Three Core Beliefs that Define the Boundaries of Free Inquiry and Discourse on Many Campuses
This is the second in a series of five posts we are publishing this week as the co-authors of a new book from Oxford University Press titled “Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education.” The first post from this series can be found here.
One of the key arguments we make in the book is that there is a set of three beliefs that shape much of the contemporary campus environment. We explain these beliefs as follows.
Belief #1: Anything That Aims to Undermine Traditional Frameworks is Automatically Deemed Good
The first belief is that any action to undermine or replace traditional frameworks or power structures is by definition a good thing. This belief is grounded in the view—that we share—that many of society’s problems and inequalities can be attributed to historical power structures that have favored members of the white, cisgender, heteronormative patriarchy. But that does not mean that all proposals to address historical inequities constitute good solutions.
We emphasize that our goal is not to defend traditional power structures. To state the obvious, there is nothing redeeming about historical (or present-day) discrimination, including sexism, racism, intolerance toward members of the LGBTQ community, and so on. One can rightly condemn those ills while at the same time recognizing that not all initiatives undertaken with the goals of combating them will be effective. Some will be, and some won’t be.
The fact that an initiative aims to counteract historical wrongs doesn’t mean that, on that basis alone, it should be exempt from an objective evaluation of its merits and drawbacks. A similar observation was articulated by Conor Friedersdorf, who wrote in the Atlantic that “[t]o object to a means of achieving x is not to be anti-x.” In other words, as Friedersdorf suggests, there is a distinction to be made between criticizing a proposed means to achieve an end and criticizing the goal of achieving that end.
The campus culture of providing unquestioning endorsement of anything presented as a mechanism to undermine, remake, or remove society’s real or perceived hierarchies (including the corporate and/or governmental entities and structures th
Article from Latest – Reason.com