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CR is correct. I became aware of the movement in the early sixties. It was present on the fringes long before. I watched as it came blasting on the scene in the late sixties. Slowly I watched it weave into our society little by little. I was, and am still amazed at the progression. The proponent's populated all of the soft power institutions and over the course of 50 or so short years the movement is now at the pinnacle of our institutions and finally the forefront of our society. How does that happen for so long without serious opposition. Why did it take so long for significant pushback to materialize? I’m going to buy CR’s book. Maybe he answered my question.

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Mr. Mounk begins with expression of very broad claims, e.g., "...universalist values and neutral rules ...are just designed to pull the wool over people's eyes and actually were always designed to perpetuate forms of racist and sexist discrimination." while making no attempt to substantiate these claims.

But I can relate. For example, squirrels are running amok and unchecked throughout my neighborhood, oppressing the most vulnerable among us. Therefore all the trees must be cut down immediately. You have to break a few trees to make an equitable wasteland.

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Yascha Mounk is an obstacle to the radical reform needed. His naivety causes people to underestimate the problem and thus slows or inhibits the transition away from the woke hegemony. The woke do not fear him. Rufo understands this thoroughly. This is a power struggle, not an intellectual struggle. We need to support Rufo if real change is to come.

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You asked who had the better of this enlightening exchange. (Thanks for hosting it. I thought it was great, well done.)

I vote for Mounk, because I heard from him a more compelling vision for the future of academia -- one grounded in its historical role as a fearless truth-seeker rather than one where colleges are beholden to political masters with their thumbs on the scale of intellectual debate.

I heard two contending solutions to the woke crisis. Rufo wants to counteract wokeness by legislating content and building up conservative alternatives to, as he sees it, hopelessly woke-captured institutions. I understand that Rufo thinks that the laws he backs don't go as far as those laws' critics fear. Maybe he's right about that. Even so, their aim is clearly not to prevent indoctrination in general but rather to disfavor certain ideas. He wants to create conservative universities to counter liberal ones. He thinks that universities should heed and reflect the views of the people put in charge by a plurality of voters, and he calls that democracy. Well, it's democratic in a sense. But it has little to do with actual education. His approach ultimately fuels more siloing and polarization, the signature evil of our age of splintered media -- he wants Fox News U. to counter MSNBC U. -- and is fundamentally opposed to any responsible or worthy view of the purpose and aims of any university.

Here's what I mean: I attended the University of Chicago Law School from 2000-2003. It's nobody's idea of a woke stronghold, and it certainly wasn't then. Most agree that it's a safe space for conservatives and conservative legal scholarship. That's been its calling card for decades. So, I -- liberal Democrat that I was -- encountered the best arguments on behalf of conservative viewpoints, taking classes from the likes of the libertarian Richard Epstein, the conservative textualist 7th Circuit judge Frank Easterbrook, and others. (I also learned from my conservative classmates.) I'm glad I had that exposure, and I have greater understanding and appreciation of those views as a result. I even buy some of them, and I probably never would have otherwise.

At the same time, I also took classes from the likes of Barack Obama and Cass Sunstein (old-school liberals), and Catharine MacKinnon (often labeled a "radical feminist"), who was visiting one year I was there. I gained new appreciation of MacKinnon's views through her class and her magisterial casebook, Sex Equality and, once again, I have more sympathy for them than I probably otherwise would have had. And the thing about Obama and Sunstein -- the two who came closest to reflecting my own views -- is that they didn't indoctrinate. They wanted you to think, and they were masters of the core academic virtue of not just paying the other side lip service but really arguing it, for the sake of argument, and ultimately for the sake of enlightenment and deeper understanding. I didn't learn about conservative ideas just from conservatives but from liberals too. I hear Mounk doing likewise in his classes, where he teaches an intellectual tradition for which he personally has little sympathy and which he blames for the very crisis he agrees demands pushback. And good for him for doing that.

Would Rufo do the same? Would he even permit it? His vision for New College includes hiring "new faculty with expertise in constitutionalism, free enterprise, civic virtue, family life, religious freedom, and American principles."

https://www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2023/01/22/desantis-appointees-could-transform-new-college-for-the-better/69823125007/

All that of course is freighted language that basically means "conservative." How many of my University of Law School professors and lecturers would have satisfied his hiring criteria? I'm in favor of ideological diversification of universities. But I haven't heard Rufo say that he merely seeks greater balance. I perceive a zeal for indoctrination, except in the other direction. Rufo's frank appeal to ideas, his ideas, wedded to power is, to my ear, downright terrifying. I think Mounk is right to see a bit of the Marxist showing its face in Rufo's own approach.

Consider, as an alternative to Rufo's vision for New College, the mission statement of, say, Notre Dame, once again, nobody's idea of a hotbed of wokeness: "The University is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake. As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity." See the difference? If you're not committed to doing something like that -- in short, as Mounk repeatedly intoned, "Veritas" -- no matter your inclinations or institutional commitments (to Catholicity in the case of Notre Dame), you're simply not an actual school. I don't dismiss Rufo as a right-wing hack, as many do. He's far smarter, as in intellectually, and interesting than that caricature would suggest. Still, I don't trust Rufo as a steward of veritas. Do you?

