Political correctness and universities

It’s Dinesh, and your argument is ad hominem. D’Souza can be deeply flawed as a human being yet still advocate correct principles of freedom of expression.

I don’t actually like a lot of what D’Souza says about a lot of things. But he was right about the US university situation in 1991, and it’s worse now. The only ray of light is that since then a few more professors have had the courage to speak against the censorship of ideas, but they are still clearly a minority and don’t have nearly enough voting power on their faculties to make any difference to hiring, curriculum, etc. A good portion of the curriculum in most Arts subjects now is belly-aching expressions of political correctness and special interest group agendas (“grievance studies” is often the right descriptor), not good historical or literary scholarship, good philosophy, good social science, etc.

The Sokal Hoax showed wonderfully how politically motivated BS has found its way into social science theory. Unfortunately the infection has crept into the humanities as well.

Here again is the paragraph summarizing the data on this from the article that Josh cited.

“Yes, professors lean left (although with some caveats). But much of the research says conservative students and faculty members are not only surviving but thriving in academe – free of indoctrination if not the periodic frustrations. Further, the research casts doubt on the idea that the ideological tilt of faculty members is because of discrimination. Notably, some of this research has been produced by conservative scholars.”

Plus you have at least three people here agreeing that yours is not reflective of their experience in academia. I think you Eddie, like D’Souza, have a lot of petty grievances that you are inflating into some absurd culture war agenda.

@Eddie, if you took the time to read Krupa’s essay, you would know that this is not always the case.

Unless you have been frequently involved in the actual hiring of Arts professors – involved in departmental committees in philosophy, English, etc. preparing the job descriptions and interviewing the candidates and monitoring the hiring process and checking to make sure no prejudice is involved – your experience will not be adequate. I’m sorry, but I’ve known scores of Biology professors and I don’t believe that any Biology professor anywhere is involved in Arts departments at that detailed level. You might chat with some Arts colleagues now and then; you might be invited to do a guest lecture on evolution in a philosophy or religion course, or the like; but you aren’t involved in the day-to-day politics of running an Arts department, and on that level you have insufficient knowledge to judge the underlying atmosphere and motivations that produce the particular hirings and the particular curriculum.

I don’t need to read the essay, because my general principles already cover the situation: if there is genuine disruption affecting the presentation of the material, it is wrong, and the disrupting students should be disciplined. Strong religious belief does not justify interfering with the free presentation of ideas. I think you and I agree on that.

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We are at a somewhat small university where there is ample opportunity to mingle across departments and even across schools. I’ve been involved in at least two semester long university wide teaching workshops that were dominated by humanities professors, one of whom from the English department I’ve worked very closely with for several years now. Even in my own department there are several either openly Christian or openly conservative faculty, or both. I’ve been involved in academia in some capacity for thirty years now Eddie and wouldn’t paint the situation as you have, a narrative not in line with the evidence either showing no meaningful discrimination against either Christians or conservatives (see the article Josh cited)

All of whom are in the natural sciences. I have been speaking of the Arts subjects primarily, though sometimes the problem is found in sciences, e.g., Psychology. No one here, as far as I can tell, knows very much about curriculum or hiring practices in the Arts. I know a great deal about these two things, having been involved in numerous ways with Arts education since 1975.

You would do better to reflect on the philosophical principles I have set forth about freedom of speech and a free society, and respond to them, than to attempt rebuttals of my characterization of the situation in the Arts based on your very indirect involvement in Arts subjects and hearsay you have picked up. You do not appear to have sufficient knowledge of undergraduate Arts education for me to regard you judgments as informed or sound. If you want to speak about the situation in Biology, I will of course listen with an open mind to your first-hand experience, but your second-hand and third-hand reports about Arts classes and professors are not something I intend to spend any time rebutting.

Just to repeat the point - this sort of disruption is much, much more frequent than the sorts of censorship that @Eddie and many other conservative Christians imagine to be rampant. The supposed persecution of conservatives along these lines is a fantasy.

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And one of us has extensive collaboration with the English department and I have not seen anything remotely like what you are describing. In fact it’s more often the opposite.

