Guess who’s topless on Instagram now…

In recent years, we’ve been treated (is that the right word?) to middle-age starlets in their 40s, 50s—and even 60s—cavorting on Instagram in various states of underdress. First it was the 40-something Britney Spears, then the 50-something Donna D’Errico. And now it is the 60-something Madonna. 

Well, of course we knew this was coming, didn’t we? We were about due for something gaudy and completely inappropriate from Madonna. 

Further proof of that French expression, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. And this really is nothing new. A series of nude Madonna photos ran in both Playboy and Penthouse in 1985. I was in high school at the time. 

Playboy, September 1985

I’m now in my mid-50s. The same age as Donna D’Errico, as chance would have it. I’m a mere decade behind Madonna, who was born in 1958.

I’m all in favor of older folks remaining youthful. I run. I work out. I stay in shape.  But I won’t be posting nude photos of myself on Instagram, nor anywhere else on the Internet. That remains a young person’s game. And so it should.

Ben Sasse and the howling mob at the University of Florida

Ben Sasse made a visit today to the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, upon his nomination to the presidency of that institution. (Sasse is expected to resign his Senate seat in December.)

A group of leftist student groups, the UF Communists among them, organized a shrieking melee. By the end of the event, Sasse literally found himself in flight from the screeching, gibbering students (I use that noun very loosely here).

I have no opinion regarding Ben Sasse’s suitability for the post; nor do I care one whit, particularly, who becomes the next University of Florida president. Nor have I ever even counted myself much of a Ben Sasse fan.

That said, we have set a dangerous precedent in recent years: allowing small, vocal mobs to determine, often with the threat of physical violence, who will be allowed on campus and who will not. The American university now practices mobocracy in its purest form. 

Want proof? Just look at what happened in Gainesville today.

A final word on this matter. It isn’t my place to play Monday morning quarterback for Sasse. I wasn’t there, after all. I would have had a lot more respect for him, though, had he stood his ground and told the hooligans to take a long collective walk from a short pier. Somebody should, after all. 

Participation trophies and organic chemistry

Maitland Jones Jr., an award-winning professor at NYU, was fired after a group of his students signed a petition alleging that his organic chemistry course was “too hard”. 

I should begin with the usual disclaimer: I don’t know Maitland Jones, or the students who signed the petition. I never took his organic chemistry course. But that doesn’t mean I’m completely unfamiliar with the broader questions here.

In the academic year of 1987 to 1988, I took three semesters of organic chemistry at the University of Cincinnati. The reader might reasonably ask why I did this to myself. 

During the previous summer, I had taken an intensive Biology 101 course, comprised of three parts: botany, zoology, and genetics. I got A’s in all three sections of BIO 101.

Botany and zoology were easy for me because I have always been good at memorizing large amounts of information that has no logical connections. (I’m good at foreign languages, for much the same reason.) I struggled a bit with the genetics portion of Biology 101, which required more math-like problem-solving skills. But I still managed to pull off an A. 

It was a respectable academic performance, but not one that should be over-interpreted. I was 19 years old at the time, however. With the typical logic of a 19-year-old, I concluded that my success in BIO 101 was a sure sign from Providence, indicating that I should go to medical school. I changed my undergrad major to premed, and began taking the math and science courses that comprised that academic track. 

That’s how I crossed paths with organic chemistry. Organic chemistry was nothing like the Biology 101 course I had taken over the summer session. Biology 101 was aimed at more or less the entire student body. (I initially took it to satisfy my general studies science course requirement.) Organic chemistry was aimed at future heart surgeons and chemical engineers. Organic chemistry was the most difficult academic course I have ever taken, or attempted to take.

Organic chemistry is difficult because it requires the ability to memorize lots of information, as well as the ability to apply that information to solve complex problems. Organic chemistry is, in short, the ideal weed-out course for future heart surgeons and chemical engineers. 

How did I do in organic chemistry? Not very well. I managed two gentlemanly Cs, and I dropped out the third semester. 

My dropping out would have been no surprise to my professor. Nor was I alone. Plenty of other students dropped out, too.

Early in the course, I remember the professor saying, “Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a chemist. Organic chemistry is a course that lets you know if you’re capable of being a doctor or a chemist.”

That was 1987, long before the participation trophy, and back when a snowflake was nothing but a meteorological phenomenon. My experience with organic chemistry was harrowing, so far as “harrowing” can be used to describe the life of a college student. But in those days, disappointments, setbacks, and the occasional outright failure were considered to be ordinary aspects of the growing up experience. My organic chemistry professor did not care about my feelings or my self-esteem. He only cared if I could master the intricacies of stereochemistry, alkenes, and resonance.

The good news is that I was able to quickly identify a career that I would probably not be good at. Even more importantly, you, the reader, will never look up from an operating table, to see me standing over you with a scalpel.

If we have now reached the point where students can vote their professor out of a job because a course is too hard, then we’ve passed yet another Rubicon of surrender to the cult of feel-good political correctness. 

A decade ago, many of us laughed at the concept of the participation trophy. But at the same time, many of us said: “What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that small gestures, small surrenders, have larger downstream consequences. A participation trophy is “no big deal” on an elementary school soccer field. At medical school, participation trophies can endanger lives, by enabling the less competent to attain degrees and certifications which they would never have acquired in saner times. 

Are you planning on getting heart surgery down the road? You might want to get it now, before the present generation of premeds and medical students becomes the next generation of doctors. 

No more law clerks from Yale?

Judge James C. Ho, a Trump appointee who serves the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, has announced that he will no longer consider students from Yale Law School for clerkships.

His reason? Ho states that Yale Law School not only “tolerates” cancel culture, but “actively practices it.”

That may be true. Yale University, along with the rest of the Ivy League, is only slightly less ideological than the East German institution that used to train members of that country’s secret police, or Stasi. 

Stupid stuff coming from Yale and Yale students is so common now, that poking fun at them has become something of a turkey shoot. In 2015, protests famously erupted on the Yale campus over Halloween costumes and cultural appropriation. But that’s only the beginning.

While I understand Ho’s sentiment, his gesture will likely become but one more salvo in the ideological boycott wars. For one thing: it is easy to imagine left-leaning judges (who outnumber conservative ones in most states) responding in kind. 

We might argue that Judge Ho is taking the wrong approach entirely. Nothing so hobbles the intellectual capacities of a young person than to graduate from any school in the Ivy League in the third decade of the twenty-first century. 

Yale Law School students need nothing so much as some sane, balancing influences. Who better to provide that, than a judge who disagrees with most of their professors?