Saturday, March 28, 2015

Are professors afraid now of challenging students?

This is an interesting read. Not because of what it says, which, looking around the internet, is a pretty common think piece fodder, but because it's coming from someone currently in academia instead of the relative safety of a mainstream publication:
Personally, liberal students scare the shit out of me. I know how to get conservative students to question their beliefs and confront awful truths, and I know that, should one of these conservative students make a facebook page calling me a communist or else seek to formally protest my liberal lies, the university would have my back. I would not get fired for pissing off a Republican, so long as I did so respectfully, and so long as it happened in the course of legitimate classroom instruction.
First off, this isn't a new complaint. Off the top of my head Daphne Patai's's Professing Feminism or Todd Gitlin's The Twilight of Common Dreams, both written twenty years ago, are part of a tradition of liberals criticizing the "illiberalism" of the progressive, activist left. The intersection of politics and academia are also nothing new, though social media has added an authoritarian twist. Freddie Deboer blames job insecurity as a contributing factor, but where in the past some small transgression would have stayed on campus, now a disgruntled student can turn to Twitter and Facebook and broadcast it to a larger audience. Colleges are forced to go into damage control mode. This is obvious. So obvious that it's barely merits mentioning.

But with articles like this one making the rounds weekly, the left needs to start paying attention to the bigger culture that says it's okay, even desirable, to punish someone for having the wrong ideas. It's baffling to me that someone would defend authoritarian tactics that get people fired over tone-deaf tweets, that shout down speakers who criticize the police state as "rape apologists," and that no-platform those whose ideas are supposedly so harmful they can't be said in polite company.