The Chronicle of Higher Education asked me to respond to historians Mark Lila’s ideas about students and political consciousness. Lila and I disagree about a lot of things, not the least of which is how identity politics is related to students capacity to engage in democratic processes.
I had to wonder where Mark Lilla was on November 9, 2016, as I read his new essay in The Chronicle Review, “How Colleges Are Strangling Liberalism.” Early that morning, Donald Trump was declared president of the United States. Perhaps, like me, Lilla woke up all too aware that his next class would be especially demanding. Students would have one thing on their minds: How to make sense of an outcome that few predicted, many feared, and the consequences of which no one could wholly anticipate.