Academic freedom? Gone—and good riddance. This was the primary thought that ran through my mind as we attended the National Association of Scholars’ shindig Academic Freedom in the Age of Political Correctness at the First Things offices (good wine!).
Now that central thought depends on the definition of academic freedom. There are only two versions, paralleling the cultural definitions: freedom to do whatever you want and freedom to do what’s right. Only the latter is worth saving. But it is the latter that is under attack, where those who want to be left alone to do what is right, which is the freedom to do what is wanted when what is wanted it the good, are told they cannot do what they want and they have to do embrace progressive ideology or quit.
Maybe not. Consider that the Do-What-Thou-Wilt-Shall-Be-The-Whole-Of-The-Law version of academic freedom leads to Womyn’s Studies, Black Studies, LGBT Studies, comic book studies, racism studies, math experience, government-defined science, et cetera, et cetera. How can you argue any of these are wrong and should be proscribed if academic freedom means “studying” whatever you like?
Anyway, it’s clear to all that by the loss of “academic freedom” means the silencing and chasing away of scholars aligned to Tradition and Reality.
There are pockets of resistance, of course. Some whole schools have built moats to keep away the barbarians, and even some departments in major schools are like oases. But overall it’s bad. Just you try and name a school that does not have an officer or dean whose job description doesn’t involve Diversity. Go on. Try it.
Diversity is our weakness, for with it comes the fatal disease Equality.
The humanities are the walking dead with the few remaining survivors trying not to give away their positions, the sciences are limping along addicted to poisonous government money, maybe direct technology departments are fine but only because they’re the areas most aligned to Reality. But social justice warriors will get to them, once they’ve infected everybody else. And so on.
“Okay, Briggs, but what did the experts say?”
The first was Jay Schalin of the Pope center. Schalin summarized a history of the idea of academic freedom (PDF here), ending at the same horror stories we all know. Speech codes, politicization of research, restrictions on teaching, you name it. Schalin’s solution is rely on lawyers tramping through campuses putting the fear of lawsuits into administrators. Sounds expensive, limited, and crass to my ear.
Peter Wood is boss of the NAS. He steered away from tales of woe and instead looked at roots. He also has a white paper The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom. Wood’s history lesson in the white paper is more practically minded than Schalin’s; he outlines the balance between freedom to do what is right and the leeway that is necessary because not everybody knows what the right thing to do is. (But because not everybody knows is not proof nobody knows and that therefore anything goes.) Wood says:
Intellectual freedom and its highly contextualized embodiment, academic freedom, exist in a final sense to make students into free men and women, capable of responsible stewardship of a free society.
Last to bat was KC Johnson, from Brooklyn College, and author of Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case. Beside the book, he had a popular blog on the Duke fake rape case.
Incidentally, how many Duke professors screaming for blood of those white boys suffered for their lies and calumnies? Hint: It’s a number less than one.
Johnson accurately said, “The primary threat [to freedom] always comes from within the academy and not without.” That threat is both from ambitious and cowardly administrators and professors and also by snot-nosed students who enter school thinking they know all the need to know and so view protesting as more important than studying.
I should do a better job summarizing the speakers ideas, but beside the primary thought I had, I was also struck by a secondary realization. Everybody on the dais and in the audience was, God bless them all, in a sense, a progressive. Conservative progressives, but progressives just the same. Each had an idea that the corruption in colleges could be fixed. It’s not that any of their (and the audience’s) suggestions for course corrections were wrong, but the idea that any actions we could now take (besides withdraw into moated castles) would hold off the Leftist singularity seem to me false.
The best we can hope for is that SJWs start turning on themselves. Once the bloodletting stops, we can move back in and salvage what is left, if anything. I don’t give this scenario much credence, though.