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February 24, 2014

Harvard Gender Studies "Scholar:" It's About Time We Jettisoned the Outdated, Oppressive Regime of Academic Freedom

Here is the Harvard Crimson's blurb on the writer:

Sandra Y.L. Korn ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, is a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator in Eliot House. Her column usually appears on alternate Mondays.

Well I didn't see that coming.

She argues -- as the left always does -- for replacing the concept of freedom (which, as Loki can tell you, is actually enslaving) with the concept of "justice," meaning social justice, and politics.

Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. 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. Two years ago, when former summer school instructor Subramanian Swamy published hateful commentary about Muslims in India, the Harvard community organized to ensure that he would not return to teach on campus. I consider that sort of organizing both appropriate and commendable. Perhaps it should even be applied more broadly....

She turns to the academic boycott of Israel, which of course she wholeheartedly supports. She dismisses quaint liberal notions about the "free flow of ideas" as antithetical to real "justice," by which she means real leftist politics.

In this case, discourse about “academic freedom” obscures what should fundamentally be a political argument.

....

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.

Freedom is a "game." You have the right to free speech, and the right to academic research into the truth, so long as the Committee of the Whole takes a vote on it and finds your research or speech to be in the interests of "social justice."



It is tempting to decry frustrating restrictions on academic research as violations of academic freedom. Yet I would encourage student and worker organizers to instead use a framework of justice. After all, if we give up our obsessive reliance on the doctrine of academic freedom, we can consider more thoughtfully what is just.

"Thoughtfully." Hm-hm.

Jonah Goldberg calls this what it is -- an attack on diversity of thought. The subhed of his piece -- which he may not have written -- says that "liberal" students threaten such thought, but that's not right: To call this Korn character a "liberal" is to do violence to the term.

She's a leftist. As noted last week, there is a sharp schism between old-timey liberals, who believe in "outdated" ideas like freedom of expression, and the hyperpoliticized new left, in which every freedom is subject to a vote.

He notices this is not confined to Harvard:

[Swathmore student Erin Ching's] school invited a famous left-wing Princeton professor, Cornel West, and a famous right-wing Princeton professor, Robert George, to have a debate. The two men are friends, and by all accounts they had an utterly civil exchange of ideas. But that only made the whole thing even more outrageous.

“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.”

Why bother with all the fuss of proving your ideas when you can just take a vote and outlaw the expression of any criticism of them?

It's so much easier -- especially for people who, perhaps rather accurately, doubt they'd be able to win an argument on the merits.

CNN, which the New York Times informs us serves a "provincial" audience, has decided that "climate justice" should displace climate freedom. Or at least its senior media critic has decided that.

“Let’s begin with an important journalistic statement,” Brian Stelter declared Sunday on his show, CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “Some stories don’t have two sides. Some stories are simply true. There’s no necessity to give equal time to the ‘other side.’ One of these is climate change. Depending on which study or which expert you consult, between 95 and 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening now, that it’s damaging the planet and that’s it’s manmade. That seems pretty definitive, right?”

Thanks to @rdbrewer4 and @aoshqDOOM (Monty).


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posted by Ace at 02:11 PM

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