It’s a figure of speech. In this case, “know when to shut up” means that you’ve made your point, people listened and responded, you’ve garnered the support you’re going to get, and you move on. Bret was speaking into a culture, a community, an institution, and let’s face it, he took a lot of oxygen.
We all have the “authority” to express an opinion about when someone should shut up — and that’s all I did in my piece: express an opinion. That my opinion carries any substantive authority is news to me. I thought having the authority to express an opinion is part of what the whole free speech thing is all about…..no?
And on the clip that you linked to….well, students told Bret to shut up, and he didn’t. Indeed, Bret certainly does a lot of talking in that clip….doesn’t he? He keeps talking and defending himself even after a good number of people — students — tell him that they have been troubled and hurt by things he has said and written. When a person learns that they’ve unwittingly hurt others, isn’t it just common sense, as well as basic decency, to apologize and listen with respect to what those people have to say? When you’re a teacher, don’t your actions as well as your words teach? What did Bret’s actions, that is, his refusal to acknowledge the effect of the things he said and to apologize for having that effect, teach?
Your response to my article completely ignores its aim. Bret is the same person as a public intellectual that he was as a teacher. And that was a problem when he was teaching. He wanted a platform that he now has, and he wanted to satisfy his wish for a fan base which he now has. But at Evergreen, he was supposed to be teaching. Teaching is a lot more than platforming and amassing fans. He didn’t want to do the other inconvenient stuff, like planning, reading, and paying attention to students’ work. Hey, no problem. Teaching isn’t for everyone. As I said, he’s better off as a public intellectual and we’re better off without him. Let’s see if he can own up to it and stop using Evergreen as his fall guy.
And by the way, knowing when to shut up isn’t the same as suppression of speech. Sometimes knowing when to shut up is wisdom.