Sunday, February 8, 2015

Reason, objectivity, and truth, under seige

Steven Hayward recently finished a year on the faculty of one of our large state universities and reports on the experience in "Grievance School" in National Review. I suspect that his experiences in Boulder would have been similar at the university in my city. Some of his observations:
.... In most departments of political science, history, English, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and sociology, you will find several professors whose main focus is the holy trinity of race, class, and gender, along with their close correlates, post-colonialist, postmodern, and post-structural analysis. (If “holy trinity” seems like an infelicitous metaphor, you could go with the Four Horsemen of the Leftist Apocalypse instead: patriarchy, colonialism, privilege, and Israel.)  ....

Gradually coming into focus is the plain fact that today we have two universities — the traditional university, which, while mostly left-liberal, still resides on Planet Earth, and the grievance university, mired in the morass of postmodern obsession with oppression and privilege. You can still get a decent education, even from very liberal professors — I had several excellent ones as both an undergraduate and a graduate student — if they teach the subject matter reasonably, and I came to respect several far-left professors at Boulder who plainly held to traditional views about the importance of reason, objectivity, and truth. But these traditional hallmarks of the university — one might call them the original holy trinity of higher education — are fighting words to the postmodern Left, which openly rejects reason, objectivity, and truth as tools of oppression.

.... You could argue with a Marxist. Today’s ruling campus leftist ideology is indistinguishable from nihilism and rejects any consideration of nature as the ground of anything. In fact, invoking human nature is one of the surest ways of calling down ferocious denunciation from the campus Left.

The irony of today’s campus Left is the real privilege of identity politics, whose practitioners shout down anyone who dares question their premises. The current temper of the campus Left is way beyond social utopianism; it demands ritual conformism worthy of the Soviet purge trials or Maoist struggle sessions. When the campus Left cries out “Privilege!” it means “Shut up and conform.” .... [more, probably behind a subscription wall]