The Dangers Of Ideology And The Importance Of Free Speech & Debate

The Dangers Of Ideology And The Importance Of Free Speech & Debate

Universities are currently policing thought, indoctrinating students into a radical egalitarian ideology, and crushing dissenting opinion.
3949
views

It’s truly amazing to consider how quickly the culture on college campuses has changed over the last several years. Once staunch defenders of speech and academic freedom, modern universities are quickly turning into ideological echo chambers, indoctrinating students into a radical left-wing egalitarian worldview, while crushing dissenting opinion.

The disturbingly Orwellian trend to quell free expression on campuses can best be illustrated by an event that unfolded last year at James Madison University’s freshman orientation, when “student leaders” distributed a list of 35 things that incoming students should avoid saying, including phrases such as “you have a pretty face,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “we’re all part of the human race,” “I treat all people the same,” “people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” among other expressions.

You might find yourself laughing this off as nonsense, an isolated set of events perpetuated by a select group of fringe radicals. Unfortunately, I can assure you that this is not an isolated incident. In addition to the slew of protests that erupted at universities last year in response to conservative speakers being invited to campus, these kinds of events are indicative of a larger, and more pernicious attempt by the radical left to control the linguistic territory.

At universities across America, the campus left now demands that people accept certain preconditions for discussion. Not the kind of reasonable preconditions such as “treat people with respect,” or “don’t resort to personal attacks.” Rather, It is demanded that you accept a neo-Marxian worldview, rooted in the notion that the world is nothing more than a power struggle between two groups of people: those who oppress and those who are oppressed. They demand that people accept notions like white-male privilege as axiomatic – not to be debated – and force people to acknowledge how they've been privileged by the current socio-economic structure.

Refusing to accept these presuppositions not only bars someone from participating in the discussion. To challenge an idea, such as white privilege, is to reject the fact that racism and bigotry exist in our society. To challenge the notion that being white necessarily means you must be more privileged than a person of color is akin to blasphemy. To push against the idea that certain classes of people in America are ‘victims of systemic oppression’ is to deny the humanity and individual experiences of people of color, women, and other minority groups.

The campus left emphatically espouse the notion that “the personal is political.” Thus they believe, unequivocally, that the primary responsibility of the University should be to ensure students from “diverse cultural backgrounds” feel safe – and by safe they mean “not having their identities challenged;” and by identities they are referring to their belief systems – the lens by which they perceive the word.

From the perspective of a radical leftist, to participate in debate is not seen as merely engaging in criticism of some abstract idea. To challenge an idea is to challenge someone’s identity, and to challenge someone’s identity is to debate their humanity.

And that is one of the axiomatic rules of the campus Left – you cannot debate someone’s humanity.

Indeed, with more than a fifth of college undergrads now believing its okay to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive or hurtful statement,” the future of the First Amendment itself is currently uncertain.

What exactly is so dangerous about this movement?

For starters, the freedom of speech has wrongly been construed as just another value that we in the West hold in high regard. But it is more than a Right that we share as citizens of this nation. It is, ultimately, the mechanism by which keep our psyches and societies functioning.

See, most people just aren’t that good at thinking. I don't mean this as a sleight against anyone, but we’re all insufficient and we have limited awareness of most things because we just can’t know everything. We rely on communication with one another to facilitate the process of learning about things outside our realm of knowledge. Often we have to, first, stumble around like the blithering idiots we are, espousing our biased beliefs in a public forum, and subjecting our ideas to criticism before we can properly orient our thoughts.

When the open exchange of ideas is allowed, you get the opportunity for multiple people to put forward their biased oversimplifications and engage in debate that raises the resolution of the particular question and answer at hand. Ideas are hit with hammers, combed for contradictions, inadequacies and even falsehoods. On an individual level, this kind of scrutiny sharpens the schema you use to navigate the world because other people can tell you things you can’t know by yourself.

Maybe it’s an opinion espoused, or a behavior that manifests itself, or a misconception you hold- in any event, subjecting your beliefs to criticism is, in the short term sometimes painful because we often learn things about the world and ourselves that are uncomfortable; but, in the long term, it is the only way method we have for moving closer towards something that more closely resembles truth – and if not anything true, at least something less wrong. As a result, the lens by which you look at the world becomes clearer.

Further, it is also through a collective process of dialectic that we identify problems in our societies, formulate solutions, and come to some sort of consensus.

Thus the right to say what you believe should not just considered as "just another value." It's a conical value, without which all the other values we hold dear, that people have fought so hard, in such an unlikely manner, to preserve and produce all disappear.

Without it, there can be no progress. Without it, individuals abdicate their responsibility to engage in the sacred process of discovery and renewal. Without it, we can’t think. Without it, there can be no truth. Without it, there can be nothing but nihilistic psychopathology. The end result is a populist that is not only afraid to say what they think, but that doesn't even know what they think because they haven’t been allowed to stumble around in the dark to find some tiny fragment of light.

Therefore, when we consider placing restrictions on the freedom of speech we must do so with the most extreme caution. By setting ridiculous preconditions for discussion, the campus left not only makes the process by which we solve the problems with our society more difficult, but also, if taken to its extreme, it can lead to totalitarianism.

In the wake of dozens of campus protests last year, universities are now in a position where they have to choose between two incompatible values: truth or social justice. The former will lead us to a greater understanding, while the latter can only divide.

