American colleges and universities have increasingly become places hostile to free expression and inquiry, places where the pursuit of knowledge is secondary to the promotion of “progressive” values and feelings. But did you know that exactly the same contagion is at work on British universities? It is, according to Joanna Williams, who has written this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, “Academia UK: A Dictatorship of the Righteous.”
The dictatorship about which she writes is, of course, composed of the same sort of people who dominate our colleges — professors, administrators, and students who are so utterly certain that they’re correct that anyone who disagrees with them should be silenced. They have eagerly tossed aside the idea that schools are for the transmission of knowledge in favor of inculcating everyone with their beliefs.
Thus, we find the same kinds of phenomena in Britain that we witness so often here: the protesting of speakers who aren’t in perfect agreement with the zealots, the emergence of curricula that are heavily laced with politically correct attitudes, the idea that speech shouldn’t be free, but rather restricted to “experts” who support the leftist consensus, the attempt to screen out from faculty positions anyone who isn’t committed to leftist values, students who demand that whatever offends them be silenced, and so on.
Williams often encounters the groupthink problem. She writes, “The use of the word ‘we’ by academics to refer to the collective views of their colleagues crops up in discussing with surprising regularity. ‘We” suggests not just that the speaker feels sufficiently confident to talk on behalf of others, but also that there is a set of views that all ‘right thinking’ people obviously share.”
I have started reading Williams’ book Academic Freedom in an Age of Conformity: Confronting the Fear of Knowledge and will write more about it in the future.