None of which explains why the percentage of social, cultural, religious, and political conservative representation within Arts faculties approaches nowhere near the percentage of Americans who hold to conservative views. The students, with very rare exceptions, are hearing only one narrative, and it’s left/liberal/feminist/deconstructionist/etc. If the hiring process were ideology-blind, one would not expect such a one-sided faculty representation. But in fact like tends to hire like. The exceptions, where faculty members vote to hire a new member whose pedagogical, philosophical, political, religious etc. views they despise, on the grounds that he/she is a truly great scholar and/or a superb teacher, are few and far between. It is always easy enough to find a “good scholar” and “good teacher” whose views are more amenable to one’s own. This is what happens, most of the time. If you don’t believe me, I don’t care, because my firsthand experience counts for more than all your conjectures and secondhand reports.

As for your point that there are some openly Christian faculty in your biology department, that is mostly irrelevant, since for the most part when a biology professor is being interviewed for hiring, it is very rare that faculty would inquire about the person’s social, religious or political views; it is far more likely that they would discover such views only much later, after the person was taken onboard as faculty. But in Arts job interviews, in most cases, one’s views on social, religious or political matters are either up front (in the things the candidate has written) or can be divined from the candidate’s covering letter, teaching resume, answers to pointed questions, etc. And it is very typical in Arts job interviews for questioners to probe beyond the candidate’s technical expertise and to try to ferret out the candidate’s personal convictions. The nature of the Arts subjects, unlike the Science subjects, is such that it is very often hard to separate the academic from the man. If I tell you I have expertise in quantum physics, you have no idea what my religion or politics are; but if you see that I have published several works indicating a strong affinity to, say, Christian Platonism, you know a great deal about about my religion and possibly my political and cultural views as well, and if you happen to hate Plato’s guts (as many Arts professors do), or hate traditional forms of Christianity (as many Arts professors do) you can hold that interest against me when it comes to voting on whether or not I should be hired. My Platonic scholarship could be the most impeccable in the world, but if you don’t want a colleague who thinks that Plato might be more true than modern philosophy, you are not going to vote for me. This is the reality in the Arts – whether you admit it or not. You never had to face any such reality when you were hired. All they asked is whether or not you were competent biologist who could do research and teach in your field. Many of us in the Arts wish the situation were the same in our subjects, but it isn’t.

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I have to say I’m completely with you on this particular prong of your argument. There is this kind of ideology out there(just look at some of the crap that is thrown at someone like Steven Pinker) and it can be a real problem where it gains institutional and political power(look at the lunacy that occurred at Evergreen).

That said, I’m much less convinced about the magnitude and frequency of the problem, and I’m wary to let myself be hoodwinked by a caste of bad faith actors who want to abuse the kind of instinctive revulsion I feel against the kind of reality-denying political correctness some of these so-called feminist or leftist extremists exhibit, to advance their own extremist rightwing conservative, ultra-capitalistic, fundamentalist religious, and all too frequently also racist and xenophobic political agendas, by blowing the problem out of proportion in some attempt to shoehorn in an army of equally ideologically extremist conservatives in order to try to dominate systems of higher education. Thanks but no thanks.

One would think there has to be some more reputable work (by actual political and sociology scholars) on the topic of the scope and nature of the “political correctness” problem that’s spoken about so frequently in recent years, than the output of greedy, quasi-sociopathic charlatans like Dinesh D’Souza. I can scarcely think of a person who does more to discredit himself, short of perhaps Alex Jones.


Which you as a plant biologist, having nothing to do with the daily life of Arts departments in a secular university, couldn’t possibly know.

Thank you.

Are you located in North America? I’m speaking of the situation here, not in Europe, about which I know little. If you live here, you can find out what it’s like by getting to know people in undergraduate Arts programs and talking to them; you can talk to professors who will let you in on some of the dirty little political infighting that occurs whenever there is a new faculty hiring. I have been surrounded by people with Ph.D.s in the Arts for decades now, some on university faculties, many others shut out of faculty jobs, and it is this experience, corroborated by a number of writers who have had similar experiences, which has formed the basis of my view.

I mentioned D’Souza’s book because it was the first one to come to mind, but almost every day on the internet one can stumble across some new article by some professor or university president lamenting the death of the old idea of the university as a free-for-all of ideas where there were no orthodoxies and no taboos. The complaints have been coming in so steadily for over 30 years now, that they cannot simply be dismissed. Where there is smoke, there is generally at least some fire. I don’t much like D’Souza, personality-wise, but I don’t need him or his book to know that his complaint has an empirical basis.

