Pseudo-Intellectual Assumptions

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THE NEW LEFT

THE NEW LEFT (Photo credit: SS&SS)

 

Having been in academia for so many years, and involved in creative writing for the past fourteen years, I have found many of the assumptions of academics and writers to be similar. Both classes would be considered intellectuals of a sort–I know it¬† takes a great deal of intelligence to do creative writing, and getting a Ph.D. takes a great of intellect and effort. When it comes to moral positions and politics, however, intellectuals seem no smarter than someone who could not make a D in English or science. On those areas, some of the “common people” have far more wisdom than the so-called intellectuals. The problem is that intellectuals believe that because they are experts in an academic discipline, they also have the practical reasoning to give good advice on political and moral positions. In these areas intellectuals often fall into pseudo-intellectuals. One way they reveal their ignorance is by their assumptions. Most academics and writers are liberals, and they assume falsely that other intellectuals and writers are all liberals like them. They also assume falsely that liberalism is self-evident rather than requiring justification and that any conservative is either ignorant, unethical, or both. The arguments of the academic and literary left, in my experience, are either abusive ad hominem, straw man, or poisoning the well. Very few genuine arguments are presented. It is easy to attack a person’s intelligence and/or character rather than engage in the difficult craft of good argumentation. Some academics and writers will listen to alternative points of view, but most, from my experience, are closed minded and identify the political and the personal. Conservatives, except for extremists, have no problems liking liberals personally or having liberal friends, and thankfully some liberals are the same way. But in academia and among many writers I have seen, liberals refuse to be friends with conservatives and tend to think they are bad people, especially those who defend traditional sexual ethics. Since the 1962 Port Huron Meeting, the New Left has gone on to dominate academia, poisoning it, most likely permanently. It is a shame that those who should be the most open to alternate points of view are often the most closed.

 

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Political Correctness and the Stifling of Debate over World Views

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No political correctness

One of the negative results of the tenured leftist radicals’ influence in academia has been political correctness–the aggressive advocacy of leftist ideology and the personal demeaning of those who disagree. Sometimes faculty members and students find that being demeaned by leftist professors and administrators is the least of their problem. I personally know two professors who were fired for attacking politically correct ideology. Both found other positions, one won a lawsuit against the school that fired him, but both are more hesitant to speak up against leftist positions, which is precisely what the radicals in academia want. At Vanderbilt University, Christian student groups are banned that do not allow those who disagree with the theological and moral teachings of traditional Christianity. This communicates the idea that traditional Christian views are not welcome in the public square of academia. When traditionalists are attacked, no rational arguments are given; rather, there are a plethora of personal attacks on those who oppose the leftist agenda, often vicious and using foul language. Such attacks are intentional and are an attempt to intimidate.

The most divisive moral issues in American society–the morality of procured abortion, active euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, the ethics of sexuality, including homosexuality, etc., are closely tied to specific world views. For example, the battle over the moral rightness of homosexuality is, to a significant extent, a battle between those who accept the malleability of human nature vs. those who believe in a stable human nature. This is not the only world view issue in this debate, but it is important, and a debate over different views on human nature and world views should be an important part of learning in academia. Instead, a new orthodoxy, more rigid than the most rabid of Christian fundamentalists, has invaded academia with speech codes, attacks on traditional Christians, dismissed students, fired faculty, and a shutting down of freedom of speech and free debate. Academia, the institution that should be at the heart of free debate that is essential for an educated human being, has become the New Inquisition, excommunicating all who disagree with a radical leftist agenda. Some schools have become more open since political correctness was identified, but traditionalists generally have a harder time in academia–that is bearable as long as open discussion of world view issues, including moral issues, is allowed to continue. Smaller schools that have not faced political correctness in the past, perhaps with some faculty and administrators falsely believing that they are being the wave of the future, may push for shutting down world view debates “to be like the bigger schools.” As radical faculty are hired who are loud, pushy, and intimidating, most faculty and administrators will give in to shut them up even if such cowardliness corrupts education. I have known liberal Democratic faculty who strongly oppose political correctness–hopefully the true liberals can join with conservatives in opening the university up to an open, frank discussion of world views. The faculty will learn more–and so will the students.