Rufo might reply, with exasperation, so what's your solution, because you say you don't trust me, but how can we trust the powers that be that have corrupted these institutions for so long? It's a fair point, but it ultimately points more in Mounk's direction than Rufo's: pushback from within the academic community and from the outside culture as well and from pressure groups like FIRE. Indeed, Rufo's own activism has been important in exposing excesses. I think we're already seeing that sort of pushback working.

I would perhaps go a bit further than Mounk in at least hearing out political reforms that could rein in bloated bureaucracy of all sorts, not just DEI, address the scandal of anti-Asian discrimination masquerading as merely nudgy affirmative action, and address shoddy scholarship and academic fraud across the board. To answer Rufo's challenge directly, I'm skeptical of "eliminating" DEI outright, because what that label means isn't entirely clear. Universities are required, after all, to enforce anti-discrimination mandates, mandates I basically agree with. They can do so fairly or unfairly. Doing so fairly doesn't counsel closing the office but rather doing it better, with, I'm sure, far fewer employees and codes.

Ultimately, though, Mounk is right. You're not going to unseat the Ivies as premier academic institutions, and, what's more, you shouldn't really want to. You should agitate to have them, and every school, live up to their core academic ideals.

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Bari, Thank you for bringing these two together and trying to maintain control. Disappointed that Yascha had to behave so badly in the middle of the conversation. I’ve seen this behavior so consistently in our media sphere and cannot understand why. “If I feel like I might be losing the argument, I’ll yell louder than my opponent, interrupt constantly, and in general have a tantrum” Where has debate decorum gone? It is most likely an outcropping of our universities having discussions that only have one side speaking and no disagreement on the other side.

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At no point did I see/hear Mounk getting out of hand and 'acting badly.' I'm not sure what debate you were listening to. I would argue that Mounk won the debate.

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I think you must have been predisposed to getting lost. The drama in your response is incomprehensible to me. This was a coherent discussion (if you have read their books).

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

FANTASTIC DEBATE!!!

Nietzsche: "What then in the last resort are the truths of mankind? They are the irrefutable errors of mankind." 1882. That is the problem from my perspective; we are in a post truth world. That is what we have to reject: epistemological relativism. Truth is real in that a true statement is one that captures the real world. The DEI world, despite Mounk's delicate apologetics, does not give a damn about true objective statements, and the coercive censorious government world of Plato's Republic reflected by Rufo does not allow for any views opposed to those of the ruling body, be it a Republic or otherwise. Our Government must protect it's own rules that have been embraced by the people and that is all: Start by enforcing the First Amendment. Eliminate all DEI from all public schools but simultaneously protect real free speech. Yes say Gay and say Natural Law. Trust that Reason will indeed prevail over disagreement. J-S Mill has it absolutely right: "It is [REALLY] better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is [REALLY]only because they only know their own side of the question." Send our pigs and fools to Russia and Iran where they belong. We must oppose censorious autocrats be they college presidents or state governors. Reasonable argument is not harm. Reasonable arguments must not be squelched by dangerous cowards. DEI must die a natural death.

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Oh good grief! Two highly educated intelligent men with real compassionate impulses cannot have a decent debate here. All forms of polite exchange deteriorated and I’m not sure why I bothered to listen. Well, I do know. Chris came to speak at a smallish local liberal arts college just a few days ago & did a fabulous job. So, I wanted to hear this. Now to my main points: Private universities should choose to become more like Hillsdale College, accepting zero federal funds in order to remain as free as possible. Public universities must and should be governed by the will of the people as expressed through STATE legislations, not as expressed by the Feds or by the current powers that be in the faculty. Next: let’s PLEASE go back and review what a true classical education is—not what it has become, nor what we (the smugly wise ones left or right) think it should be. Truth is solid. Everyone in this world knows right and wrong. What Hamas has done and is doing is not only wrong, it is evil. Evil is a reality, NOT some right wing religious fanatical church goers’s opinion. I am outraged by Oct. 7 and by what has happened on college campuses since. I probably have almost nothing in common with Bari politically or religiously, but both of us are outraged. How and where do we go from here? I, the passionate Christian with a degree from what was once a fairly conservative liberal arts women’s college in the south and Bari, a secular Jew whose education I cannot recall but who has clearly created a new public square and is battling for such vital elements of society as free speech and human dignity AGREE that evil has pervaded the Middle East and our university campuses. Now what do we do? We find ways to meet in the square and converse: speak, listen. Speak. Listen. I will stop vilifying Hillary and Joe if you will stop vilifying DeSantis and Greg what’s his name, the governor of Texas. I believe in state’s rights over Federal rights but I can and must listen to those who disagree. I hope my grandson will attend Hillsdale or New College. I hope there will be a rise of true classical education again—but if these two men with much common ground cannot debate peacefully, where is the hope? Especially now when the country is probably looking at a Biden/Trump ticket AGAIN in spite of the fact that no one wants this. Win or lose either side and there will be chaos. I am SO annoyed by this podcast! Could Bari and I personally talk? I would hope so because I have a boatload of admiration for her and what she is trying to do. Would she ever care to converse with me? I have no idea. But really! This podcast needed much greater control by Bari. Argh! Get it together! If you want a new common square, speak up and shut down the egos, the rude behavior, the need to grandstand. I wanted so much to listen and learn from this particular episode. Instead I am totally disgusted.