I agree with you that in reacting against political correctness it is not justified to do a pendulum swing into extreme political views. But after all, those extreme political views, though unjustified in themselves, are partly sustained by the perception that political correctness has run amok and that someone needs to put the brakes on it. So I’m pleading, not for an extreme right-wing reaction, but for an open society in which all ideas are on the table for debate; it is the feeling of being silenced, of being told that they cannot say or think certain things, that incenses potential right-wing extremists and makes them all the more intransigent. Nobody likes to be told what it is permitted to think or believe. Far better to air all ideas in public, and then publicly destroy the bad ideas, in such a way that those who at first held those bad ideas admit that they have had a fair hearing, and have been found wanting.

If you tell a potential fascist that he will be punished (if not physically, then socially or economically) for criticizing socialism, you are virtually guaranteeing that the potential fascist will become an actual fascist, out of sheer reaction against bullying. He will see his fascism as a heroic resistance against Red tyranny. You don’t build a healthy moral and political consensus in society by intimidation and censorship. You build it by airing and testing all ideas in a publicly visible way.


Amen! I’m an intellectual conservative who is almost as repelled by the current Republican Party as by the Democratic Party. And even before Trump, the Republican Party was no great shakes, philosophically. “Conservative” doesn’t have to mean “favor the rich, ignore the poor”. Philosophical conservatism isn’t necessarily economically right-wing; it can be quite centrist. It can endorse public health care, environmental protection, a degree of gun control, and all kinds of other things that liberals endorse. But even moderate conservatives of the kind I’m speaking of are very rare in Arts faculties. The views in those faculties tend to range from center-left to far left. They are not representative of the full range of the American mind and soul. They are representative of a particular ideological slant. And the question arises, at least regarding the publicly funded universities, why the taxpayer should be funding an institution which does not accurately reflect the range of its own deepest values and concerns.


Do you have a job in academia Eddie?

I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for “potential fascists” and grant them whatever platform they want to be sure they don’t become “actual fascists”. LOL

Maybe the solution is for arts departments to hire as many “potential fascists” as possible along with potential racists and potential misogynists, you know so according to Eddie we can avoid fascism, racism and misogyny.

I think this is a good deal more difficult than that. Protecting the RIGHTS of people to express odious views and giving them a platform are two different things, and I certainly think it’s a valid reaction for people to be angry when a university has invited someone truly odious to speak. First Amendment rights are legal rights to not be punished for expression as expression; they’re not rights not to be subjected to a hail of criticism.

Now, that said, I am seldom on the side of the people who want to un-invite speakers and that sort of thing. The situation here in WA with Evergreen State was a nightmare. But I think we should not mistake the discussion about rights under the law with the discussion about people’s right to determine their own reactions to views expressed by others. This has little to do with rights as such.

It’s not always easy to know what the best method for countering an opposing viewpoint is, and nobody can be expected to give up advocacy. I feel about the same way about an ID Creationist coming to my alma mater to speak as I would about David Duke coming to speak, and while I wouldn’t be the type to show up and yell so that he couldn’t be heard, I would make my displeasure over the invitation of an anti-science fundamentalist known to anyone at the University who would listen. And surely there are people who ought to be denied a platform by any respectable institution; someone’s got to debate who and why and when.


I can’t think of any group of people whose existence is an insult to my religious and theological sensibilities as a Christian.

Off and on. I’ve been involved at every level of academia over the past 40 years, as student, teaching assistant, grad student, lecturer, co-instructor, participant in the development of novel teaching methods, participant in institutional review for degree-granting status, curriculum and course developer, member of departmental committees (including interviewing/hiring committees), graduate thesis defense examiner, peer-reviewed journal referee, presenting papers at professional conferences, publishing scholarly articles and books, and teacher of several subjects including undergrad writing skills, ancient languages, religion, politics, Classics, Great Books, etc. I’ve taught in several different secular universities, religious institutions, and community colleges, schools small and large, in classroom settings of all kinds. I have numerous friends and colleagues in Arts departments around the continent, and keep informed about the places where I have not actually taught through sustained conversation with them. So I know the “Arts” world pretty well. I would not talk about it so assuredly if I did not have decades of experience within it.

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