Monday, April 3, 2017

The Church of the Liberal Pieties

Perhaps you didn't spent yesterday worshipping at the Church of the Liberal Pieties. Perhaps you know some students who are suffering under the oppression imposed by the campus thought police. Perhaps you are just plain horrified at what is happening on America’s campuses.

You are watching dogmatic totalitarianism arrive in America. And you don't know what to do about it. 

On today’s campuses, fewer students are learning anything. They no longer inquire. They no longer seek knowledge. They spend their time worrying about what they are allowed to say. They know that the wrong pronoun or even the word “mankind” will elicit punishment. They get lower grades for being politically correct. It’s like being degraded.

It feels like a mix of the Holy Inquisition with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. WE are watching as our intellectual overlords impose their dogmas on students.  Those who have drawn lessons from history understand that such cultural aberrations can only destroy. On American campuses, where history has been thrown in the dustbin of history, the message has gotten lost.

NYU professor Jonathan Haidt has been leading a charge against the tyranny of political correctness of college campuses. A Wall Street Journal reporter interviewed him last week and wrote up his views of the situation.

As he sees it, true believing ideologues, both students and professors have been turning campuses into sacred spaces. but with a political edge. Stalinist self-criticism sessions are ritually performed by privileged straight white males. They must confess their guilt for everything bad that has ever happened to anyone else—that is, victim groups. Today’s campus is divided into sinners and the sinned-against.

Haidt explained:

These believers are transforming the campus from a citadel of intellectual freedom into a holy space—where white privilege has replaced original sin, the transgressions of class and race and gender are confessed not to priests but to “the community,” victim groups are worshiped like gods, and the sinned-against are supplicated with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings.”

Importantly, he continues, the liberal left has changed its mind. In place of past concerns with providing everyone with equal opportunity, now it insists on equal outcomes.

The left, meanwhile, has undergone an ideological transformation. A generation ago, social justice was understood as equality of treatment and opportunity: “If gay people don’t have to right to marry and you organize a protest to apply pressure to get them that right, that’s justice,” Mr. Haidt says. “If black people are getting discriminated against in hiring and you fight that, that’s justice.”

And, also:

Today justice means equal outcomes. “There are two ideas now in the academic left that weren’t there 10 years ago,” he says. “One is that everyone is racist because of unconscious bias, and the other is that everything is racist because of systemic racism.” That makes justice impossible to achieve: “When you cross that line into insisting if there’s not equal outcomes then some people and some institutions and some systems are racist, sexist, then you’re setting yourself up for eternal conflict and injustice.”

The mania about equal outcomes feeds on its own irrational premises. It is based on an idea: that all people are equal, that is, the same. And yet, the point is manifestly nonsense. No two people are effectively equal. Outcomes differ according to cultural values, talent, aptitude and the amount of work performed… among other things. Expecting equal outcomes establishes an impossible benchmark… especially when students are admitted to college with widely divergent test scores.

It's so bad that even Haidt, a tenured professor, feels that he cannot speak about sensitive subjects like rape culture and Islam. Strange as it may seem, Muslims are now a protected group, one to which all college students must all bow down, one whose sensitivities and sensibilities must be respected, even in defiance of the nation’s laws and customs. To see the great defenders of free speech rushing to the barricades to defend blasphemy laws is a pathetic spectacle indeed.

It's not just the universities. When Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris received death threats for proposing that her colleagues draw cartoons of Mohammed, the Obama Justice Department and the FBI was so worried about the wrath of Muslims that they put Norris in witness protection. That is, they caused her to "disappear." Think of it, the British government protected Salmon Rushdie. The Dutch and American governments protected Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The Obama administration could not protect an unknown cartoonist. 

Haidt said:

When I ask him about how political homogeneity on campus informs the understanding of so-called rape culture, he clams up: “I can’t talk about that.” The topic of sexual assault—along with Islam—is too sensitive.

By now everyone knows that Muslim refugees in Europe have brought rape culture to the continent, especially in Sweden and Germany. It does not take too much knowledge to understand that Shariah Law persecutes most of the campus victim groups. It is intellectually incoherent to bow down to Islam in the name of women’s rights and gay rights.

Is it too early or too late to see these culture warriors as constituting something like an army, marauding bands of young people who are working to undermine the nation and its culture?

One was amused to see pompously self-absorbed Ted Koppel—a man who thinks he is far smarter than he is-- declare the other day that the American right believes in ideology over facts. Surely the right wing is not insisting that a boy who believes he is a girl is really a girl. Facts, anyone? Science, anyone?

Who insists that gender differences are social constructs, regardless of biological facts? Who insists that tomorrow’s weather and the next century’s climate are indisputable facts.

Today, newspapers systematically distort facts to promote their own ideology. Do you think it’s an accident that New York City has become the world capital of groupthink? Results from the last election told us that there is more diversity of opinion in West Virginia than there is in Manhattan. Is it because New Yorkers are wedded to facts or because they, like today’s college students, know better than to profess politically incorrect opinions?


Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: By *k*now everyone knows that Muslim refugees in Europe have brought rape culture to the continent, especially in Sweden and Germany. I[t] does not take too much knowledge to understand that Shariah Law persecutes most of the campus victim groups. It is intellectually incoherent to bow down to Islam in the name of women’s rights and gay rights.

There are two typos in a single paragraph above. Stuart must have been in a hurry today.

Haidt makes lots of good points, but it doesn't seem like Stuart adds anything to the argument, unless a fear of all things Islam is a virtue.

It is more interesting perhaps that Conservative radicals and Islamic radicals have much in common with Liberal radicals - a desire to dominate others with their own convictions along with a refusal of self-reflection to seek out the unconscious forces that drive their passions.

On the University front, I hope Haidt's proposed experiment will be fruitful - Universities must to choose their mission: For Truth or for Social justice. And then we can see which one fall into chaos first.

I am worried and it's an expensive 4 year experiment for students who don't choose their schools (or majors) wisely. And once you're $100k in debt to learn a sacred ideology, it takes a lot of humility to admit buyers remorse.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. I see an article today from Middlebury, where Murray was blocked from speaking. It looks like a tough internal fight, but maybe Middlebury will join Haidt's "Truth university".
As we strive for reconciliation at Middlebury, there is genuine pain on both sides of a campus divide. Students have expressed fear that they are not allowed to disagree with their professors, who might punish them with lower grades. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may have no educational experience, but she was right when she told the Conservative Political Action Conference that professors should not tell students “what to say, and more ominously, what to think.”

...more than 100 Middlebury faculty members signed a statement of principles on free inquiry. Many of us have also signed the subsequent statement on freedom of expression by the scholars Robert P. George and Cornel West, to which I was asked to be the first signatory. And we are now proposing that Middlebury adopt a free speech statement as part of our rules.
The university cannot renounce enlightenment values and continue to be a university. It must be a battleground for competing ideas, not a megaphone for a particular point of view. The growth that liberal education inspires is never comfortable, and learning is a lifelong process. All of us can benefit from civil engagement with those with whom we disagree.

The fight reminds me of one of the Four agreements. The phrase "their own reality" is troublesome, maybe better to say "their own perceptions of reality" but the effect is the same. How do any of us grow beyond our misperceptions except by respectully facing the divergent perceptions of others?
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally - Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Dennis said...

For your edification: