It has only been a few months since I started to focus on secular social justice radicalism and we have already seen many examples that simply cannot be defended or justified by those who value reason and critical thinking. Whether it is the professor who celebrated the arrest and death of college student Otto Warmbier, the faculty who helped instigate a witch hunt against evolutionary biologist Bret Weinstein, the professor who insists universities should stop hiring white males, the professor who bullied students by telling them college campuses are not free speech areas, the dean who maliciously smeared a faculty member for objecting to social justice training, the professor who angrily tries to justify the censorship of someone who published a journal article that supposedly violated the tenets to social justice, the college administrators who drove a student to commit suicide with their politically correct accusations, the sociologist who advocates for violence,or the various universities, like Middlebury College, McMaster University, and Berkeley, that shut down free speech by creating an environment that allows their radicalized students to engage in angry, even violent protests, all such activity is bizarre and unfitting for those who value reason and fairness.
Clearly, this is a widespread problem, as the small sampling above is a fraction of the cases that only happened to break into the wider public arena. What’s more, we’re looking at “rank and file” faculty who are not popular from universities all across the United States. We can expect many more examples once Fall Semester starts up. So how is it that the university system is undergoing an incremental transformation where ideology replaces objectivity and emotion-based thinking replaces critical thinking?
I think a huge causal factor behind the erosion of the universities is as follows:
American universities have leaned left for a long time. That is not a serious problem; as long as there are some people with a different political perspective in every field and every department, we can assume that eventually, someone will challenge claims that reflect ideology more than evidence.
But things began changing in the 1990s as the Greatest Generation (which had a fair number of Republicans) retired and were replaced by the Baby Boom generation (which did not). As the graph below shows, in the 15 years between 1995 and 2010 the academy went from leaning left to being almost entirely on the left. (The 12% in the red line for 2014 is mostly made up of professors in schools of engineering and other professional schools; the percent conservative for the major humanities and social science departments is closer to 5%. For more data on these trends and the rising imbalance, see Gross & Simmons, 2007; Inbar & Lammers, 2012; see latest study, Langbert et al. 2016, here; see many older links here). (emphasis added)
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:
Given that the major humanities and social science departments have effectively purged themselves of any conservative viewpoints, these departments have lost the ability to self-correct in the light of criticism and skepticism. This then sets the stage for intellectual inbreeding, where a groupthink dynamic begins to dominate and determine what is taught and studied. With this self-correcting mechanism eliminated, extremism emerges. With the intellectual inbreeding, the extremism mutates into monstrosities.
When almost all the faculty share the same basic metaphysical, social, and political outlook, it is much easier for extremists to flourish. Some of the more mainstream leftists might look upon the extremists with adoration, viewing them as people who get really excited about things that matter. Other more mainstream leftists might not notice just how extreme their colleagues are merely because they share many of those same metaphysical, social, and political outlooks.
What’s more, when all the faculty are cut from the same basic metaphysical, social, and political outlook mold, it is much easier to transform scholarship into activism. With no dissenting voices, the leftists can begin to view their ideologies as something akin to “settled science” and thus view activism as something that is implementing the “enlightened” view.
But let’s be clear. An activist is the antithesis of a scholar. The activist, by definition, has an agenda and becomes indistinguishable from a propagandist. Propagandists/activists excel at manipulating emotions, using logical fallacies as tools to persuade others into the preset conclusions. They adopt a closed-minded approach, where the ends justify whatever means they need to use to advance their agenda. Activists/propagandists really don’t belong in academia, as they are not truly scholars but are instead cut from the same mold that gives us used car salesmen and political campaign managers.
So by purging itself of conservative/opposing viewpoints, academia has created the very fertile ground needed for the emergence and sustenance of bizarre and irrational strains of extremism. Not only has the self-correcting mechanism been disabled, but the groundwork has been laid for activists/propagandists to deceptively present themselves as scholars to each other and the general population.
Of course, it all goes bad. What happens is that extremist propagandists need a bogeyman. That’s what is used to justify their extremism and rally their members with emotional manipulation. But once academia has purged itself of conservative scholars, the extremists begin to realize the more mainstream leftists can serve as the substitute bogeyman. And there is nothing better suited for this purpose than intersectional social justice theory. Ask Bret Weinstein, the evolutionary biologist who was a Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders supporter, yet is now treated as a member of the “alt-right.”
Extremists are in it for the long run. They know they need only increase their numbers and enlist administrative support and backing. As that continues, sooner or later they hit critical mass and they then complete their transformation of academia, where places like Evergreen State College are simply the tip of the spear that foreshadow the future of academia.
It really is a true shame what is happening to our academic system. Humans have never needed much help to take an irrational, emotion-based approach to life. One of the few places they could go to seek out another way was the university. But that way is slowly being stripped away. It’s a shame that so many in academia throughout the last few decades so selfishly put their own metaphysical, social, and political viewpoints ahead of their commitment to maintaining an environment that used and taught critical thinking and reason to pass on discovered knowledge. They have betrayed the mission of academia and us all.