Traditional Moral Positions and the Public Square

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Freedom of Speech (painting)

Freedom of Speech (painting) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Canada, it is a crime to publicly assert that practicing homosexuality is a sin. In my ethics class, students regularly write on their essays that being a virgin until marriage is “prudish,” and they do not take seriously the traditional view that couples should refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage. In many academic settings, those who believe abortion to be morally wrong are silenced, to the point that the University Faculty for Life presents an option to its members to hide their membership in the organization so that their colleagues do not find out. The notion that there is objective right and wrong is excluded from most public schools, and moral relativism is taught as the gospel truth (and teaching it as such is, of course a contradiction).

It is true that freedom of speech does not, as the old saw goes, give anyone the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Surely being morally opposed to abortion or to practicing homosexuality or to premarital sex is not the equivalent to shouting “Fire!” Yet such opinions are being increasingly excluded from the public square, in academic institutions first, and then in the wider society.

I believe in academic freedom. If a student or faculty member wishes to defend the moral rightness of premarital sex, of practicing homosexuality, or of abortion, that student or faculty member should be allowed to have a say in the university square. But academic freedom also implies that those with the opposite views on these issues should be allowed to make their case. I am a conservative, but if a liberal student makes a strong case for his position, he will get a good grade on his test and will not be punished for his views. The situation should be the same for a conservative student who makes a good defense of his position in a class with a liberal professor. To give them credit, some liberal professors do give their students such academic freedom and believe in such for their colleagues. There is a subset of professors, however, who want to silence conservative voices, especially on controversial moral issues. Such violation of freedom of speech has taken place in some institutions of higher education, to the point that a professor in one school who presented a natural law argument against homosexual practice (and did not even claim to agree with the argument) was fired–until a court awarded him his job back. The problem is that he should not have lost his job in the first place. What is going on is that hostile rhetoric against moral conservatives is repeated so much that people begin to believe it (“they are haters,” “these people are filled with anger,” etc.). I have never understood why holding moral action A to be wrong implies hating the person who performs moral action A. I wish I could say that such an ignorant position prevails only in academia, but it is present in broader society. More and more the elites in academia, the media, and in Hollywood, are attempting to exclude traditional moral discourse from legitimate discussion and to push their views onto society as a whole. It may be just a matter of time before the United States goes the direction that Canada has gone (depending on election results, court appointees, etc.) and makes illegal conservative moral discourse on abortion and on sexual ethics. I wonder who the real narrow minded people are, the real bigots, the real haters. I would venture a guess that most of them are not moral conservatives.

Stop Being So Sensitive!

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I am utterly sick of sensitive people–not those “sensitive” in a good way, but those people who are professionals at being offended in order to get their way or get money. Those after money are only different in degree than someone who points a gun at someone and says, “Hand over your money.” Discussing certain issues is taboo at many colleges and universities due to the intimidation and (sometimes) violence of the left. Consider what has happened to conservative speakers who come to college and university campuses. While some are treated with respect, others have been shouted down or threatened physically (as Tom Tancredo was treated a few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, when a brick was thrown through a window by a thuggish group and

English: The Old Well and McCorkle Place at th...

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his talk was cancelled for the sake of everyone’s safety). In other cases, academics have lost their jobs when they criticized the politically correct mainstream–I know one personally. Most of them have either gotten their jobs back or been given a settlement since, thus far, the courts have respected freedom of speech. That could change in the future as Mr. Obama‘s appointments pile up in the federal judiciary.

Stifling discussion of controversial issues or only allowing one side to express itself does not allow room for learning and discussion. Some of the most productive class discussions I have experienced are when I bring up controversial topics or express “non-politically correct” positions. For example, I am morally opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Usually I am the only person in class holding that positions, and students are free to argue with me (and they do–vehemently). I learn something from their arguments and hopefully they learn something from mine. What if some “sensitivity Fascist” had said that my position on abortion should no longer be part of the “public square” because it offends some people? Since when did college and university students gain the right not to be offended. I do not mind the Marxist professor two doors down from me expressing his views to his classes as long as students are free to disagree and are not penalized for their positions. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if Marxist positions can be presented, so can conservative positions in economics, morals, philosophy, and/or religion.

There are so many issues on which this nation is deeply divided–sexual ethics, racial issues, gender issues, issues regarding the role of government in combating poverty, issues surrounding health care. If discussion is halted just because someone is “offended,” this only serves to increase resentment on the part of those who disagree with the position of the professional sensitive person. We become even more divided and angry at one another. The best way for the culture war to become a true war rather than a war by means of language is to stifle discussion.

If “sensitivity training” really dealt with bad behavior, I suppose there would be no problem with it–men and women are wrong if they are in a supervisory position and request sexual favors from an employee before they promote that employee. That is unethical and illegal, and it should be. If someone constantly tells sexual jokes after being warned not to several times, that is bad behavior that can and should lead to termination from a job. But a man who is of equal rank in a company to a woman surely has the right to ask her out unless the company forbids inter-employee dating. Often a woman really will have plans on the day the man wanted to go out, so he will ask her again. Now if she says no then, if I am not mistaken, society generally says “two time’s the charm” and the man should not ask her out again (although there are men who married women whom they asked out many times–and they remain happily married). If some professional sensitive woman whines about sexual harassment when a man asks her out in a nice way on a date, this is oversensitive behavior from someone who either hates men, is a psychopath, enjoys hurting people, or wants easy money. Have some common sense, folks!

Racial issues have become so sensitive that many people won’t talk about them lest someone be offended. I do not deny that there are racists in our society–every society has them–and that sometimes racists will discriminate against those of a different race. When the race card is overplayed, however, in cases in which it is unwarranted, eventually any racial incident comes across as “crying wolf” and genuine incidents of racial prejudice may be unnecessarily ignored. When any criticism of Mr. Obama’s policies is labeled “racism,” that ignores the fact that many people disagree with the President’s policies–including some who voted for him. I do not hate or even dislike Mr. Obama, but I disagree with a number of his policies–and that does not make me a racist. I am a conservative, so of course I will disagree with Mr. Obama on some points. What else would you expect?

Liberals gain their power by playing on the sensitivity and resentments of people. They play up the envy the poor have for the middle classes and the wealthy. They emasculate man by calling any comment “sexist” that does not fit their radical feminist agenda of changing human nature, either by denying differences between males and females or trumping up “female virtues” as superior to “male virtues.” Those positions are self-contradictory, of course, but to the liberal, especially to the “postmodern” liberal, coherence is not a truth preserving condition.

As outspoken as I am, I keep some positions to myself, not because they are wrong, but because I know there would probably be a professional sensitive person in the audience who would misrepresent my beliefs–knowingly. On religious and moral issues I am more outspoken. Political issues are not values free, but they are contingent matters about which people even of similar world views disagree, and I must pick my battles. But I have grown more outspoken over the years because I am sick of a false, hypocritical “sensitivity” stifling discussion, especially of conservative positions, on issues important for the good of society.

A Victory for Freedom of Speech in Academia

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Julea Ward, a graduate student in the counseling program at Eastern Michigan University, was expelled from the program. She had referred a homosexual client to another counselor since she would have been in the position of affirming the client’s sexual orientation as being morally acceptable, something that Ms. Ward did not accept due to her religious beliefs. Although the counseling program has a non-discriminatory policy on “sexual orientation,” there were procedures in place for a student to refer a client in case of values conflicts. Instead the university’s counseling program showed its intolerance for traditional Christian belief on the moral unacceptability of practicing homosexuality.

Ms. Ward sued, and the initial court ruling was in favor of the university. However, today a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling. In his opinion, Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton made it clear that tolerance is not a one-way street, and that the university was punishing Ms. Ward for her religious beliefs.

This marks a significant victory for freedom of speech and freedom of religion in academia. Many academics are products of the mindset of the 1960s, with its transvaluation of values and its support of positions inimical to those of traditional Christianity. It is far to say that many academics hate traditional Christianity and traditional morality concerning sexual ethics. Such vitriolic hated expresses itself in intimidation and sometimes dismissal of students and faculty who disagree with the “New Puritanism” (as my late friend Marion Montgomery called it) in academia. Often, when people like Ms. Ward fight back, they win in court (though with the radicalism of Mr. Obama’s appointees this may change in the future). Traditionalists in academia, both among faculty and students, should, of course, pick their battles, but when it becomes time to fight, they should fight aggressively. There are organizations such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Association of Scholars (NAS) who lend support for academics unfairly treated due to dogmatic ideology in academia. These organizations give hope to faculty and students who face discrimination, and the Sixth Circuit Court ruling today is a breath of fresh air.

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/12a0024p-06.pdf?utm_source=January+27%2C+2012+-+Press+Release%3A+Ward+v.+Polite+Decision&utm_campaign=NAS+E-Newsletter&utm_medium=email

 

What is “Global Interdependence”?

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Globe centred on Asia and Oceania - Satellite ...Human beings are not isolated, atomistic individuals. Both Thomas Hobbes and John Locke were flawed in holding that they are. Aristotle was on the mark when he said that “Man is by nature a political [i.e. social] animal.” Human beings share a common nature–they are “rational animals,” to use another of Aristotle’s terms. Human being are dependent rational animals–Alasdair MacIntyre was correct in focusing on the dependence aspect that is so often ignored in both Classical Liberalism and Social Democracy’s notion of “autonomy.” Humans are dependent on nature to provide an environment for the basic necessities of life and livelihood. They are dependent on other living things for food, clothing, and oftentimes companionship. They are dependent on other people from the moment they are born to the day they die, notwithstanding modern and contemporary claims of atomistic autonomy. The modern nation-state, established in root form at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, consists of people under one central government authority. Yet nation-states have never been wholly sovereign or autonomous, since their survival has been dependent on trade and cooperation with other nations. With greater integration of economies, it is easy to push “global interdependence” as a principle that removes sovereign nations and replaces them with a world unified, if not politically, at least economically and in terms of a melding of cultures. Many collages and universities push “Global Interdependence” and require that it be part of the core curriculum classes.

