What was Paul Ramsay thinking? In dedicating part of his estate’s $3 billion endowment to course work at an Australian university, the healthcare mogul should have known the sort of academic disciplines certain to excite the higher education sector.
The Ramsay Centre for the Enhancement of the LGBTIQWTF alphabet would have had staff at La Trobe University, home of the Safe Schools program, doing cartwheels.
The Ramsay Centre for the Study of Colonial Genocide could have been built as an annex to the QUT’s notorious Indigenous safe space, helping to develop 364 alternative dates to Australia Day. Yet there was Ramsay, idealistic to the end, wanting to focus academic attention on an obscure concept known as ‘Western Civilisation’.
Hadn’t he read Foucault and Derrida? Didn’t he know enough about post-modernism to understand there’s really no such thing as democracy, individual rights, economic development or advanced healthcare and education? They are all social constructs, a capitalist conspiracy to make us think that reason and rationality, the values of the Enlightenment, are worthwhile.
Poor Paul, he dedicated his money to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. Last week the Australian National University said it didn’t want to proceed with negotiations to create a Ramsay-funded undergraduate degree.
ANU already has a Centre for Islamic Studies and a Centre for Indigenous Studies, so why fluff around with the civilisation that introduced equal rights for women and invented useless, irrelevant stuff like the steam engine, electricity and the Internet? Better to stick with burqas and boomerangs.
In case its anti-civilisational status was in doubt, ANU made another important announcement last week. It downgraded the importance of the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR), creating additional criteria by which students can gain university entry. As ANU’s Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt declared, ‘We are looking to recognise skills outside the classroom that enrich a person’s potential.’ Of course they are.
Why bother with pesky notions of academic rigour, expecting students to study hard and achieve top marks, when Leftists like Schmidt can rejig the admissions system along ideological lines?
One of the so-called skills students require is ‘Inclusion and Awareness of Diversity’. This is defined as: ‘Awareness, acceptance and respect of the broad range of gender, culture, language, religion backgrounds of ANU student, staff and community members.’ I thought universities were against plagiarism. This is a direct lift from the identity politics playbook. It means conservatives and libertarians, in refusing to worship at the altar of ‘diversity and inclusion’ (DNI), will be disadvantaged in trying to get into ANU.
It’s a stunning breach of the principle of political impartiality in education. Instead of treating all students on their academic merit, Schmidt has created a PC-thought test for sifting through entry applications. If an 18-year-old believes in individualism, rather than collective notions of inclusion, it shouldn’t affect their chances of going to university. So too, they shouldn’t be forced into mindless ‘acceptance’ of open-ended diversity.
A young Adam Smith or Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand, for instance, would be marked down for their lack of DNI skills, most likely missing out.
The new system also discriminates against committed Christians. I asked the university’s spokeswoman if someone like Israel Folau would qualify, but she refused to answer. Schmidt’s system is a classic leftist attempt at indoctrination, to re-educate those who have ‘unsound beliefs’. Ironically, this approach weakens diversity of opinion on campus. It’s the antithesis of what a quality education should provide: an environment of inquiring minds and contestable ideas. Imagine this had occurred during the Howard era. The PM and Education Minister would have read the riot act to ANU, defending the rights of Christians, conservatives and libertarians.
Yet Malcolm Turnbull has been silent while his supine Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, has actually endorsed the new system. ‘The changes being introduced by ANU are a win for students and their families’, he said in a press release. What a fool. Birmingham supports an admissions system that discriminates against people traditionally associated with his side of politics. It’s further evidence of the ideological collapse of today’s Liberals.
The story gets worse. After I questioned ANU about its new policy last week, its Senior Communications Officer, Aaron Walker, mistakenly emailed me a message he had sent to his boss. Walker described me as making a ‘high risk query’ that was ‘hostile towards the university’. How’s that for impartiality from a publicly-funded body? My fate was the same as the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. I was too risky to deal with, having questioned the political agenda of ANU’s leftist cabal.
Often in public life, institutions can become so culturally damaged, so mutant in their thinking that the only solution is to close them down and start again. This is true of the ABC, for instance. It’s also a massive problem in higher education, as the ANU shows.
Australia urgently needs a government willing to clean out the university system, to place it in the hands of people who believe in the virtues of Western civilisation. Drain the swamp.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free