Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Academic Freedom is Nonsense

Look: undergraduates—conservative, progressive, whatever—don’t need “freedom.” What they need is instruction, formation. They lack knowledge, which is why they pay a professor to share some of his. If they want, they can smoke pipes on the green in between classes and toy around with their half-baked musings about Nietzsche. But it would be insane for them to shell out $40,000 a year for a guy who wrote his doctoral thesis on German existentialism to sit by and quietly observe their efforts to explain Thus Spake Zarathustra to one another.

For all their faults, leftists still understand that college is about learning to distinguish between good and bad ideas, and that lecturers and tutors must have a certain intellectual authority over their students if that’s to be accomplished. The problem with modern left-wing academics is simply this: they’ve gotten True and False hopelessly mixed up.

Even then, however, we can’t blame professors for professing—only for professing error. When a tutor tells your son to use “their” instead of “he” or “she” in his essays because gender is non-binary (or what have you), that’s not mere propaganda: it’s bad science, and even worse grammar.

By the same token, university administrators are right to take an active interest in the moral formation of the young men and women in their charge. Sure, we may prefer single-gender dorms to consent classes. But we can’t dismiss college officials as “neo-puritans” because they want to protect drunk teenaged girls from the scores of male classmates who would readily seize the opportunity to rape them.

Anyway, it’s obvious we don’t believe all the rot we talk about colleges being a “marketplace of ideas.” We’d never demand that a Newman Guide school abandon its binary view of gender and “teach the controversy” by giving an equal hearing to theories about gender fluidity. We wouldn’t decry the Catholic University of America as “neo-puritan” for blocking porn on its wifi servers.

And that’s okay! Better to be a conservative hypocrite than a sincere libertarian. Besides, only a self-important fop like Voltaire would die for someone else’s freedom to be wrong. As conservatives and Christians, we know that Truth is the only cause worth our lives.

[Exerpted from The American Conservative. Read more!]

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