by Rob Roper
Six years ago, following the incident in which a violent mob of Middlebury students chased author and social scientist Charles Murray off the stage, assaulting and injuring a faculty member in the process, I wrote an article titled, “Stop Calling Them Snowflakes.” The piece referenced the parallels between George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where Napoleon (the dictator pig) “educates” in isolation a litter of puppies before unleashing them as his obedient attack dogs, shouting down or viciously suppressing any opposition, and the students on college campuses of the day.
I concluded, “So, let’s stop referring to these students as ‘snowflakes,’ which implies fragility and a certain amount of insignificance, and recognize them for what they are – the isolated, brainwashed, fiercely loyal, and dangerous attack dogs of an aspiring totalitarian regime.”
Sadly, if things have changed at all since then, it’s only for the worse.
What has become undeniably clear since October 7 and the Hamas attack on innocent civilian Israeli families and concert goers is that we are systematically raising a generation of young adults – at great taxpayer expense no less — who are perfectly willing to cheer on an antisemitic, anti-women’s rights, anti-gay rights, overtly genocidal, internationally recognized terrorist organization that is committing crimes against humanity on par with those of the sickest Nazis – Dr. Josef Mengele comes to mind – and they call it social justice!
When I took an introduction to ethics class in college, as well as, come to think of it, Psychology 101, and in several history and political science classes a question routinely came up: how could millions of otherwise normal German citizens simply go along with a plan to commit the industrialized genocide of every Jew in Europe and, presumably, that accomplished, the world? Answer: many were “educated” and propagandized into believing what they were doing was right and just and received the “social proof,” to steal a term from behavioral economics, from enough respected community leaders and authority figures to believe that this was indeed the case.
Nazis didn’t think of themselves as evil. Far from it. As Hitler proclaimed in Mein Kampf, “by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord [p. 60].” They rather saw themselves as oppressed victims who were standing up as the Social Justice Warriors of their day. Jews (in today’s vernacular maybe it would be called “Jew-supremacy”) for the Nazis was essentially what “white-supremacy,” or the “patriarchy,” or “systemic racism” is for today’s Woke: they represented the powerful economic and cultural institutions and conventions controlled by an oppressor class to victimize and exploit the innocent who, absent that corrupting presence, would thrive in peace. So, they justified a solution to this problem. A Final one. And almost everyone went along because everyone was going along.
Those who disagreed were frightened or brutalized into silence, or worse into complicity in the holocaust that sprung from this cancerous state of mind as it gained widespread and then total political power. Better, after all, to be putting others on the trains than to be put on the train yourself.
How all that happened was what we were never supposed to forget. But we are living and watching an alarmingly similar attitude develop today in America.
Our schools, through Critical Race Theory or DEI or Woke – whatever you want to call it – are indoctrinating young people into a dangerously tribalist, grievance dominated world view every bit as toxic as Aryan versus Jew in the 1930s. Be it anti-racist versus racist, white (and white-adjacent) versus BIPOC, or oppressor class versus marginalized class, the adults today are forcing the kids into camps and to choose sides and pick fights in a culture war. This is a twisted recipe for widespread mutual animosity if not outright group on group hatred. It’s the systematic “othering” of those superficially different from you.
Add to this dynamic a rewards structure that incentivizes students to exhibit the greatest amount of intolerance for the ostensibly intolerable “other”, and you can see why we have an increasing intensity toward theatrical and even violent reactions to every perceived offense. It’s what leads the so-assumed best and brightest of the upcoming generation to chant, “F— the Jews,” throughout the quads of our most elite universities, and parrot slogans for genocide with an enthusiasm that would make Joseph Goebbels proud. But this is how our schools, television, news media, and politicians have trained these young people to think and act. It’s not good!
If there is any silver lining to the war between Israel and Hamas, it is that the horrific reaction by these students has awakened (reWoke? unWoke?) at least some on the Left to the youthful monster that they have helped to create. Some are taking steps to reverse the damage by stopping their funding of universities, calling for the removal of teachers and administrators who spew this bile, and blackballing students who march for genocide from future employment.
Vermont’s leaders and parents and education taxpayers need to speak up as well. All of us do if we are to reverse this dangerous trend in education that starts in grade school. It was therefore extremely disheartening to read that amidst this turmoil the Essex-Westford School District released a policy stating, “This nation would not have evolved as it has without the genocide of the indigenous people, nor would the economic infrastructure exist as it does without the enslavement of native African people and their descendants. In an effort to recognize and undo the harm of centuries of systemic inequities and oppression, we begin with this lens and framework.”
This “lens and framework” is the same one that feeds the kind of hatred and justifies violence on the scale of flying in on paragliders and mowing down hundreds of innocent people peacefully dancing in a field because that’s what so-called decolonization looks like.
By warping children’s perceptions of their world by filtering it through this dark and dystopian “lens and framework” we are not really undoing any harm committed in the past, but we are very much sowing the seeds of harms that will be committed in our future, and in many places, our present.
So, let’s get back to teaching kids through a “lens and framework” that we are all created equal, and should be treated so under the law. That each of us has inalienable rights, including those to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We all have and should respect each other’s rights to free speech, religion, and association. This country, the United States, was founded upon these principles at a time in history when none of them was “self-evident.” That they are today is testimony to how far we have come in living up to those principles, even if we don’t always do so perfectly.
The exceptional ideas that gave birth to this nation are what have attracted people of all races, religions and cultures and allowed us live side by side not just in peace, but to build together the most prosperous and successful nation ever in the history of humanity. It’s an incredibly optimistic story! A bumpy road at times, for sure, but there is much more to be proud of than ashamed. So be proud. Learn from our history and look forward to doing your part to make the next chapter of our nation “more perfect” than the last.