Amy Wax Defends Bourgeois Norms
It takes courage for a law professor to stand up for her values when she is being publicly condemned by her fellow faculty members, the dean of her law school, student groups, and a media mob. This is what U Penn law professor Amy Wax has done in the wake of her explosive op-ed, "Paying the price for breakdown of the country's bourgeois culture" (Philadelphia Enquirer, Aug. 9, 2017). In the piece, Wax and her co-author Larry Alexander presented some uncontroversial facts about the relationship between stable, two-parent homes and positive outcomes for children. They also reprimanded an upper class that no longer seems willing to preach the importance of traditional values. Some of Wax's colleagues responded to the op-ed piece with alternative theories of why poverty is entrenched, but the overwhelming message of an open letter – signed by 33 U Penn professors – was that Wax had committed an intellectual crime deserving of censure and public shaming. The debate over Wax's praise for "bourgeois values" goes deeper than her arguments for a return to norms of hard work and personal responsibility. At stake is the freedom to challenge or contradict academic groupthink, which equates any identification of legitimate advantages with an apology for unfair privilege. If the students demanding that Wax be demoted get their way, then professors everywhere will feel a "chill" on voicing their own unpopular opinions. Wax joins Bob for the full hour to describe the anatomy of a campus intimidation campaign, and explain why she continues to speak her mind.