Features Australia

Our universities are dying

6 July 2019

9:00 AM

6 July 2019

9:00 AM

Examples of how universities have been captured by politically correct groupthink and cultural left ideology abound. Bettina Arndt being denied the right to speak, Peter Ridd being sacked from James Cook University, hundreds of academics against establishing a Ramsay Centre for Western Civ. and neo-Marxist critical theory and its radical offshoots now the orthodoxy.

As a result Pierre Ryckmans in his 1996 Boyer Lectures argues ‘the university as Western civilisation knew it is now virtually dead’ and that ‘its death has hardly registered in the consciousness of the public, and even of a majority of academics themselves’. More recently the IPA’s Matthew Lesh in Reclaiming Education has stated today’s universities ‘are at the forefront of (the) cultural attack on the core foundations of the Enlightenment’. No longer do universities pursue what T. S. Eliot describes as ‘the preservation of learning, for the pursuit of Truth, and in so far as men are capable of it, the attainment of wisdom’. And it’s not just the hundreds of academics opposed to establishing Ramsay centres for Western Civ. on the basis that the West is Eurocentric, supremacist and guilty of imperialism and colonialism (plus misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, capitalism, patriarchy and destroying the world’s environment).

The latest example involves university sensitivity toolkits and guidelines pushing identity politics, victimhood and an Orwellian form of thought control.   Instead of academics being true to their subject and treating all students equally they must now operate through a politically correct prism. Even though a university education should promote independent thinking and knowledge for its own sake the University of the Sunshine Coast argues academics must adopt a ‘competency-based approach’ to what they teach and how they interact with students. An approach that develops ‘a more sophisticated understanding of race and culture through applying a power-sensitive analysis to the issues’. Drawing on neo-Marxist-inspired critical theory what happens in the classroom must accommodate with ‘the impact of race, power and privilege on multiple levels’. Of especial concern, according to the Sunshine Coast guide, is that power and privilege have been and continue to be controlled by ‘those from an Anglo-Christian background’ who have historically ‘held the advantages in terms of power and economic resources’.

Academics are also told that such ‘inequity, oppression and an imbalance of power’ is further entrenched by ‘positioning whiteness as the reference point’.  Forget that universities originated in the West and that most of our knowledge stems from European philosophers, scientists, mathematicians and those steeped in the liberal arts, music and languages.Also forget, on the whole, that university entrance is based on academic results where all regardless of race, culture, gender or socioeconomic background have the opportunity to compete.

Not surprisingly the University of NSW Science guidelines tell academics they should ‘incorporate Indigenous knowledge’ into their subject on the basis that Western science is only one approach and that it is equally valid to include science from other cultures. Under the heading ‘Indigenous Terminology’ a second UNSW guide tells academics not to refer to pre-European Aboriginal culture and technology as ‘primitive’, ‘native’ or ‘prehistoric’. Such terms mistakenly assume Aboriginal societies were ‘not as “advanced” as European societies’. Even worse, despite the superiority of Western science, technology, medicine, communication and industry, any academic who disagrees is accused of promoting a ‘view of history which many people now question’. Based on cultural relativism it appears that all societies are equally as sophisticated and advanced.

At Monash the Inclusive Teaching Toolkit tells academics that they must develop ‘inclusive practices and an inclusive mindset’ in areas as diverse as ‘socioeconomic status, educational background, cultural background, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, age, mode of attending and ability or disability’. Academics, no matter what their views or subject, are warned against espousing ‘heterosexism’ and ‘heteronormativity’. To do so is to be guilty of cisnormativity – that is ‘the normalisation  of heterosexist ideals and behaviours’. What would the PC-thought police make of teaching Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress with the lines ‘An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast, But thirty thousand to the rest’?

As a result of radical gender theory the Monash guide stipulates using ‘gender neutral pronouns’ and excluding descriptions like ‘men and women’ and ‘ladies and gentlemen’. Academics are also warned against using the expression ‘female’ as it is a ‘term that can be applied to animals and objects’.

So as not to offend people with a disability academics are told not to use expressions like ‘that’s so nuts’ and ‘this is crazy’ on the basis that such comments ‘suggest that you think mental illness is a synonym for bad’. Also forbidden is the expression ‘that’s so lame’ as it suggests ‘mobility issues equate to worthlessness’. The most egregious advice is ‘avoid being judgemental about students’ work’ and it can be ‘very discouraging to hear that they (students) haven’t worked hard when they have’. Add the fact that universities now have trigger warnings to ensure students are not adversely affected by what is now considered politically incorrect and Safe Spaces for so-called victim  groups and it’s understandable why so many students are snowflakes.

In the context of debates about freedom of speech the head of Universities Australia Deborah Terry argues ‘universities are ever vigilant in defence of our democratic freedoms’ and are committed to helping students ‘develop their critical thinking skills and engage with a wide variety of views’. The University of Sydney’s Michael Spence also argues universities allow open and free discussion and debate when he states ‘One of the fundamental roles of a university is to be a place where ideas can be freely discussed, including those ideas that are controversial or unpopular’. Clearly, both Terry and Spence are more concerned with marketing and protecting universities from the reality that they have long since abandoned any pretence of being academically rigorous and sound.

Worse still, at a time when political correctness is rife throughout society, freedom of speech is under threat and cultural-left groupthink dominates in the private and corporate worlds, universities no longer teach students to be critically and independently minded.

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