话的机会。于是他和那位教授转移到一个不对外的房间,想在那里进行他们原计划的访谈,用摄影机录下对谈过程,但抗议者又开始拉火灾报警器,敲打窗户,打断他们的交流。接下来他们中的一些人和默里发生了肢体冲突,导致那名与之对谈的教授因脖子扭伤而需就医。

Middlebury isn’t every school, and only a small fraction of Middlebury students were involved. But we’d be foolish not to treat this as a wake-up call, because it’s of a piece with some of the extraordinary demands that students at other campuses have made, and it’s the fruit of a dangerous ideological conformity in too much of higher education.

明德大学并不代表所有学校,而且只有一小部分明德学生参与了这起事件。但是,如果我们不把这件事看成一个警钟就是在犯傻,因为它和其他学校学生提出过的特殊需求是一致的,这也是一种危险的意识形态盲从所带来的结果,而这种盲从在许多高等教育中存在。

It put me in mind of important remarks that the commentator Van Jones, a prominent Democrat, made just six days beforehand at the University of Chicago, where he upbraided students for insisting on being swaddled in Bubble Wrap.

他让我想起了著名的民主党人、时事评论员范·琼斯(Van Jones)在此事发生的六天之前,在芝加哥大学做出的一个重要的评论,当时他批评了一些学生,因为他们坚持把自己裹在气泡膜包装里。

“I don’t want you to be safe, ideologically,” he told them. “I don’t want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That’s different. I’m not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity.”

“我不想让你们在意识形态上感到安全,”他对他们说。“我不想让你们在情感上感到安全,我想要你们坚强。这是不同的。我不会在丛林里为你们铺路。你们得穿上靴子,学习如何应对逆境。”

“You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous,” he added. “I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you.”

“你们正在创建的这种自由主义,在穿过街道进入现实世界之后,它不仅是无用的,而且既令人讨厌,又很危险,”他说。“我想让你们在这个校园里的每一天都感到被冒犯,深深地感到愤愤不平、感到被冒犯、感到心烦意乱,然后学习如何回应,因为这就是我们需要你们做到的。”

The liberalism that Jones was bemoaning is really illiberalism, inasmuch as it issues repressive rules about what people should be able to say and hear. It’s part of what some angry voters in 2016 were reacting to and rebelling against. And colleges promote it by failing to summon a rich spectrum of voices.

琼斯批评的自由主义实际上并非自由主义,因为对于人们应该能够说什么和听到什么,它倡导的是压制性的规则。2016年,一些愤怒选民就是以这种方式进行回击和反抗的。大学由于没有提倡多样化的声音,而促进了这种思潮。

“Certain things are not to be discussed,” said John McWhorter, a Columbia University professor who teaches linguistics and philosophy, speaking of a rigid political correctness that transcends college campuses but that he is especially disturbed to see there. Campuses are supposed to be realms of bold inquiry and fearless debate.

“某些事情是不会被讨论的,”哥伦比亚大学教语言学和哲学的约翰·麦克沃特(John McWhorter)教授说。他讲的是很多地方都弥漫着僵化的政治正确,但看到它在校园里出现,尤其令他感到不安。校园应该是进行大胆探索和无畏辩论的地方。

Reflecting on Middlebury, he told me, “Anybody whose approach to ideas that they don’t like is just to scream bloody murder has been failed in their education.” It hasn’t taught them that history is messy, society complicated and truth elusive.

谈到明德大学的冲突时,他对我说,“不管是谁,若是听到自己不喜欢的观点,只会尖叫着说别人是血腥的谋杀者,那就已经辜负了他所受的教育。教育没有使其明白历史是凌乱的、社会是复杂的、真相是难以捉摸的。”

Protests aren’t the problem, not in and of themselves. They’re vital, and so is work to end racism, sexism, homophobia and other bigotry. But much of the policing of imperfect language, silencing of dissent and shaming of dissenters runs counter to that goal, alienating the very onlookers who need illumination.

