Best and Brightest?

College and University campuses across North America are becoming ideological echo chambers. Universities have historically been a place where the best and brightest minds of our societies would have their ideas challenged. It would provide students and academics a place where all ideas could be presented, debated, and depending on how much evidence you’ve shown to support your ideas accepted or rejected.

Today, campuses have become the exact opposite.  Constant de-platforming and an exclusively left-wing bias that is enforced with an iron fist that even the KGB and Stasi would be proud of. Any conservative speaker who is invited to speak at any university is heckled. Protesters often interrupt the events by taking the stage with chants or pulling the fire alarm. Protests and hecklers reached their peak at the University of California Berkeley campus where riots were organized by students, and the far left group ‘Antifa,’ outside of the auditorium where speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to speak.

They proceed to graffiti the windows, light fires, through objects and assault those who were waiting for the speaker. Having a make America great again hat made you a particular target for the angry mob. Something very similar happened again at UC Berkeley when Ben Shapiro a conservative jew who was also invited to speak.

Image result for uc berkeley milo

The university had to brunt the bill for both events that cost them more than USD 800,000 for security fees.

In Canada, things are very similar to the United States. De-platforming in universities and an ultra-liberal bias in academia. The most high profile case here in Canada has been that of Jordan Peterson. Who was reprimanded for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns in class to one of his students and was opposed bill C-16. His lectures became popular on youtube after the massive wave of media attention. He became a symbol for many young Canadians and Americans of the excess of the liberal left and the importance of freedom of speech on university campuses.

A cellphone video captured by fourth year student Ali Yazdankia has been widely viewed on Facebook. It shows the second leg of Peterson's talk, when he was outside, speaking both to and over the crowd surrounding him.
A cellphone video captured by fourth-year student Ali Yazdankia. Peterson’s talk, when he was outside, speaking to the crowd surrounding him at McMaster University (Ali Yazdankia/Facebook).

The second most highlighted incident was at Wilfrid Laurier University.  Where Lindsay Shepherd a teacher’s assistant was reprimanded for showing a video of Jordan Peterson in her class. Her reasoning for showing the video was to show what the other side of the argument said about the gender pronoun debate.

But what is causing this?

Universities have become very dominated by progressive ideology. A study in the United States found that in university programs of economics, history, communications, law, and psychology Democrats outnumber Republicans in a ratio of 11 to 1. I suspect that the trend is very similar here in Canada. What is concerning is that the left-wing bias has bled over into the education where only progressive and leftist ideologies are expressed to the students.

Teachers instead of showing both sides of the argument often cement their bias into the courses they teach. Furthermore, sometimes classes will be overwhelmingly in agreement with their ideas and instead of playing devil’s advocate or encouraging students to look at the other side they demonize, exaggerate, underrepresent and discourage these ideas.

College Republicans began a twitter campaign called #MyLiberalCampus where they asked Republicans at colleges to express their experiences in liberal campuses. Unfortunetly for them it did not catch on.  However, the conservative Leadership Institute opened their first the website called Professor Watch.  Because of its success it later became merged with the main site called Campus Reform. The website became a place where students and professors would submit instances of liberal bias in Academia as well as to report instances where students where being reprimanded for expressing their political opinions at universities.

A diversity of opinion?

Universities should stand as complete free speech zones where all people can feel safe expressing their opinions regardless of political affiliation, race, gender or even if they a considered controversial. Often if a student disagrees with common perceptions such as, but not limited to ideas of diversity, affirmative action, or immigration they are immediately branded with the now unfortunately common terms of  ‘racist’ or ‘bigot.’ Even if they formulate a solid argument or have a legitimate concern about the topics they are still subject to all types of vitriol, scorn, and censorship.

What is important to highlight is how many of those who call for diversity in other aspects of life do not bat an eye at the lack ideological diversity in today’s campuses. Keeping a diverse set of opinions in colleges will only add to the quality of the education. If universities are in charge of training our best in brightest, they should be allowed to question anything and everything.

If we cant, have these hard conversations and converse the issues at the university where is it acceptable for them to happen?

The ideological echo chamber in universities is only fueling the political divide in our societies. The climate has pushed people to the discuss the controversial topics on the internet, not in the classroom.  Even though the internet is a convenient tool that has made out lives much easier it is also home to very radical ideas.

One of my professors told the classroom once: “on the internet, you  are always two clicks away from the daily stormer”.

It is clear to see the direction the internet is going. On the popular video hosting platform Youtube, which is considered one of the most popular websites for young people,  hosted a debate stream which featured Richard Spencer and other prominent members of the ‘alt-right’. This stream was number one trending video on the platform and amassed more that 300,000 views. Pushing ideas to the fringes, de-platforming speakers, the rhetoric sometimes used by liberals and hostility to anything not progressive or left wing is why the ‘alt-right’ has begun to multiply on the internet. Preying on young people who cannot express their feelings and opinions. They are susceptible to arguments by pseudo academics of the likes of Dr. David Duke or by descoussion blogs like the now infamous /pol/ board on 4chan. These ideas will only fester and grow if they cannot be addressed, debunked and clarified in the classroom.

Whats more dangerous however is that those calling for censorship do not realize that political paradigms do not last forever. In the 90’s they censored what they thought was satanic and demonic content. It failed and only put these ideas into mainstream thinking. In the future who knows who will be in charge and what ideas the censorship we have today will bring into the mainstream.  It is dangerous and totally irresponsible to set to limit what can be said and discussed in the bastions of knowledge and progress of our societies.

One Reply to “Best and Brightest?”

  1. Schools should no doubt be a place of open democracy and free speech. Every student body is different, however your statistics about the high rate of students who identify as ‘liberal’ does not surprise me. I do not believe it is something to be skeptical about. Most students know their rights of free speech and are confident in expressing their opinions. The Jordan Peterson case is very interesting and I would agree that the issue boils down to free speech and sex/gender rights. Part of free speech is having to deal with extremists, however it can be important for these people to raise their voices. When people hear something they do not agree with it can reinforce their own beliefs. Voicing your opinions is also important to receive feedback and be able to have a discussion. Your argument about a class of students having an overwhelming opinion on a subject and not playing devil’s advocate is important. It is important to look at all sides of an issue in order to make a judgement on it. Having open and unbiased discussion is critical for integration and development. While it is not ideal for an audience to heckle a speaker they do not agree with, it is also the right of the audience to speak up and challenge a person on their conflicting beliefs. As history teaches us, we cannot enforce our beliefs on other people. We can only show them what we think is right through our own success.

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