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Why Antisemitism Sprouted So Quickly on Campus


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Chapter 3 of The Coddling explains how the oppressor/victim mindset created fertile ground for hate

Jon Haidt
Dec 21, 2023

[Note: this is post #1 of a pair of posts. The second post gives the text of chapter 3 of The Coddling of the American Mind.]


In the days after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, university campuses immediately distinguished themselves as places set apart from the rest of American society—zones where different moral rules applied. Even before Israel began its military response, the loudest voices on campus were not university leaders condemning the attacks and vowing solidarity with their Jewish and Israeli students. Instead, the world saw faculty members and student organizations celebrating the attacks. 

Political commentator and Atlantic author David Frum summed up the moral uniqueness of the academy in this tweet, four days after the attack: 



The new morality driving these reforms was antithetical to the traditional virtues of academic life: truthfulness, free inquiry, persuasion via reasoned argument, equal opportunity, judgment by merit, and the pursuit of excellence.  A subset of students had learned this new morality in some of their courses, which trained them to view everyone as either an oppressor or a victim. Students were taught to use identity as the primary lens through which everything is to be understood, not just in their coursework but in their personal and political lives. When students are taught to use a single lens for everything, we noted, their education is harming them, rather than improving their ability to think critically.

This new morality, we argued, is what drove universities off a cliff. For a while, the descent was gradual, but at Halloween, 2015, in a courtyard at Yale, the free fall began. Students and administrators espousing the new morality demanded reforms at Yale and, over the next few months, at dozens of other schools. With a few exceptions, university leaders did not stand up to the new morality, critique its intellectual shortcomings, or say no to demands and ultimatums. 


You can see the fall of higher ed in data from Gallup. The figure below shows that as recently as 2015, most Democrats and even most Republicans had high confidence in higher education as an institution. (Independents were evenly split). A mere eight years later, higher ed had alienated not just Republicans, but also independents. The trend for Democrats was down as well. The survey was fielded in June of 2023, well before the current mess. 




In the tweet I quoted at the top of this essay, David Frum pointed out that elite college campuses have diverged from the rest of the country. Frum urged those of us in the academy to reflect upon why college campuses are so rife with antisemitism, in a country that is, according to public opinion data, very positive toward its Jewish citizens. I have tried to do that in this essay, concluding that it is our own fault for embracing and institutionalizing bad ideas, rather than challenging them. I have shown a direct connection between the oppressor/victim mindset and the willingness of many in the current generation of students to espouse overtly antisemitic beliefs (even if it is not truly a majority of them).

American higher education is now in a code-red situation. It’s not just Jewish donors and alumni who are withdrawing their support. As you saw in Figure 1, a majority of Americans had low confidence in higher ed before October 7. In the wake of the December 5 congressional hearings, it is now surely a supermajority, including perhaps most Democrats as well. Efforts in red-state legislatures to constrain, control, or defund higher ed will now find a great deal more public support than anyone could have imagined before 2015. 


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What is the victim-oppressor mindset and how did it conquer the academy? (post #2)
A condensed version of Chapter 3 of The Coddling of the American Mind[/]
Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff
Dec 21, 2023

[This is post #2 of a pair of posts. The first post was about the causes of campus antisemitism. It links over to this post so that readers can see Chapter 3 for themselves.]

A note from Jon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff

When we published The Coddling of the American Mind, in 2018, things were bad on campus. We chronicled the intimidation, self-silencing, and dishonesty that had become ubiquitous among students and professors as cancel culture spread in the years after 2014. We tried to be optimistic in the conclusion of the book, citing four “green shoots” suggesting that things might turn around soon.

Boy were we wrong! As Greg and Rikki Schlott show in their new book The Canceling of the American Mind, many universities doubled down on their commitment to speech policing, hypersensitivity, and widespread punishment of jokes, curiosity, or anything else that offended anyone in a way related to identity. Now, in the fall of 2023, we can see the bitter fruit of these policies: hypocrisy, loss of public trust, and overt antisemitism.

Chapter 3 of The Coddling is the main chapter that lays out the intellectual history behind this mess, calling attention to the “oppressor/victim” mindset.1 It’s a cognitive distortion (binary thinking) which divides everyone into two categories and then justifies “resistance” by members of victim groups, who are “punching up” against members of oppressor groups. The punching is sometimes not metaphorical.

We thought it would be useful to make a copy of the chapter available for everyone who is struggling to make sense of what is now happening on college campuses… and beyond. Jon abridged the text of the chapter. Places where text has been cut are indicated by [...]. To learn more about The Coddling of the American Mind, visit TheCoddling.com

— Jon and Greg


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Dec 27, 2023 #FoxNews

FOX Business' Lydia Hu reports the latest on the lawsuits. Civil rights attorney Leo Terrell joins 'America's Newsroom' to discuss surging anti-Jewish hate taking root on college campuses nationwide.

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