It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.
I’ve written a few postings about the current incarnation of political correctness that is strangling freedom of speech and biasing research. I see a sickening dissociation underlying it, between proclaiming diversity and realizing actual diversity.
The current incarnation tries to achieve and control surface diversity (e.g., people should look different) while actively preventing deep diversity (e.g., people having or arguing for different points of view).
Those sharing this mindset just want people (eg in academia, politics, companies, etc) to appear different, but share the same views. They think it strengthens their position — “See, all these different people who have nothing in common think we are right, so we have to be right.” In fact, it weakens their position: Ideas are not challenged nor grounded in representative data.
But then again, a clash of ideas is not what these people want. They want their ideas confirmed and/or profit by controlling the public story (or “narrative”). How issues are framed, which positions get funding and public support (only theirs).
It would be funny if it wouldn’t prevent the marketplace of ideas from working. The place where ideas have to survive on their own merit when debated freely. And if it wouldn’t be toxic to creativity and innovation in general. Not to mention being inherently unfair. And seriously, the brazenness of social justice warriors (SJWs) and other people profiting by surface diversity while fighting deep diversity is hard to stomach.
Luckily, it seems like the pendulum is starting to swing back. More people are criticizing the attacks on freedom of speech and research, and — more importantly — are doing so openly. Not an easy feat if you consider that SJWs like to go after people’s careers. They have to, given that their ideas can’t win on their own.
One interesting site addressing these issues is heterodoxacademy.org. They focus on one kind of (what I’d call) deep diversity: lack of political diversity. In this case, lack of conservatives in academia. You might think about conservatives what you like, but if you want to have liberal ideas that are any good, they need to be challenged. And you need diversity in viewpoints to do so.
Personally, I’d consider myself a libertarian, but I totally see the need for actual viewpoint diversity. Especially after finding out the hard way just how large the difference between proclaimed diversity and actual diversity (of views) is. And yep, even PhDs fall prey to this mind-trap.
I had a “funny” encounter with a group of colleagues who tried to argue that we do not write about certain issues. I pointed to prior articles all addressing the same certain issue. The only difference: I hold a different position on these issues that conflicts with the zeitgeist and their position. Strangely, only one person was willing to admit that the position was the problem, not the issue — after about twenty minutes of discussion. (Still, kudos!)
It was eye opening and stomach turning at the same time. If you can’t hold different viewpoints and challenge the zeitgeist in academia, then where can you?
Even worse, this (self-)censorship seems to seep into the students at an early age. In one post on heterodoxacademy.org, Jonathan Haidt reports his experiences at a High School. What struck me was a comment by a student saying:
> Now, when I raised my hand and said I sometimes feel like I’m walking on eggshells, that opinion came also from the fact that I don’t believe I am as informed as I should be on topics of race and gender. I often don’t want to share my opinion, because I believe I could be very wrong and don’t want to offend someone. I’m sure if I knew more about whatever topic was being discussed, and had a stronger argument, I would be much more comfortable discussing it.
I put the 1 1/2 sentences I stumbled upon in bold. Keep in mind this student is talking about his High School, ostensibly a place of education. The comment I made on the blog was:
If you (and likely a lot of other people) feel you have to walk on eggshells in a place dedicated to education, because you feel you are not “informed” or “educated” enough on an issue, then that institution has missed its purpose.
Your remark sounds like there is no place for honest ignorance or questioning attitudes, like there is a pressure to be silent and wait for indoctrination to take place (by listening to one’s “betters”). It does not sound like a place where you can ask questions, and challenge and debate with actual arguments.
And if you can’t challenge or debate positions, you are fed an ideology that is trying to protect itself from the facts, nothing more. And ideology has no place in a place dedicated to education.
And yeah, while heterodoxacademy.org blog deals with issues in the US, these issues have a tendency to spread. Best keep an eye on it, and a couple of words to challenge it.
I like science too much to have it abused, exploited and destroyed by ideologues.
Update: Some text smoothing for readability.