What goes on at the latest cancelculture hero's dream school
Not to spend too much time on Jane Kitchen, the ridiculous person who was indirectly the subject of yesterday’s issue, but I was reminded by her celebrated conversion narrative of some junk mail I’ve been receiving. No, I don’t mean the “This is Hardcore” email links irregularly followed here — I mean physical mail from Hillsdale College.
If you saw Kitchen’s story in Bari Weiss’ newsletter, about how her alleged liberalism was disillusioned by Bryn Mawr and its insistence on taking COVID-19 seriously, you may recall she ended up at Hillsdale College, which she described as a redoubt from liberal insanity:
In my admissions interview for Hillsdale, a small school of less than 1,500 students, founded by Baptists in Michigan, I praised Christopher Hitchens—a staunch and unapologetic atheist — as one of my intellectual heroes. I disclosed that I was not religious. I debated with my interviewer about whether math was invented or discovered.
And they wanted me anyway…
Sounds wonderfully welcoming! Also open to New Ideas:
I went to office hours—in person—the other day for one of my new classes, a required course about classic literature and I got into an interesting debate with a professor. Upon sharing an idea that directly refuted his interpretation of a line from Genesis, which I had never read before, he said, “That’s a great point. Why didn’t you share that in class?” “I didn’t want to be argumentative,” I told him. “Be argumentative,” he said emphatically.
There are a few ways you could interpret this. It could well be every bit as scripted as it sounds. Or it could be that the professor believes, despite the student’s ignorance of this seminal literary text, that her opinion of it is worth considering in class, either because he thinks it’s actually challenging, or because it would be fun to be see the Bible-fluent students tear it to pieces.
But the intention is clearly to show that Hillsdale, in contrast to politically-correct Bryn Mawr, is a sunny open market of ideas and, though Kitchen mainly seems glad the place has no COVID rules to harsh her mellow, the moral of the story is that Hillsdale is where her mind and spirit can finally blossom and she has “stopped being scared to say what I really thought.”
In case you don’t know, Hillsdale is a famous academic breeding ground for doctrinaire conservatives. As this 2017 New York Times story reports, it eschews federal funds so it can refuse to follow Title IX, and its administration is way rightwing; “If [Trump] attacks the regulatory state,” college president Larry P. Arnn tells the paper, “that will be for the good.” (The Times story only glancingly mentions the “alleged affair and a suicide” connected with a previous Hillsdale president, but suffice to say it’s very much in keeping with other high-level Republican sex-and-blood explosions in recent years.)
Whether to temper this reputation or to enable PR coups like the one Jane Kitchen gave them, Hillsdale has been recruiting leftish candidates. A 2019 Hillsdale Collegian story written by Jacquelyn Eubanks, ’20 (a YA author who is now running for Congress on a Biden-stole-the-election platform) talks about the thin-on-the-ground Hillsdale Democrats and their activities, including “Pie a Democrat” events in which students “have the chance to throw a pie in a Democrat’s face.” (“We were in a meeting trying to think of fundraisers,” The Hillsdale Dems president says, “and we realized, ‘Wow, people would probably really love to do this.’”) Members give Eubanks reasons for matriculating like “after researching political science programs at other colleges, she found Hillsdale’s politics major curriculum to be the best.” I bet the admissions office was really relieved to get the Jane Kitchen story.
As it happens, I got an added insight into Hillsdale from a few issues of Imprimis, “a publication of Hillsdale College” that recently started coming to the house addressed to a former occupant who has been hard to track down, though I did recently find a Facebook page associated with him that seems devoted to weed and related accessories. The lead stories in Imprimis are often based on transcripts of talks and lectures given at Hillsdale, so they may be taken as examples of the education offered.
For instance, gun rights advocate John R. Lott, Jr. asks, “Is Ensuring Election Integrity Anti-Democratic?” You will be unsurprised to learn “Election Integrity” means the wave of laws Republicans passed after the 2020 election to make sure fewer of that kind of people get their votes in, and that Lott’s answer is “no.” He justifies these integrity efforts with evidence of massive voter fraud — from England, France and elsewhere, but not from the U.S., for reasons you may guess.
In another, President Arnn points “The Way Out” of our COVID situation, which does not involve anything so totalitarian as vaccine and mask mandates but rather the breaking of the “despotism” of the CDC and Fauci and the rest of the U.S. public health system that is enabled by a media whose operatives “are trained in the same universities that invented the bureaucratic state, the same universities the senior bureaucrats attended.” Arnn applauds the little people who have defied lockdowns via non-compliance in Michigan, and also voters who elected Glenn Youngkin in Virginia as a protest against critical race theory and “a broad policy of recognizing ‘transgender’ students.” But that is not enough to suit Arnn; he warns, “it was the interference with the colonists’ natural rights by that former ruling class that led to the American Revolution. These recent stories from Michigan and Virginia show that we Americans do not seem to like that interference any better today.” And you know what comes after that — bang bang! “The signs of such a movement are emerging. Pray they are enough.”
Spicy as that one is, my favorite so far is “The January 6 Insurrection Hoax” by Roger Kimball, a horn-rims-and-bowtie wingnut intellectual whose writings (e.g. “The Intoxicating Effects of Socialist Benevolence”) I have sometimes covered, and yes, he really means it: “It was, as Tucker Carlson said shortly after the event, a political protest that ‘got out of hand.’” When Democrats refer to the rampage as a threat to our democracy, Kimball will have you understand that “what they mean by ‘our democracy’ is their oligarchy… when Pelosi talks about ‘the people’s house,’ she doesn’t mean a house that welcomes riff-raff like you and me.” Not even when they come in respectfully, as the brave Jan. 6 patriots did!
Thereafter it’s all the “Russian collusion hoax,” the Steele Dossier, Ashli Babbitt as Horst Wessel, and, whattaya know, more Biden Stole the Election stuff — “every honest person knows that the 2020 election was tainted” — and a declaration that I have to admit surprised even a longtime loon-watcher like me: “Donald Trump is the Emmanuel Goldstein (the designated principal enemy of the totalitarian state Oceania in Orwell’s 1984) of the movement.”
This is the kind of stuff Kitchen says is opening her mind at Hillsdale, but I submit that if you’re hearing stuff like this on the regular and haven’t packed up and left in disgust, open-mindedness was not what you were after.