Amherst Doesn’t Prepare Us for Democracy: Indictment No. 2

Aaron Holton ’25 criticizes what they claim to be a weaponization of identities within the Amherst classroom.

Amherst has failed its students. Rather than promote intellectual curiosity, our school shelters and maintains an anti-intellectual culture — one which upholds, perhaps ironically, its own racist dogma: that the experiences of those who hold a particular identity, should serve as sole authority on “their” respective matters. Yet, this view is both antithetical to democracy — a belief that any individual may voice an opinion on a given matter and whose opinion is treated as equal to their peers—and is not commonplace in the wider world, let alone America.

Would we let a man be a judge in his own case? Would we let the accused be judged by his friends and family? No, for this presents a clear and unjust bias. When one stands trial, they’re judged by their “peers,” those whose collective experiences together constitute truth. Not the individual whose “identity” folds closest to that of the crime or the defendant. The very thinking that Amherst promotes strays from the tradition of an impartial and fair judiciary — that which the sanctity of the Republic sustains itself on.

Instead, classes are filled with students who weaponize their identities to further their own interests. Students exclaim “I as (insert identity) believe X, Y, Z,” and go unchallenged by peers and professors alike, for who would dare challenge the lived experience of the individual who utilizes victimization and sympathy to garner support for a rather lackluster and feeble argument? These arguments’ saving grace is ultimately a room full of peers who already agree with the basic premises and conclusions given before them.

Consequentially, students ostracize and shame any who dare comment on a matter that does not reflect their identity. This strain of thought, however noble it may seem in the wake of new-age progressivism, is antithetical to the democratic tradition that we hold so dear — or at least claim to.

What we require is a resurgence of objectivity, which we’ve seemingly abandoned for absolute-relativism. It’s ironic, however, that in such an acceptance of radical relativism, we ignore that, everything as relative is itself an objective and thus, a self-defeating philosophy.  Nevertheless, our conditions now necessitate a reconstitution of the common world (again, I take inspiration from Arendt in her magnum opus “The Human Condition”). A world where one in any given place could comment on the state of affairs and whose opinion was treated as a “part of” but not “the” truth. Perhaps then we might come to save democracy. Perhaps then we might avoid the crises that exist in the background of our lives.

For I believe that there is still hope.