They're doing just fine, thanks.
You know who the real champions of open debate on our beleaguered college campuses are? Social justice warriors.
It was obvious to tenured professor of classics and ancient history Matthew Sears at the University of New Brunswick.
He wrote “Why ‘social justice warriors’ are the true defenders of free speech and open debate” for the Washington Post. And they printed it. So it must be true.
Sears is one of a growing rank of academics who see the enforced progressive monoculture at American universities not as a bug but as a feature.
He wrote that “the social justice approach — which emphasizes the dynamics of power and oppression — that many fear has taken over the humanities and social sciences at its best is actually an improvement over the ‘disinterested pursuit of truth.'”
Reality is Judgmental
It sure is an improvement! Why use disinterested truth when we can speak our Oprah-blessed self truths by using the dynamics of power and oppression? Just like those SJWs at Evergreen State College did when they stalked through campus with baseball bats daring people to disagree them.
And remember: Disinterested truth can be awfully harsh. You’re a man who wants to be a woman? That’s your truth. But the disinterested truth insists you’re still a man. Ouch.
“In fact,” Sears says, “rather than being an attack on knowledge, the social justice lens reflects new ideas generated by academic disciplines and experts within them, and generally encourages expanding our knowledge and opening up subjects to new perspectives, much like Socrates advocated.”
Know What You Don’t Know
He can’t have meant Socrates the philosopher. Socrates the philosopher was all for the disinterested pursuit of truth. While in jail awaiting execution, Socrates congratulated his friend Crito on being well placed to consider a certain argument because Crito was “disinterested and not liable to be deceived by the circumstances in which [he was] placed.”
At that same time Socrates said that he would follow the path of reason “even if the power of the multitude could inflict many more imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children with hobgoblin terrors.”
It’s doubtful that Socrates would have supported the path of Social Justice. Like that followed by SJWs at Middlebury College. You might remember that they used the dynamics of power and oppression to shut down a speech by Charles Murray. SJWs hounded Murray of campus and tried to yank the head off of a professor accompanying Murray. Giving your debating opponent a concussion is not what is classically meant by the Socratic method.
A Pain in the Trump
The Chronicle of Higher Education is an influential trade journal for academics. It frequently publishes articles taking Sears’s side. Take “How the Right Weaponized Free Speech” by Joan W. Scott, who used to be a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.
She opens by informing the world that she “was unprepared for the power of my reaction to the election of Donald Trump.” And what a powerful reaction it was! She hit herself with “diffuse anxiety,” painted herself with “a sense of fear,” and finished with a dose of “dread.” Good to know.
That sounds more like the SJW way of screaming like toddlers who have their lollipops taken away.
But what about the right “weaponizing” free speech? Scott says, “Free speech is the mantra of the right, its weapon in the new culture war.” “The right’s reference to free speech sweeps away the guarantees of academic freedom,” she writes. “To the right, free speech means an entitlement to express one’s opinion, however unfounded, however ungrounded, and it extends to every venue, every institution.”
That sounds more like the SJW way of screaming like toddlers who have their lollipops taken away. Nevertheless, Scott sees “blood lust” driving organizations like the National Association of Scholars who want to remind progressive professors that opinions other than their own exist. What about what happened at Middlebury? Joan says Murray is a “proponent of racist false science” and implies that thus he shouldn’t have been allowed to speak.
Trust Us, We’re Smart
Scott is comfortable with the one-sided thought control at universities. She argues that the progressives populating the professoriate are praiseworthy and perspicacious. It is thus our duty to listen to them, not question them on their own ground.
What about the Socratic method of “exhorting students to respect the ideas of individuals with whom they disagree”? She says that is “not the solution to their purported misbehavior.” Purported?
Her solution, like Sears’s, is to pile on more of what got us where they are. And since folks like Sears and Joan are in charge, they’ll likely get their way. Campuses will become even more insular. And more hostile to intellectual freedom.