To those who spend much of their time in academic settings, the phenomenon I am associating with missionary regimes will be instantly recognizable. More and more in such settings, the learning agenda is controlled by cadres of so-called human-relations or human-resources professionals and their academic enablers, who, as the Yale English professor David Bromwich has described them, regard “learning as a form of social adjustment,” and believe that it is their business to promote “adherence to accepted community values.” Ideas thus are esteemed only insofar as they ordain a safe and accredited direction that we can learn, all of us, to follow. Dialogue is encouraged so long as it is rooted in approved suppositions and clearly headed where we must all want it to go. The atmosphere has about it, as Bromwich sharply observes, the qualities of “a laboratory that knows how to monitor everything, and how to create nothing” and “a church held together by the hunt for heresies.”
Durkheim is making a profound point here. He is saying that the pursuit of knowledge is made easier if there is a shared membership, which is what religion provides. So Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica raises questions that could not be addressed in a university today, because there is a Safe Space provided by the faith. And, in a way, that is what too many students today are whining on about – they can cope with knowledge only if they are given membership first, and membership comes through closing your mind around items of dogma. But they have no dogma! All they have is the sense that some people have power and that they are not among them (a belief which is false in both parts).
Source: Roger Scruton, Academic freedom in conformist times | spiked
The solution to this tension is surely open discussion in which everyone can participate. And yet, the prevailing ethos seems to be that if one feels hurt or offended that is the end of the discussion. You cannot understand another’s experience or arguments. But a liberal education is premised on precisely the opposite idea, one that requires not safe spaces to retreat to but a common space to engage in. And democracy requires that common ground, one that anyone can access. “I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not,” wrote W.E.B. Du Bois . “Across the color line I move arm in arm with Balzac and Dumas, . . . I summon Aristotle and Aurelius . . . and they come all graciously with no scorn nor condescension.”
Haidt is surely right the most endangered species of diversity on campus these days is political diversity. To which I would add: genuine moral and religious diversity. He’s also probably right that things will get worse before they get better.
So why is Haidt the best or most realistic of the evolutionary psychologists? His undergraduate major was philosophy! Take that, Senator Rubio!
It’s yet more evidence of the current absence of psychology. To go around exhibiting and foregrounding your wounds is a classic neurotic symptom. But people are so lacking now in basic Freudian consciousness–because Freud got thrown out of mainstream feminism by Kate Millett and Gloria Steinem and company. So no one sees the pathology in all this. And for Columbia to permit this girl to carry her mattress onstage and disrupt the commencement ceremony was absolutely ludicrous. It demonstrates the total degradation of once eminent and admirable educational institutions to caretaking nursery schools. I prophesied this in a piece I wrote in 1992 for the Times Literary Supplement called “The Nursery-School Campus”. At the time, nobody understood what I was saying. But I was arguing that the obsessive focus by American academe with students’ emotional well-being was not what European universities have ever been concerned with. European universities don’t have this consumer-oriented view that they have to make their students enjoy themselves and feel good about themselves, with everything driven by self-esteem. Now we have people emerging with Ivy League degrees who have no idea how little they know about history or literature. Their minds are shockingly untrained. They’ve been treated as fragile emotional beings throughout their schooling. The situation is worsening year by year, as teachers have to watch what they say and give trigger warnings, because God forbid that American students should have to confront the brutal realities of human life.
Nonetheless, I think that we are able to glean some insight from Plato’s writings that might be applicable to today’s multiversity. Regardless of whether we actually agree with the contents of Socrates’ ideas, what we find in Plato’s dialogues is Socrates constantly engaged in learning how to learn. It is worth noting that Socrates never claims how to teach; instead, he shows us how to learn. For Socrates, learning is less about mastery of a technical skill or acquiring a body of knowledge, but inquiry about something in the right manner and for the right reasons, and to persist in doing so, even if the initial answers fail to be satisfactory.