In the United States of America we see a growing trend of limiting the freedom of expression. Not only in that world-power we may find that viewpoint diversity in the academy is alarmingly low, and that we can notice the next generation of academics being likely to be even less tolerant of opposing views.
A few years ago those professors or teachers who dared open their mouth and resist the dictatorial system, were put aside or could hear they could go on retirement. As such all those who wanted to breed new inspiration minds trying to bring our world in a next phase, got silenced.
Normally the more educated a person is, the more tolerant of other opinions that person is likely to be, but now several governments do not like it to spread tolerance or to have a multicultural environment. Several politicians love it to be popular by the mainstream and to push for a national awareness.
The present politicians do not regret that there is a present trend showing less ideological tolerance and are pleased to find that many students want to have them as leader, not disputing their ideas.
Today’s students are also more accepting of authoritarian views, especially when it comes to responding to ideas and views with which they don’t agree,
said Samuel Abrams, a political science professor at Sarah Lawrence College who is known for his research on lopsided political views in various academic disciplines.
Though diversity of thought has become more common in Rocky Mountain-area colleges – down to 1.5-1 liberal-to-conservative faculty in 2014, from 2-to-1 in 1989 – the New England institutions have become a one-party state on the level of Russia:
In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.
Even the professoriate in the far west — the liberal “left coast” — saw the ratio of liberal to conservative professors jump only to 6 to 1, from about 3 to 1, during that time. Those teaching in other regions, from the Plains to the Southeast, saw far smaller changes, to 3 to 1, up from 1 to 1, on average.
Already when the 45th president of the States was not chosen yet, we could see that several politicians wanted to have more grip on those who had the responsibility to form the next generation. The would be politicians wanted to find a public that would go with them and would be an easy prey.
The political rise of Donald Trump and his rougher-edged approach to conservatism pushed not only all those around him into a closet. Free speech on campus and within academic disciplines got more limited.
Abrams said his research found there are now eight liberal professors in higher education for every conservative, and students are increasingly less exposed to different lines of thinking. that should worry us, because the university should be the fertile ground for research and different thoughts, even opposing ideas.
When students and professors have no free space to go out of the lines and to try out things or to dispute present ongoings, no ground is made for new trees for making new doors.
According to Abrams mainstream Americans consider themselves to be fairly centrist, a concept that is foreign to faculty. They don’t just lean left:
“They are strongly left, strongly progressive, and this [is] completely off from what the average American does.”
Though strangely enough those “leftists” do not seem to come out of their cocoon of conservatism and do not seem to have a protest voice like we are used of left wing people. What we can notice is that censor is high on the agenda at the moment. Several are afraid to bump in walls or to put their foot in the big hole prepared by the populist politicians.
According Mark Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, the fixation on diversity in their schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. He writes
At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.
Also when I look around me, here in Europe I do not hear, nor see, youngsters debating what goes on or taking a stand against populists.
In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)
When young people arrive at college they are encouraged to keep this focus on themselves by student groups, faculty members and also administrators whose full-time job is to deal with — and heighten the significance of — “diversity issues.”
Fox News and other conservative media outlets make great sport of mocking the “campus craziness” that surrounds such issues, and more often than not they are right to. Which only plays into the hands of populist demagogues who want to delegitimize learning in the eyes of those who have never set foot on a campus. How to explain to the average voter the supposed moral urgency of giving college students the right to choose the designated gender pronouns to be used when addressing them? How not to laugh along with those voters at the story of a University of Michigan prankster who wrote in “His Majesty”?
It is not the political left that deserves blame for initiating the focus on racial (and other) groups. While Lilla said he considers the U.S.
“an extraordinary success story”
In terms of diversity, he argued that that brand of liberalism cost the left the election and resulted in its “repugnant” outcome. The ‘over correctness’ of certain politicians make it not easy to know which words can be used and how people may be addressed. Our society is guilty of various “-isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) which undermines it and which comes in a stadium to be tackled, because lots of people start feeling fed up with it.
Today not much time is given to reason and the youngsters get a strange example of fidelity and respectfulness. At the same time students and faculty seem not to like and cannot deal with disagreement, with any challenge to their worldview, with anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Those still teaching today must make sure that there is room for thought and discussion. Though they might be bounded by chains of money savings they should keep up research and make sure their pupils are taught critical thinking.
Our communities should continue to advocate publicly for evidence-based decision making and to build diverse and inclusive academic communities, which promote open minded research and sharing of knowledge.
Academics may not give up to promote freedom of speech and thought. They also may not give up to keep on keepin’ on: doing science, teaching independent thinking, and with using their voice to protect the things that need protection.
- Daring to speak in multicultural environment
- Looking at an American nightmare
- Mark Lilla and the crisis of liberalism
- Freedom of Expression and the Flight from Reason
- King’s College London deplatforms its own lecturer—scheduled to talk on free speech!
- Professors Warn Academic Intolerance for Dissenting Views is Reaching New Highs
- Why I’m moving to Ireland
- JC’s (un)motivated reasoning
- Pennsylvania Student Recounts Red Guard-like Run-In with Professor
- What are we “accidentally” teaching our kids?
- The long game against an anti-science, anti-education government
- Is the Price Tag of Security Simply an “Accepted” Way to Censor Free Speech?
- Education Backward