Friday, February 01, 2019

Too Hot to Handle: Locating the Thought Police

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Immanuel Can: This is super interesting.

Tom: Do tell …

IC: It’s a chart measuring what proportion of two-sided debate and its opposite, so‑called “social justice” indoctrination, is being practiced at the various university campuses in Ontario, Canada.

Escaping the Sausage Factory

Tom: I would reproduce that graphic here, but it belongs to the site owners at Campus Freedom Index, which is a side-project from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. If you’re interested, their page looks perfectly safe to visit.

I see what you mean though, IC. For parents who love their children and don’t want to send them to some sort of ideological sausage factory, comparing university experiences seems a very useful idea.

IC: There is a rather frightening amount of “hot” color on the chart, I think you’ll agree. Apparently it’s not equally bad in all faculties, and it’s better in some universities in the States. And it’s worse in others. But if you’re considering a university for somebody, I wouldn’t send my dog to Ottawa or Laurier.

Tom: Mine could probably teach them a trick or two.

Why Free Speech Matters

To be serious though, IC, you may be hitting on something important here. Let’s start with this: why should “free speech” and “free thought” matter to Christians? Doesn’t that sort of freedom allow for all kinds of dangerous ideas, like the ones that are currently reshaping our society?

IC: Yes, it does. And it also allows the better ideas that refute them.

If you believe in free speech, then you have to know that free speech allows all kinds of ideas. So, the question then is not “How can we prevent young people from encountering bad ideas” (as if Christians could reorganize the world so that bad ideas just wouldn’t exist), but rather “How can we best arrange the circumstances in which they encounter them, so that the good ideas are also heard?”

That’s the reason for freedom of speech. If you don’t have it, then for sure the bad ideas go unchallenged. The good ideas we don’t have to worry about — they’re good.

Tom: Okay, that’s definitely a practical reason, assuming of course that the counter-responses to the bad ideas actually get heard.

A Theological Basis for Freedom

But as Christians, do we have any theological basis for preferring a society that allows public discussion to one that does not?

IC: You mean a reason like “the gospel”?

Tom: Sure, absolutely. The gospel provides a very sound reason to pray for the freedom to share what we think. But do we have any philosophical basis for preferring individual freedoms to other possibilities?

IC: Yes. And, in fact, these philosophical reasons are intimately tied to the Christian ones, as it happens. John Locke, the great philosopher and founder of the entire human rights tradition, gives these very specifically.

Tom: Yes, the “right of conscience” that belongs to all men and is derived from the fact that we are created beings rather than mere accidents of the cosmos, and so on. You’ve covered that in another post, so we won’t get into it in detail. And so it’s no surprise to find that the greatest enemies of the expression of individual conscience today are also people who do not believe we are created beings. They cannot follow Locke’s reasoning, and thus they are unwilling to grant their fellow men and women the freedom to speak and act on the basis of what they believe.

Truth Suppression

IC: Yes. And paradoxically, as Locke saw, they take away other people’s God-established right to speak, and do it in the name of “rights” they could never possibly have if God hadn’t given any. So these people are being illogical. They are also being very, very dangerous, because in condemning freedom of speech they are opening the gate to others to “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. Additionally, they are creating the means of their own destruction; for when their own speech becomes politically incorrect (as all tend to become, eventually, as the world changes), the right to suppress free speech is the bludgeon that will be used against them.

Tom: We’re already starting to see that. It’s not just conservatives and “Nazis” running afoul of the SJWs; they devour their own at the drop of a hat. Classical liberals are just as likely to irk them as anyone on the right, if only because they show insufficient enthusiasm about the Progressive agenda. And this is happening on campuses all over North America, as these graphs demonstrate.

IC: Yes. Leftism is turning on the leftists. The devil eats all his own children.

Methodology and Metrics

Tom: So say you’re a parent trying to give your child advice about where to go to get an education. This is a very handy tool.

The chart grades each university in Canada in four areas: university policies, university practices, student union policies, and student union practices. The “methodology” page spells out clearly how they are doing the grading. An “A” under university practices, for instance, reflects (i) a “clear and unequivocal commitment to free speech on campus, set out in the university’s mission, statement on academic freedom, or other policy documents,” (ii) an absence of “speech codes”, (iii) no history of funding ideological advocacy groups, and (iv) an anti-disruption policy that prevents groups like Antifa from coming on campus to shout down or otherwise disrupt speakers.

Those are pretty clear metrics.

IC: Quite good. They don’t say anything about whether views have to be leftist, right-wing or centrist, whether they have to be politically correct or controversial, or even whether they are pro or anti-Christian, for that matter. Clearly, the creators of this poll are looking purely at the question of whether or not the opportunity for speech on campus is at least reasonably free for everyone. So this isn’t a partisan index: it would serve anyone’s best interests.

Where to Go and Where Not to Go

Tom: So, for example, Laurentian University in Sudbury gets an “A” in policies, while University of Ottawa gets an “F”. For a parent with a Christian child, that’s useful information. Now of course the child is probably going to make the final decision … but if they care about having the freedom to share what they believe, they may be looking for this sort of information themselves.

IC: Yes, one would hope. What’s really good, though, is that the universities are being held to an impartial metric that reveals how much they are determined to indoctrinate students, and to what extent they actually practice the spirit of intellectual freedom they claim to uphold. If you want to be indoctrinated, nobody says you can’t; and now you know exactly where to go to get it done. If you don’t, you know where to avoid. That’s good information for anyone.

No comments :

Post a Comment