20 September 2007

Academic Lobotomy and the Suppression of Ideas

Academic intolerance refuses to hear other points of view. What is worse, academic intolerance refuses to allow anyone else within its power to hear other points of view.
Former President of Harvard Lawrence H. Summers was set to speak in California this week at a dinner meeting of the Regents of the University of California (UC). That is, until his invitation was abruptly cancelled.

Over 150 professors in the UC system, led by Maureen Stanton, a professor in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at UC-Davis, started an online petition drive to put the kibosh on Summers’ impending speech. Their preposterous claim was that “inviting a keynote speaker who has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia conveys the wrong message to the university community and to the people of California.”

Instead, the UC’s regents have sent an altogether different message—the University of California has ceased to value academic freedom.

More generally, the quashing of Summers’ speech points to a troubling trend in academia. Increasingly, the unrestricted marketplace of ideas that must form the heart of any university worth the name is being poisoned by a perverse pressure to conform truth to political agenda and stifle any speaker who espouses uncomfortable or invonveneint opinions. In the present case, the culprits are academics who fashion themselves as progressives eager for social justice and tolerance, but the other side of the political spectrum is no less guilty in others. This situation is alarming and dangerous. If academic freedom cannot exist in the university, our society is in trouble.

...Maureen Stanton and company represent the worst of academia. The side that politicizes its classrooms and refuses to hear, or let others hear ideas that they find distasteful or uncomfortable, no matter their merit.

When tenured faculty seize the platform of ideas, and refuse to allow a diversity of ideas to be presented to the university environment--including the regents--it is clear that a tyranny has sprouted on the very ground where tyranny does the most harm to the minds of new generations of youth. The university exists to provide a rich garden of ideas from which young minds may sample and choose. Without that richness of intellectual choice, the youthful mind becomes academically lobotomised.

Maureen Stanton and her ilk reveal an insecurity within themselves which bodes ill for the future of North American academics.


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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