As good as this emphasis sounds, it is fundamentally flawed. While humans are not atomistic individuals and are, in fact, dependent on others for survival and well-being, this does not imply an artificial unity in which all cultures merge into one and the world becomes “one big happy family.” The end of the Cold War has led to the formation of nation-states divided along ethnic lines, even in parts of Europe (the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union). Cultures that have thrived thousands of years continue to thrive and demand freedom from the centralized government of the modern nation-state, as is seen in tribal resistance to the weak central government in Afghanistan. Blood and individual cultures have shown themselves to be thicker than utopian schemes of a New World Order. I do not buy into the conspiracy theorists about the New World Order–in the United States it has meant free trade and the ruin of American manufacturing, the destruction of local cultures with their rich diversity (something that pseudo-multiculturalists and proponents of a politicized “global interdependence” do not understand). Human beings develop their uniqueness in community best within local cultures that vary due to geography, tribe, history, religion, and overall world view. This is what unifies human beings in community, not a system such as the “European Union” that originally found its strongest support among French and German Marxists. It is interesting that Chancellor Merkel, a Christian Democrat, supports a strong European Union, but underneath her rhetoric is an assertion of German economic strength rather than a support of an abstract, artificial unity that harks back to the Roman Empire. Despite the claims of Pax Romana, the “Roman Peace” was filled with rebellions against the central government, including two Jewish revolts from 68-74 and from 132-135. Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., Europeans have gone through periods of searching for that lost unity, from the “Holy Roman Empire” to the current “European Union.” Thus, “global interdependence” cannot refer to an ephemeral political union, and with the decline of the great Medieval unifier of Europe, Christianity, there is no hope for any cultural unity within Europe. If any group has a chance of “winning” the clash of cultures in Europe, it will be Islam. Of course, since we’re so “interdependent,” even the most Islamist of Muslims will join together in one happy family in which local religions and local cultures do not matter (notice the sarcasm in that statement). “Global Interdependence” is a valid concept; the problem is when it obscures real differences between states, cultures, and ethnic groups as if they do not matter (moral and cultural relativism). That is the view of global interdependence that is being pushed by the successors of the 1960s radicals on American colleges and universities as well as in the K-12 educational system. It is a deeply flawed position and should not be used as a tool to indoctrinate students in a radical, utopian agenda.

What is Vanderbilt University’s Problem with Traditional Christianity?

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Vanderbilt Commons.

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Vanderbilt University has recently been “investigating” Christian groups on campus after an openly homosexual member of a Christian organization was expelled, not for being homosexual, but for openly stating that practicing homosexuality is morally acceptable. That belief violated the organization’s constitution. Such an attitude by Vanderbilt’s administration reflects a bias in academia as a whole, with the exception of those Christian schools who still remain traditional (and which are becoming fewer in number) against traditional Christianity. Many people in academia hate (and that word is not too strong) the moral views of traditional Christians: their opposition to abortion, to practicing homosexuality, to premarital sex, to a hedonistic lifestyle. The academics claim to be open minded and tolerant, but their open mindedness and tolerance ends at the door of traditional morality and religion.

I attended Vanderbilt from 1986-87 as a student in the Graduate Department of Religion. Conservative Christian students lived in fear of saying something that offended theologically¬† and morally liberal faculty members. I found the atmosphere far more stifling and intolerant than the very traditional Churches of Christ religion in which I was reared. If I talked to a traditional student about the bodily resurrection of Christ or about traditional sexual morality, the student would often look around, put his finger to his mouth, and say “Shhh…. you want to remain a student here, don’t you?” Even Professor James Barr, certainly no Fundamentalist or Evangelical, said in his parting article in The Spire, Vanderbilt Divinity School‘s newsletter, that there was closed-mindedness from the theological left at Vanderbilt. Although the philosophy department was a bit more open-minded, it was still hostile to traditional Christian moral positions on sexual ethics. It is no surprise, then, that the Vanderbilt administration shares such hostility and is willing to enforce it by discrimination against Christian groups’ rights to determine which members meet their standards.

If a student wanted to join a chess club but openly argued that a knight should move like a bishop and vice-versa, and then tried to use that rule in the games he played, any self-respecting chess club would expel that member for violating the standards of chess. In religion, however, both secular agnostic and atheistic university administrators as well as liberal administrators of all faiths, refuse to allow traditional Christian groups the same privilege. Would the administration be consistent and investigate Muslim or Orthodox Jewish groups who also accept traditional moral values? Or is it only traditional Christianity that is the target of administrative ire?

Concerned alumni who disagree with these administrative moves at Vanderbilt (and at other colleges and universities) need to speak up–and if the administration ignores them, to talk with their closed wallets. Legal measures are also an option, as well as communicating what is happening to other traditionalist of all religious stripes as well as to sympathetic secular people who recognize the academic totalitarianism in the attack on Christian organizations. A strong, concerted, and consistent response is essential to keep administrators in line with their supposed commitment to freedom of speech and religion.

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