When ‘Dissent’ Was an Idol

Florida Memory • Students demonstrating against Iran at Miami-Dade  Community College south campus during hostage crisis - Kendall, Florida

Today’s weather somehow made me remember the 1967 freshman orientation program at Rutgers. They sent us a summer reading list; and every book on it had “dissent” for its theme.

They were big on Dissent. It was an idol to be worshiped. It was the whole point of college. It was the highest virtue of citizenship to which any student could aspire.

It was baloney.

What they were really after was to gin up opposition to the war in Viet Nam: we were all expected to oppose it, and heaven help you if you didn’t. It was very small potatoes, compared to the Woke conformity insisted upon by colleges today: but then they were only getting started, and had a lot to learn about making students’ minds right.

You were supposed to “dissent” from everything they told you to dissent from–but not from them! Woke hadn’t been invented yet, but it was on its way. Even as conformity was always The First Lesson taught in public schools, so it was in “higher education,” too. It was not unknown for wildcat “tribunals” to be set up by leftist students to “try” and ostracize those few students who weren’t aboard the bandwagon. Back then, they had no power to punish you for “dissenting” from their program. Now, of course, they do.

“Dissent” was already a one-way street in 1967. It has only become much narrower since.

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