Not surprisingly, the topics on which schools do provide some semblance of open discussion are matters of utter self-concern. You can always count on a lively debate about whether the "Western Canon" should be retired, whether the student union should provide a vegan menu, or whether we should boycott the lunch trucks until they bring back the cheese fries. Any attempt to crack down on fraternity parties is guaranteed to touch off a McCain-Feingold-worthy disputation (with the school paper's token conservative penning columns with titles like "Censoring Greeks?"). Colleges excel at producing materials, such as Frederick M. Wheelock's Latin grammar, that work perfectly within a closed system but turn to vapor when exposed to the wider world. The same rule applies to debate and discussion. That 52 colleges are incapable of accommodating intrusions from the post-diploma world � even a segment of that world as insular and self-regarding as the think-tank circle jerk that keeps Horowitz's beard neatly trimmed, and even over a question as ultimately without consequence as this thought experiment on reparations � should not shock us, but cheer us. This is how it's supposed to work.
Somewhere between the childhood activities of pretending to be doctors, cops or firefighters and the adult activities of pretending to be Republicans, Democrats or CEOs, we pass through a state of supreme pretense, in which we're decked out in the clothes of adulthood with few or none of the responsibilities, in which we can throw our passions into safe and meaningless crusades. These crusades are fun, they feel important, and they can easily engage our passions. And in general nobody gets hurt, because they only people who don't realize it's all a big game are the students who are playing � and the occasional 62-year-old man who can't resist bullying stupid kids.