The Corner

Education

Ideas (Like the Bad Ones Kids Learn in College) Have Consequences

The most written about story this week has been the Google firestorm. A much less covered story was the taking down (at least temporarily) of a site, Quillette.com, that had posted commentary favorable to the Google engineer’s memo about the company’s diversity policies.

Professor Jonathan Anomaly, who has just moved from Duke to the University of Arizona sees connections between the firing of James Damore, the hacking of Quillette’s website, and what modern college students are taught. As he explains in today’s Martin Center article,

while some universities nominally promote “critical thinking,” this phrase has come to mean the study of bizarre subjects like “critical theory” that use bombastic and abstruse language to criticize Western civilization. Thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, Newton and Darwin, are cast aside in favor of Foucault and Derrida, Lacan and Zizek. What most of us mean by “critical thinking” is that students should be taught how to challenge authority in a disciplined way by recognizing common biases.

Moreover, many students are taught that their feelings and commitment to “social justice” is of such overwhelming importance that it overrides civility and justifies almost any kind of behavior against the hated Right. Thus, Google’s diversity apparatchik could only see Damore’s memo as an affront to her beliefs. Rather than reasoning with him, she wanted him terminated. (Never mind his value to the company as an engineer — he harbored wrong thoughts.) And the punks who took down Quillette because it defended Damore’s memo were also acting on their college training. Don’t try to argue with people who disagree with your beliefs — silence them!

Anomaly also indicts journalism and J-schools. Today’s journalism has little room for people who take the time to really understand a story. It’s much more important to crank out something fast, and that leads to pieces that are more about the writer’s emotions than about facts. Hence, he writes,

Some of the earliest headlines exhibited equal parts scientific ignorance and progressive bias in the use of language. When Gizmodo first published the email, the author omitted references contained in the original email and referred to it as an “anti-diversity screed” rather than an objection or an argument. Britain’s most popular newspaper, the Guardian, ran a popular story entitled “Google’s Sexist Memo Has Provided the Alt Right with a New Martyr.”

We should actually be thankful for the furor Google’s diversity mania has caused; it sheds much light on the rot within our education system.

Anomaly concludes: “At the bottom of these trends is a fundamental change in universities’ understanding of their own mission. The search for truth, wherever it may lead, has been replaced with a definite, inflexible worldview. Universities have abandoned their commitment to reason, evaluation of evidence, and freedom of conscience.”

I hope that the Martin Center’s site won’t be hacked because we published this very insightful article.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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