Have you been reading the website Heterodox Academy? Bookmark it; it’s terrific. Here’s an essay from the site by political scientist April Kelly-Woessner, in which she discusses how younger generations of Americans are less tolerant than older ones. She writes:
Political tolerance is generally defined as the willingness to extend civil liberties and basic democratic rights to members of unpopular groups. That is, in order to be tolerant, one must recognize the rights of one’s political enemies to fully participate in the democratic process. Typically, this is measured by asking people whether they will allow members of unpopular groups, or groups they dislike, to exercise political rights, such as giving a public talk, teaching college, or having their books on loan in public libraries.
It turns out that people in their 20s and 30s are measurably less tolerant than people in older generations. Kelly-Woessner pins the blame on Herbert Marcuse, the political theorist known as the “Father of the New Left.” Marcuse is perhaps best known for his idea of “repressive tolerance”, the title of an essay in which he called for “liberating tolerance,” by which he meant suppressing ideas and speech of the Right, because it is evil. Kelly-Woessner writes:
The idea of “liberating tolerance” then is one in which ideas that the left deems to be intolerant are suppressed. It is an Orwellian argument for an “intolerance of intolerance” and it appears to be gaining traction in recent years, reshaping our commitments to free speech, academic freedom, and basic democratic norms. If we look only at people under the age of 40, intolerance is correlated with a “social justice” orientation. That is, I find that people who believe that the government has a responsibility to help poor people and blacks get ahead are also less tolerant. Importantly, this is true even when we look at tolerance towards groups other than blacks. For people over 40, there is no relationship between social justice attitudes and tolerance. I argue that this difference reflects a shift from values of classical liberalism to the New Left. For older generations, support for social justice does not require a rejection of free speech. Thus, this tension between leftist social views and political tolerance is something new.
She goes on to say that intolerance is now being redefined as a social good, e.g., protecting victim groups from speech that makes them feel “unsafe.” Read the whole thing.
Take a look at this example of “liberating tolerance,” also up on the Heterodox Academy site. It’s a clip from a Portland, Oregon, anarchist’s meeting which was disrupted by protesters who accused organizers of creating an “unsafe” space by questioning rape claims. It’s bizarre — but if you watch it, be aware that there’s profanity in it, so it’s NSFW:
George Yancey says this appalling episode is an example of “education dogma,” which he says are “not the result of gaining more facts but instead are the dogmatic adaptation of certain social values provided to [those who hold them] by [the higher education] subculture. We see evidence of this in that it is clear that students like the ones in the video are not looking for more information to make accurate assessments, but simply look to affirm previously accepted beliefs.”
What are some of the Education Dogmas, according to Yancey? Here’s his list:
1. There is a campus rape culture that encourages the sexual assault of women.
2. A woman accusing a man of rape has vastly more credibility than a man who claims his innocence.
3. The earth is getting dramatically warmer due to human activity and altering that activity can stop or slow this trend.
4. Israelites settlers and the Israel government are as bad as or worse than Palestinian terrorists.
5. Fundamentalist Christians are morally the same as Muslim terrorists.
6. Military action in the Middle East creates more problems than it solves.
7. Criticism of Islam as a religion of terrorism is an example of Islamophobia.
8. Religious freedom is not as important as acceptance of sexual minorities.
9. Society would generally be better if traditional religion disappeared.
10. Marriage between those of the same sex should be seen as the same as marriage between those of different sexes.
11. Trans women should be allowed to use the same facilities as biological women.
12. The physical differences between men and women play no role in economic disparities between the sexes.
13. A woman has a right to an abortion for whatever reason she chooses.
14. Black men are targeted by the police.
15. Anti-Hispanic racism is an important part of what motivates those who oppose immigration reform.
16. President Obama is criticized more than previous presidents because of his race.
17. Raising taxes on the wealthy will improve our economy.
18. Political conservatives are either greedy manipulators exploiting the marginalized or sincere dupes voting against their own economic interests.
19. There is little, if any, correlation between hard work and economic success.
20. The United States is more damaging to the world than other western industrialized nations.
Let me be clear that I am not arguing that these statements are either right or wrong. For the record I agree with some statements and disagree with others. I am not arguing it is problematic that students on college campuses have these beliefs. I argue that it is problematic that they hold onto these positions with a dogmatic attitude where they are unable to entertain alternative perspectives. There are arguments opposing these statements that are not tied to evil motivations but consist of perspectives that differ from the tenets of education dogma. Yet those who hold alternative perspectives are not just wrong but they are– put in the proper term – racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, denier, sexist, cisgenderist, pro-rape, etc. They are heretics in a binary worldview where creative compromises and third ways, which require the critical thinking skills which we should be teaching our students, are ignored and only stigmatizing and silencing the heretic is allowed.
To underscore his position, Yancey, an African-American sociologist, says he has no problem with people who believe any of these things; his problem is with those who seek to silence those who disagree. Read his entire piece here.