When time travel becomes possible, I’m not going to kill Hitler like a lot of people do. I’m gunning for Rupert Murdoch. You Americans may be upset that you have to put up with Fox News, but we’ve still got his newspapers pumping out slime. Like this:
University is not place to crush ideas
Sinister was the word chosen by The Sydney Morning Herald to describe the campaign launched by the Young Liberals at university campuses under the slogan “Education, not indoctrination”.
Remove the SMH filter and here’s the story: a group of Young Liberals is concerned that students are sometimes forced to endure indoctrination by university academics. Their aim is to encourage freedom of thought and intellectual pluralism on campus. Some may say their goal is naive. Universities have always been bastions of left-wing thought. But sinister?
A bit of background from Greg’s blog:
“Academic Freedom” bills seem to come in two flavors: Those that protect students from the possibility of learning certain things, and those that protect subversive teachers from getting in trouble for being bad teachers. In both cases, they are bills typically introduced into state legislatures by conservative republicans expressing concern with the Liberal Bias. There is a vague institutional connection between the concept of Academic Freedom Bills and the organization founded by conservative David Horowitz, “Students for Academic Freedom.” The motto of this organization is “You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half the story.”
The core idea of this form of “Academic Freedom” is this: David Horowitz and his ilk define certain issues, or positions on issues, as legitimate perspectives even if the preponderance of evidence denies this legitimacy. For instance, the reality and importance of global warming as a phenomenon, as an economic problem, and as an ecological crisis is not valid according to the right wing. Global warming is only acceptable as a topic of study in an educational setting if it is taught along side “alternative” views that suggest that it is just as likely, or more likely, that global warming is a left wing conspiracy, or that the evidence for global cooling is just as strong, or that there is widespread verifiable evidence that what some see as global warming is entirely within the range of natural climatic variation. Evolution or Darwinism has never explained the evolution of a single species, nature is too complex to be explained by Natural Selection, and “alternative theories” such as Intelligent Design Creationism are at least as valid as the Theory of Evolution. And so on.
So in essence, conservatives are saying, “We’re losing the argument, so we’ll call it a draw.”
I’m no fan of conservatives, but don’t you kind of wish for the days when they at least acted like conservatives? Now they’re acting like reality deniers with a PR engine.
I’m talking about the capital-M Market, that wonderful thing they always told us would make everything all right. How to fix Social Security? What to do about minimum wage? Or inflation? Market, market, market. Until the market doesn’t give them what they want. Gay marriage? Teaching creationism in schools? Liberal professors? There oughta be a law!
Let me put it in terms that even David Horowitz can understand. The university is a marketplace of ideas. If something doesn’t get bought in the marketplace, it gets sent to the remainder pile along with the hamburger earmuffs. Academics, who are usually a bit on the smarter side, have a general tendency to not believe the most incredibly stupid ideas. Conservative ideas, being on the stupid side, will naturally be a minority view in all but the most religious universities.
It does no good to try and force conservative ideas into the university using pressure groups. Let the market decide. If they’re good ideas, they’ll get adopted in the long term. Don’t like having Marxists in PoliSci departments? Neither do I! Yet these PoliSci profs, having devoted their lives to the study of politics and economy, are probably going to have a more informed view on this than I, just like I’ll have a better idea of things in language policy or syntax. Leave them to it. Maybe they’ll write something interesting that I’ll learn from. Maybe not.
Here’s an example quoted in the article:
Jamie, an 18-year-old student at the University of Sydney, saw teachers [promoting politics in the classroom] last year during her HSC.
She told The Australian her legal studies teacher at her school in northern Sydney “found it very difficult to give an unbiased perspective, especially when we were studying Work Choices. And I was told if I didn’t write an essay that was anti-WC, it would not do very well. One day (the teacher) walked into the classroom saying: “I love Kevin Rudd.” I said to her a couple of times: “But, Miss, you shouldn’t be putting so much of your opinion into this.” Her teacher told her it was impossible to keep opinion out of legal studies.
Says Jamie: “I don’t think that’s correct. Whatever (the teacher’s) opinion, it should not be brought into teaching.”
Now, if a student feels their work has been downgraded unfairly, my university (along with most universities I know of) provides options to have their work examined by others, and an investigation can be made. These systems are already in place.
But preventing that teacher from giving her opinions in class, where the subject matter is a legitimate subject of study, would in fact be suppression of liberal opinion. Which I suppose is the point. These bills aren’t about academic freedom; they’re a sneaky attempt at meme propagation.