Bureaucrats to the rescue?

It’s no secret that free speech and critical thinking is being smothered, trampled and garroted on university campuses. “Our universities are an absolute wreck, right now,” says Camille Paglia. “It’s been a tyranny in the humanities.”

Academics like Niall Ferguson agree that the humanities in particular have been subjected to a steady Long March of Cultural Marxist orthodoxy. As Jordan Peterson says, the prime motivation of these groups is power. So, dissenting voices are rigorously quashed. Quote:

We are in the midst of a campus free-speech crisis. Universities have cancelled speakers, censored academics and charged special security fees for conservative speakers…Academics have voiced concern about the progressive mono­culture at our universities jeopardising research and teaching. Students with a different perspective are too scared to express their contrary opinion. End of quote.

Anecdotally, I’ve been told by students that they just don’t dare express their true opinions in lectures and tutorials, because they know they’ll be roundly shouted down. One student told me how a lecturer had told a student he was a “fascist” because he stated that he was a Christian.

Absurdly, universities blither self-serving pieties about making campuses “safe”. Echo-chambers are only “safe” for those who side with the bullies.

Worse is when politicians actively encourage this dangerous nonsense. Quote:

Opposition universities assistant spokeswoman Louise Pratt declared the “welfare” of students and staff was more important than “promoting debate”. End of quote.

All this is being perpetrated on the taxpayer’s dime. Quote:

Universities are mostly public institutions, built on public land, established by state law, and they receive the bulk of their funding from the taxpayer and state-­subsidised loans. End of quote.

So, should the government intervene? Quote:

In response to serious threats to campus free speech, a dozen US states, from North Carolina and Wisconsin to Missouri and Virginia, have legislated to safeguard free expression on campus. Legislation has been introduced, but not passed, in a further dozen states…

Australia should adopt similar legislation. This would not be a radical departure from the status quo which, following the Gillard government amendments in 2011, already requires universities to uphold intellectual freedom. This new law merely would give teeth to existing provisions by empowering the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, which regulates the sector, with a specific mandate. End of quote.

While the strangling of free expression at universities is a dire problem, I’m not sure that getting the state involved is ever the best solution. Government intervention tends to create more problems than it solves — and governments change. Consider the damage that has and is being done by leftist governments like the socialist Andrews government in Victoria encouraging creepy Cultural Marxists to peddle their Queer Theory nonsense to schoolchildren.

Forget universities, it’s in the primary and high schools, and increasingly even in the pre-schools, that the damage is done. As Paglia says, “this generation of young people have been trained” all through their school years, “to be subservient to authority”. Quote:

Federal law, and even university policies, cannot alone fix what is fundamentally a cultural and structural problem. However, they are important to send a signal to administrators, academics and students that the purpose of a university is to freely explore ideas, not to mollycoddle. End of quote.

Whatever the merits of a short-term fix in the universities, a better option would be a wholesale stripping-out of the curriculum. Decades of accretions of left-wing orthodoxy need to be swept away: and not replaced with right-wing orthodoxy, either. Or any kind of ideology. Schools need to teach kids to read, to write, to do math, and in today’s world, to code.

As for the universities, we need, as Paglia says, “rebellion…we absolutely need someone to stand up and start criticising authority figures”.

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