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Put a gun to their head, the private selective colleges would give up the federal student loans and Pell Grants. What they will not give up is the federal medical/scientific research money (NIH, NSF, etc.). You would have to pry that money from their cold, dead hands.

Hillsdale is not a major research institution getting that type of money anyway. They have just given up the loans and grants (which is still admirable).

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This debate was a bit disappointing to me- too much time on the history & agreement, only at the end were things interesting and still the debaters talked over/past each other. I tend to overall agree with Rufo but think he actually doesn' handle himself as well when really pushed. Mounk is well intentioned but seems to have no practical idea of how to stop things- I am sure his book is excellent but the idea that another book on the topic will help enact change seems too idealistic.

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Yes. Exactly.

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Though he is only 41, Mounk is the child of people who fled Communist totalitarianism. That background may inform his opposition to government intervention against wokism.

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Simple solution. If the Constitution is racist, and I use that term loosely, then amend the Constitution. Don't dismiss and ignore it. Our Founders built a system to amend it when a significant majority agree with the change. If the majority doesn't want to amend it, your idea is not representative of that majority, and as such, should remain as is.

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This was a brilliant debate. Both scholars representing their thesis with facts, figures, and polite discourse - even when they were in obvious disagreement.

This debate was yet another example of why The Free Press has earned by subscription, and why they matter as a political platform.

Kudos to all involved!

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I don’t think we heard the same podcast!

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I listened to two scholars debate the complexities of identity politics on college campuses.

Which one do you listen to? :-)

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Both. Would you really define that as a debate?

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I do. With this criteria: “argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner.”

Did you think it was more of a discussion than a debate?

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No. I thought it rapidly deteriorated into name calling (“liar liar”) and ended with each one talking at each other at precisely the same time. I have no issues with debates at all & was not expecting a discussion, but this sadly and to my great disappointment became a mannerless brawl. A code of respectful conduct would have been great, especially because they share areas of agreement. I would have liked to hear two differing sets of ideas about how to deal with the problem of DEI. What I heard was noise.

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Yes, I would agree that it got a little heated at the end... but the majority of the debate seemed polite to me.

Maybe I need to listen to it again :-)

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This was a very insightful debate that left me sad and frustrated.

Here are two prominent public intellectuals that agree that the DEI ideology has the potential to tear our society apart by alienating different fractions rather than bringing them together. How is it that we end up in a debate arguing who is right or wrong, the winner that claims it all, rather than demonstrating how we can truly advance a debate by listening to each other and then finding common ground to make a difference. Rufo just send out an email linking to the debate suggesting he had the upper hand.

If Christopher and Yascha can't come together, even though they agree on the overall problem, are very articulate and well researched in their positions, then how is the rest of the country supposed to do it?

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Exactly precisely what I think. Such a disappointment!

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Yascha + activism = Rufo

Without activism Yascha's 4 prescriptions will never take root. What tipped it for me was when Chris asked Yascha what he's doing about DEI madness and his reply was "I'm talking and writing about it." I shook my head. True change only happens through informed activism and political processes.

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The way to fight illiberal-ism is to vote against the Democratic Party.

There is no other meaningful approach.

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This is a top quality debate, expertly chaired by Bari Weiss.

These three people span the range of approaches to illiberalism as well as anybody else could do. The basic position of Rufo is that we are contending with savvy activists not PhD students. So there has to be a policy and governance dimension to what we do NOW. Mounk is more concerned with the process of debate and the deep level creation of conceptual frameworks that might ensure lasting reconciliation of opposing paradigms.

Both of these are imperative and these guys are potentially great allies in building a deep and effective response to the Leninist-type network of infiltrators who have taken over our bureaucrats and information channels.

The shock remains. How, in spite of all our scholarly backgrounds did we allow this to happen? Now, maybe, we should review our responses to extremism in the 20th century and consider the responses made then as inadequate.

Again, the western understanding of other cultures passes through the experience and place of Jews in our communities. Without October 7th, we would still be struggling to articulate and justify our critique of critical theories and activists.

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Your opening sentence lost me completely. It was a disastrous clash of egos which Bari let rage out of control. Sad. Annoying and totally disappointing. What in the world makes you think otherwise??

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Just listened to the debate between Rufo and Monk and I am wholeheartedly in Rufo’s camp. Free debate in most universities does not exist anymore and are clearly leftist indoctrination mills. Nor does it seem to exist in public schools either. What can be done? Surely more debate from someone such as Monk whom suggests that reading his book will be enough to conquer this hateful and vengeful ideology? Rufo calls it out for what it is “NeoMarxism” and for some strange reason Monk wants to dance around what it is and use the

clunky term “identity synthesis”. It’s depressing that this is where we have ended up in this great country of ours. And before anyone starts criticizing me for using the adjective great in association with America please know that my father wanted to raise me in Iran where women and girls are at best second class citizens.

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