The quotation “Shut up! he explained” is borrowed from Ring Lardner. I am using it to describe politically correct speech codes. Of course, “political correctness” is itself a politically correct euphemism for punishing people who express ideas that do not accord with leftist dogma.
The University of California, my alma mater and formerly one of the leading universities in the world, has descended to the level of a totalitarian institution, where speech and even thoughts must be controlled – or else.
And who issued this decree? The President of the University, Janet Napolitano. Yes, that Janet Napolitano, formerly secretary of Homeland Security, where her reputation was marred by both over-regulation (think TSA pat-downs at airports) and under-performance (think a border more theoretical than real). She was often parodied as the totalitarian Big Sister.
In my day, university presidents were eminent scholars who were chosen for their leadership qualities. But things have changed. Now university presidents are chosen for “diversity.” But diversity of what? Academic achievement? Some have it and some don’t. Scholarly publications? Some have them and some don’t. Devotion to free enquiry? Some have it and some don’t. There, is that diverse enough for you?
So what are these regulations for the University of California? As you read them, imagine how you would feel as a faculty member or student. You would have to watch every word you uttered or wrote, for fear you would be reported to the authorities for “incorrect” thoughts.
If the Rev. Dr. King were resurrected and came to lecture at the University of California, his famous “content of their character rather than the color of their skin” would be viewed as a crypto-racist “micro aggression.” The renowned advocate of racial equality would be seen as a racist himself. How inexpressibly sad.
The problem is not the specific items that are forbidden. We all can think of things we would rather not hear. The problem is that some people believe they entitled not to hear anything that interferes with their biases and preconceptions. The problem is that other people believe that they have the wisdom to know what should and should not be said, as well as the power to enforce their will on others. – others who are too stupid and ignorant to know what is good for them.
This is not merely a theoretical concern. When I was a faculty member at a leading university (not U.C.), a new section chief came in who did not like me. He encouraged others to eavesdrop and report anything suspicious I said. I was actually called into his office and criticized for something someone had misheard. At this point I knew I had to ask for a transfer to another section.
The fact that I had not said what I was reported to have said, and could prove it, didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was to get away from the toxic atmosphere of eavesdropping and reporting. In my case this was possible, because only that one section was afflicted by this disorder. But in the case of U.C. and many other universities, the entire institution is afflicted.
The only escape is to leave academia altogether – that is, to abandon one’s career, forsake one’s calling, and give up one’s source of income. A professor of medicine, law, or engineering may be able to get a job elsewhere. But what are the prospects for an unemployed professor or history, or Romance languages, or anthropology? This, among other reasons, is why university faculties are generally so sheep-like in their acquiescence to overbearing administrators and irrational rules.
Besides, who wants to eat lunch alone? The moment colleagues get the idea that you are on the outs with your department chair or dean, they don’t want to be seen with you. If you sit down at the lunch table, they will glance at their watch as if they just realized they are late for a key committee meeting, grab their tray, and hurry away without finishing their meal. This actually happened to me. If you look in the dictionary for “courage,” you will not find their pictures.
And if you express even mildly conservative opinions, they will not eat lunch with you at all – after calling you a “Nazi.” Yes, this happened to me as well.
My purpose in condemning the goings-on at U.C. is not to blame Janet Napolitano specifically. My purpose in mentioning my own trouble is not to gain sympathy. Instead, my purpose is to ask this question: If you were a student or a faculty member who was subjected to this intellectual inquisition, would you feel free to pursue your research?
Would you feel free to pursue a study of global warming, if it might show there has been none since the turn of the century? Would you feel free to pursue a study of child-rearing, if it might show that children of a man and woman married to each other did better than children raised by a single parent or a same-sex couple? Of course you would not. Such studies would never be funded. And even if they were done, they would never be published, and you would never be promoted or given tenure. Your career would be over.
Remember these points when you read that “studies” confirm the current liberal orthodoxies. Of course they do.
Putting blinkers on a horse leads it to pull the wagon in a straight line. Putting blinkers on the human mind leads it to go straight ahead in the “correct” path and never look to one side or the other. We ridicule the Church for attempting to muzzle Galileo four centuries ago. But our own universities are doing something similar today – and we should know better.
Do you really believe that we can retain our position as a world leader in science and technology, if our finest minds are constrained in this manner? How many discoveries that might benefit humanity will not be made, if young scholars fear to challenge accepted beliefs? How many young minds will be stunted, if they fear to ask relevant questions of their professors?
And to this censorship we add the general dumbing-down of the educational system. We read “Macbeth” in high school. Now you can graduate with a degree in English from UCLA without having read a word of Shakespeare, Chaucer, or Milton. But you are required to study “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.” Have a nice day.
“Shut up!” is not an explanation. It is the antithesis of an explanation. It is the opposite of education. It is the essence of indoctrination.
This muzzling of dissent is occurring in many if not most universities. Note the Christmas tree removed from the law school because a few students felt “excluded.” Note the American flag removed from the student council offices because it might cause “hurt feelings” among illegal immigrants. Note the Christmas program banned but the Mexican Cinco de Mayo program allowed to proceed.
In these instances, as with speech codes, the “tolerance,” “sensitivity,” and “diversity” are exclusively one-sided. Only liberal opinions are tolerated, the administration is sensitive only to the feelings of progressives, and diversity refers only to the variety of leftist views.
But, you ask, what about the American Association of University Professors, long the advocate of academic freedom? Like most other professional organizations, it was taken over by so-called progressives. Don’t expect more than a pro forma protest against politically correct speech codes – if that. No, the current advocates of academic freedom are the National Association of Scholars and the Freedom Center. They deserve your support.
As befits an academic subject, we can summarize this regrettable situation with two equations:
(1.a) Leftist dogma + cowardice = political correctness
(1.b) Scholarly research + political correctness = 0
The universities, formerly the strongholds of academic freedom, open-mindedness, and free enquiry, are degenerating into the indoctrination machinery of an all-powerful state. The process is already far advanced. Add to this the fact that more and more young people are forced to attend universities in order to have any chance of a good job, and you have a recipe for the death of freedom.
Speak up now, while you still have the opportunity. Soon Big Sister will tell you to shut up, and when she speaks, you’d better listen.
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