“Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice” [Darleen Click]
Of course, even the word “justice” is defined by Ms. Korn of Harvard to serve her political agenda.
If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?
Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.
The power to enforce academic justice comes from students, faculty, and workers organizing together to make our universities look as we want them to do.
Ms. Korn — listing among her interests socialism, the labor movement and being angry about gender — has to condemn academic freedom in order to be a champion of the anti-Semitic boycott of Israeli academics
Those defending the academic boycott should use a more rigorous standard. The ASA, like three other academic associations, decided to boycott out of a sense of social justice, responding to a call by Palestinian civil society organizations for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions until Israel ends its occupation of Palestine. People on the right opposed to boycotts can play the “freedom” game, calling for economic freedom to buy any product or academic freedom to associate with any institution. Only those who care about justice can take the moral upper hand.
Peter Wood comments
This is by now progressive dogma. No one is innocent. Everything done in the name of seeking truth, getting to the facts, paring away illusions, or setting aside bias is itself an act political advocacy, even if the politics are well-hidden.
The everything-is-political premise is a kind of conspiracy theory, and it is used by those who want to bring their own politics front and center in the academy to sweep aside the older ideal of disinterested scholarship. ‘Nothing is truly disinterested, so let’s just get on with advocating the things we like.’
This kind of assertion is day-in-day-out self-justification for much of the academic left. If we criticize the history department at Bowdoin College for paying little attention to the American Founding, up pops a Bowdoin history professor to remind us, in effect, that nothing is truly disinterested, and the Bowdoin History Department has bigger race-class-gender-and-environmentalist fish to fry than the tired old American founding. If we criticize the University of Texas at Austin History Department for making 78 percent of its freshman courses race-class-gender themed and neglecting entirely areas such as philosophical and intellectual history, up pops a UT history professor to say, in effect, nothing is truly disinterested…
The nothing-is-truly-disinterested line is not a regret or a worry about how hard it can be to filter out bias. It is a jubilant declaration that we don’t even have to try. We can skip the vegetables of fair-minded inquiry (which is, after all, impossible) and go straight to the delicious dessert of teaching our favorite ideology.
By invoking the nothing-is-truly-interested and everything-is-political dogma, Ms. Korn was simply repeating the governing principle of today’s politicized academy. But her next step was audacious and original. Why not simply subordinate academic freedom to the pursuit of academic justice? Given the premise that everything is political, why not? The notion of “academic freedom” is encumbered with the sense that traditionalists, conservatives, and apolitical scholars could claim it too. Allowing “academic freedom” to take up rhetorical space means always having to fight off pesky claims that people like Professor Richard J. Herrnstein and Professor Harvey Mansfield have a right to be heard as well. Let’s skip to the main point. Politics determines who gets to speak, and let’s just say that and be done.
h/t David Thompson
And Bruce Bawer does the yeoman’s work of finding out just how and why Sandra Korn behaves as a Marxist Utopian cliche — Rebel without a clue.
Sandra Korn is, then, the child of two parents who, taken together – to judge by their CVs – personify pretty much everything she’s rebelling against. She’s a product of precisely the kind of upper-class American suburban life for which she has professed an ardent class contempt. And she’s about to collect an immensely valuable diploma after utterly squandering a magnificent, world-class opportunity to actually learn something. Instead of grasping this opportunity, she’s spent the last four years marinating in her own ideology by writing articles, participating in activism, and taking “courses” that are about nothing more than Being Ideologues Together. There’s no sign that she’s been educated at all, in any sense of the term – no sign that she’s learned anything of significance about, say, history or economics, no sign that she’s developed any understanding of the way the world works, no sign that she grasps the concept of challenging one’s own assumptions by taking in unfamiliar facts and grappling with ideas different from one’s own. She mentions her professors in her columns only to upbraid them. (Several of her profs, for example, have urged her to work on not saying “you know” and “like” in every sentence – which she rejects as an effort to make her speech patterns more masculinist.) She gives every indication, in fact, of having arrived at Harvard believing that she already knew everything she needed to know and of having viewed her presence on campus as a chance not to obtain a first-rate education but to roil the waters in a very big pond. [...]
I focus on Ms. Korn because she’s one of the most prominent voices at what is by far America’s most prominent university, and because she’s a highly representative figure whose views are standard issue for a great many privileged young Americans today. And at the very heart of what makes her representative is the fact that she hasn’t got an original thought in her head – and doesn’t even realize it. She’s swallowed an ideology whole and learned to spit it back. Her unoriginality, her predictability, are matched only by her colossal self-assurance; she’s clearly never entertained any serious doubt that she belongs to her generation’s intellectual crème de la crème. For all her rage against America’s cruel classism, she never questions, in any of her many articles, the elite status she herself enjoys, perhaps only because her father is a well-to-do Harvard alum.
Tags: academic freedom, harvard, progressive, sandra korn