Hey readers, you will likely have noticed that you can’t access comments now. That’s because some work is being done on the website. This too shall pass.
Over the weekend, one of you sent me this blog post by Razib Khan, who reflects on how political correctness and progressive ideology is destroying universities as a place for study of the humanities. He comments on a recent speech given by Alice Dreger, the historian of science, and an atheist as well as an old-fashioned liberal (you can watch her speech in an embed inside Khan’s comment). Dreger is a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and inquiry within academia, holding that a university cannot do what it must do if it doesn’t protect controversial speech. Khan comments:
Though I hope that Dreger and her fellow travelers succeed in rolling back the clock, I suspect that the battle here is lost. She points out, correctly, that the total politicization of academia will destroy its existence as a producer of truth in any independent and objective manner. More concretely, she suggests it is likely that conservatives will simply start to defund and direct higher education even more stridently than they do now, because they will correctly see higher education as purely a tool toward the politics of their antagonists. I happen to be a conservative, and one who is pessimistic about the persistence of a public liberal space for ideas that offend. If progressives give up on liberalism of ideas, and it seems that many are (the most famous defenders of the old ideals are people from earlier generations, such as Nadine Strossen and Wendy Kaminer, with Dreger being a young example), I can’t see those of us in the broadly libertarian wing of conservatism making the last stand alone.
Honestly, I don’t want any of my children learning “liberal arts” from the high priests of the post-colonial cult. In the near future the last resistance on the Left to the ascendency of identity politics will probably be extinguished, as the old guard retires and dies naturally. The battle will be lost. Conservatives who value learning, and intellectual discourse, need to regroup. [Emphasis Khan’s. — RD]
Read the whole thing. Khan says that the only real future of American universities is to turn them into STEM factories — technical universities, that is — and to privatize traditional humanities learning in “safe spaces” for it. Khan writes:
Those of us who read and think will continue to read and think, like we always have. We just won’t have institutional backing, because there’s not going to be a societal consensus for such support.
There is precedent for this sort of thing. In communist Czechoslovakia, dissident academics who were dismissed from universities for not agreeing to parrot the party line set up underground classrooms where they taught real history, real literature, and so forth. This is how they kept cultural memory alive in the face of the power-holders’ ideological attempt to eliminate it. In my forthcoming book The Benedict Option, I explore the emerging potential for this model in our country.