抗议本身不是问题。对于消除种族主义、性别歧视、恐同以及其他偏见,抗议非常重要。但是,给不完美的语言挑刺,企图让异议者噤声,对异议者进行羞辱,是对这个目标的违背,而且也疏远了需要获得启迪的旁观者。

It’s an approach less practical than passionate, less strategic than cathartic, and partly for that reason, both McWhorter and the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt have likened it to a religion.

它比激情更加不现实,比情感的宣泄更缺乏策略感,部分出于此种原因,麦克沃特和社会心理学家乔纳森·海特(Jonathan Haidt)把它比作了一种宗教。

“When something becomes a religion, we don’t choose the actions that are most likely to solve the problem,” said Haidt, the author of the 2012 best seller “The Righteous Mind” and a professor at New York University. “We do the things that are the most ritually satisfying.”

“当一件事变成一种宗教时,我们就不会选择最有希望解决问题的行动,我们会做那些在形式上满足感最强的事情。”纽约大学教授海特说。他是2012年畅销书《正义的心智》(The Righteous Mind)的作者。

He added that what he saw in footage of the confrontation at Middlebury “was a modern-day auto-da-fé: the celebration of a religious rite by burning the blasphemer.”

他还表示,在明德大学冲突的视频中,他看到的是“现代的异端裁判所的判决:通过烧死亵渎者来庆祝宗教仪式。”

The protesters didn’t use Murray’s presence as an occasion to hone the most eloquent, irrefutable retort to him. They swarmed and swore.

抗议者没有利用默里在场的机会,给予他最有说服力的、最无可辩驳的谴责,而是一窝蜂地发起辱骂攻势。

McWhorter recalled that back when “The Bell Curve” was published, there was disagreement about whether journalists should give it currency by paying it heed. But he said that it was because they engaged the material in detail, rather than just branding it sacrilegious, that he learned enough to conclude on his own that its assertions were wrong — and why.

麦克沃特回忆说,当《钟形曲线》出版的时候,人们在一个问题上有不同的看法——记者是否应该予以关注,为它带来传播。但他说,正因为他们采用了详细材料,而不是仅仅给它标上亵渎之名,从而使其领悟到了足够多的东西,从而自己得出了结论:那本书中的说法是错误的——以及为什么。

Both he and Haidt belong to Heterodox Academy, a group of hundreds of professors who, in joining, have pledged to support a diversity of viewpoints at colleges and universities. It was founded in 2015. It’s distressing that there was — and is — even a need for it.

他和海特都属于非正统学院组织(Heterodox Academy),这是一个由数百名教授组成的团体,他们在加入时承诺要支持大学和学院里的观点多样性。该组织成立于2015年。当时和现在需要有这么一个组织存在,这本身就很令人不安。

But according to an essay in Bloomberg View last week by Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale, the impulse to squelch upsetting words with “odious behavior” is so common “that it’s tempting to greet it with a shrug.”

但在上周《彭博视点》(Bloomberg View)一篇文章中,耶鲁大学法学教授斯蒂芬·卡特(Stephen Carter)说,用“可恶的行为”来压制令人失望的言论,这种冲动是如此普遍,“以至于人们很容易不把它当回事。”

“The downshouters will go on behaving deplorably,” Carter wrote, “and reminding the rest of us that the true harbinger of an authoritarian future lives not in the White House but in the groves of academe.”

“那些喝止别人发言的人会继续表现出令人遗憾的行为,”卡特写道。“并且提醒我们其他人:走向专制的真正预兆不是出现在白宫,而是出现在学术领域。”

I wouldn’t go that far. But I worry that in too many instances, the groves of academe are better at pumping their denizens full of an easy, intoxicating fervor than at preparing them for constructive engagement in a society that won’t echo their convictions the way their campuses do.

我不会延伸那么远。但我担心,在非常多的时候,学术界更擅长于给学生灌输不需费力的、令人陶醉的热情,而不是让他们做好准备,当社会不像校园那么赞同他们的信念时,应该如何进行建设性的互动。

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