The closing of the university mind
It's why so many, in institutions across the board, are now so incompetent
The Times reported this week on the deeply alarming findings (£) of a survey it had conducted at Britain’s universities.
It found that ten of them, including three from the elite Russell Group, had started removing books from reading lists or made them optional to protect students from “challenging” content, and had applied trigger warnings to more than 1,000 texts in case they “caused students harm”.
Paul Morgan-Bentley and James Beal wrote:
The texts include the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead, which has been “removed permanently” from a course reading list at Essex University because of concerns about graphic depictions of slavery.
The classic play Miss Julie, by August Strindberg, has been withdrawn from an English literature module at Sussex University because it includes discussion of suicide.
English students at Aberdeen University are also told they can opt out of discussions on a module about Geoffrey Chaucer and medieval writing as the course “sometimes entails engagement with topics that you may find emotionally challenging”…
Some of Britain’s most influential authors — including William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie — are among those whose works have been deemed concerning enough to require warnings.
There may well be more instances of lecturers protecting students from challenging literature. Academics attempted to block this newspaper from discovering details about changes to their reading lists, using social media to encourage each other not to comply with requests for information. Some universities refused to disclose any information because of the “potentially negative personal impact” on staff.
The same day, The Times carried another report (£) that a group of hard-left academics had been plotting a witch-hunt against colleagues over gender identity. James Beal wrote:
University and College Union (UCU) members pledged to compile a list of university backroom staff suspected of holding gender-critical beliefs, the minutes from a meeting leaked to The Times reveal. The plan was to use this information to “inform” UCU university branches of their colleagues’ views, accusing them of being “transphobes” and “gender-critical activists”…
Leaked minutes also reveal the extent to which the UCU’s general secretary, Jo Grady, supported those accused of helping to force out Dr Kathleen Stock from Sussex University. Stock, 50, a philosophy professor, quit the university in October 2021 after what she described as a “bullying and harassment” campaign over her gender-critical beliefs.
These findings are shocking; but no-one who has been paying attention to what’s been happening to education in both Britain and America will find them surprising. On both sides of the Atlantic, the universities — with some exceptions, and with “hard” science departments exempt to some extent at least — have been steadily substituting knowledge and rational thought by “victim culture” and ideological identity politics on race and gender, turning themselves into left-wing bastions of propaganda and the suppression of dissent.
The idea that students might be so upset, alarmed or offended by what they read anywhere that they must be “protected” from it is risible, ludicrous, absurd. It strikes at the very core of learning and of having an open mind. Yet countless academics — the supposed guardians and stewards of knowledge and reason — are going down like ninepins in the face of it.
It takes a brave academic to call out what’s going on. One such is Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics at Kent university. On his Substack blog today, he produces startling evidence to illustrate the extent of the problem. He writes:
Since the 1960s, the ratio of left-wing to right-wing academics has jumped from three to one to eight to one today…[Other studies] similarly find that fewer than 20% of academics today vote for right-leaning parties while 75% vote for Labour, the Liberal Democrats, or the Greens. Last year, in my own work, I found that 76% of my colleagues in the world’s most elite institutions identify on the left while 21% of that group identify as ‘far left’. Just 11% put themselves on the right. And in my own area of political science, a recent study at Harvard found that 72% lean to the left with 14% describing themselves as far left. In America, where this ideological bias is especially pronounced, it is simply no longer unusual to find some departments with not a single registered Republican. Is this healthy for our students? Is this conducive to developing well-rounded, critical thinkers?…
One study finds a third of staff would avoid hiring a known Brexit voter while many openly say they would feel uncomfortable mingling with a colleague who holds gender-critical views. Between one third and one half of left-leaning scholars would consciously mark a bid for a research grant lower if it adopted a right-wing perspective, which really matters because the ability of academics to generate funding has a major impact on their career trajectory. My own survey of academics in the world’s most elite universities similarly found that while two-thirds feel positively about left-wing voters, only one in ten feel the same way about right-wing voters…
Increasingly, in Britain and America, large numbers of academics, around six in ten, support requiring job and research grant applicants to submit ‘diversity statements’ before a decision is made. You don’t have to oppose or question diversity to find the use of these statements deeply problematic. Many influential voices consider them ‘litmus tests’ which are designed to weed out applicants who do not subscribe to the dominant orthodoxy…
One study finds less than half of left-leaning academics think academic freedom should always be put first, even if it violates social justice ideology; another finds that about one-quarter of academics would support some kind of campaign to oust a dissenting academic from their job. Recently, this has been symbolised by prominent cases of academics or honorary academics being harassed, investigated or experiencing negative consequences as a direct result of their beliefs or counter-cultural research, such as Kathleen Stock, Jo Phoenix, Tony Sewell, Selina Todd, Rosa Freedman, Michele Moore, among others. These are not exactly right-wing culture warriors.
This hijack of education has been building up for decades. Back in the sixties and seventies, a mindset became the progressive orthodoxy that the west was fundamentally corrupt — colonialist, imperialist, exploitative, racist and dominated by the “patriarchy” — ie, white heterosexual western men were to blame for all the ills of the world. Western society therefore had to be reconfigured, and the way to achieve this was by the “long march through the institutions” — of which the universities were key — to turn western values inside out.
This has now been achieved to the letter.
The corruption of the universities is at the core of most of our society’s ills. Knowledge and rationality have been replaced by ideological propaganda. Instead of teaching young people how to think, the universities have been instructing them what to think. The identity politics which they have enforced upon so many and turned into unchallengeable dogma has meant that increasingly people have been employed or promoted not on the basis of their intellectual achievement (which has been becoming progressively devalued) but their skin colour or sexual identity. All of which helps explain why, across the board in institutions, professions, businesses, politics and the civil service, so many are so incompetent, know so little and can’t even think straight.
The universities, supposedly the crucible of knowledge, rational thought and the free exchange of ideas, are now responsible instead for the closing of the national mind.
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