Cover Image Credit: Teen Vogue

Popular Right Now

Clocking In: The 9 To 5 Feminist

Jane Fonda, #MeToo and Fashion
714
views

She puts the finishing touches on her makeup, so they say she is in dress code. She buttons to the top of her blouse, so they don’t stare. She smiles and asks politely, so they won’t call her uptight. She doesn’t smile too much though, so they don’t think she’s flirting. She doesn’t question her salary, so they don’t report her. She doesn’t tell anyone what her creep of a boss did, so they don’t fire her. Just another day at the office.

She is not alone. The modern woman is forced to deal with workplace discrimination and sexual harassment in silence. Even her dress code, from the makeup on her face to the heels on her feet, is designed with a restrictive double standard.

Despite past efforts to combat such inequality, this has largely remained the status quo. However, 2017 marked a turning point in the fight for a workplace equality with the viral social media campaigns #MeToo and #TimesUp, which are aimed at combating sexual harassment and sexist double standards.

These campaigns amplify the forceful rallying cries of working women and shines light on the unspoken reality of their experiences in the workplace at the hands of men. These protests echo the feminist movement of the 1970s which was in part influenced by its representation in film, an iconic example of which is Jane Fonda’s trailblazing production of “9 to 5.”

Taking inspiration from her friend’s Boston organization of female workers “Nine to Five,” Fonda sought to bring to light the untold stories women in the office often experienced in a way that was palpable to the public: comedy. The 1980 office satire “9 to 5,” starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Fonda herself, addresses the wage gap, sexual harassment and blatant sexism through the lens of three women fed up with their villainous, misogynistic male boss.

In “9 to 5,” the boss subjects the feminist trio to different aspects of the same sexist narrative. He calls the new girl stupid and incapable. He demands his secretary to turn around and bend over for his viewing pleasure. He takes the credit of the only female office manager to further his standing with the company. The sexist dynamic between him and the trio is reflected in their attire and connects the events of the movie to the feminist movement as a whole.

Stereotyped as the weaker sex, the female employees of “9 to 5” adhere to a strict dress code characteristic of 1970s workplace apparel of below the knee skirts, silk ties, blouses adorned with bows, heels and a full face of makeup. The physical restrictiveness and beauty standards imposed on women by their male superiors shows the subtlety of sexist workplace culture.

Outside the office, women of the 1970s were embracing comfort and function in their casual fashion. Denim jeans, loose-fitting shirts and flat Oxford shoes reflected the growing movement of women to make their own choices and live as they please, free from the limitations of the patriarchy. Within the walls of the office, however, it was still very much a man’s world.

The requirement that women maintain feminine standards of beauty in the office ensures that the standard of acceptable clothing for working women is decided by the men. As a consequence, men use this double standard to solidify ideas that women are incapable of a man’s job and are not to be taken seriously. Sexist ideas like these supported the wage gap and kept women from advancing, despite having the qualifications to do so.

By the film’s end, however, “9 to 5” rejects this pervasive narrative that women’s capabilities are limited by their clothing. Following a series of bumbling mishaps, the trio find themselves in charge of the company and replace the sexist status quo with a progressive and equal workplace, fulfilling the goal of the feminist movement.

In showing the efficiency and progressiveness of a female-run workplace, the film shows that women are equally capable of a man’s job (and that they can do it better). “9 to 5” redefined working women as competent and equal to men, shedding the stereotypes of how they should dress and behave to appease the sexist status quo.

Considering the current political climate of social regression, despite changes in clothing and office technology, the dynamic between men and women in the office hasn’t changed much. Women still earn less than men. Men hold most positions of power. The goals of the current #MeToo and #TimesUp movements mirror the fanciful aspirations of “9 to 5.”

But what’s changed? What has made the contemporary feminist movements so much more powerful and influential than any before them? Deemed radical for its time, the progressive themes of equality and a workplace free of harassment are now contemporary feminist staples. The era of inclusion is fast approaching. Thanks to the current feminist revolt and the trailblazing of the past, men in positions of power are no longer able to use their influence as a shield to silence women or hide behind the public eye.

In a symbolic exchange of the unending struggle of the feminist movement at the 2017 Emmy Awards, Fonda reminds us that “back in 1980, in that movie, (Parton, Tomlin and I) refused to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.” Tomlin reminds us of the challenges that lie ahead in the final push for equality. “And in 2017, we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.”

Cover Image Credit: Rob Young

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

To The Students Walking Out On April 20th

Build the change. Push the change. Be the change.
Cali C.
Cali C.
618
views

Dear students participating in the national walkout on April 20th,

On March 14th, you walked out of your schools for 17 minutes to remember the 17 innocent lives that were brutally taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On March 24th, you marched in one of the 800+ marches around the world to demand long-overdue change and you stood up for those who cannot anymore due to gun violence.

You may have been ridiculed for what you did. You may have received ill-mannered remarks from your peers, and surprisingly (but not really, if we’re being honest here), adults. Some of your schools’ administrations even punished you for protesting peacefully. Some people said that what you were doing "won't change anything." The list of negative expressions towards the walkout and the march could go on and on, unfortunately.

However, all if not almost every historical national movement also faced criticism. But they kept going. And their voices were heard. And change happened.

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, you will walk out again to remember the victims of that day (it’s daunting how many events correlate to that statement) and to tell the world that silence is no longer an option.

You will no longer go to school, a concert, the movies, the mall, church, anywhere and have the fear that you may not make it home that day. You will no longer live under laws that remain unchanged after far too many lives have been taken by something that should have been taken care of a long time ago.

You will no longer tolerate the cycle of “shooting...thoughts and prayers...debate...no change in anything...life goes back to normal.”

You’ve probably heard this everywhere these past two months, but do not stop after that day. Because this is so much more than just a walkout. This is so much more than just a march. This is so much more than the hashtag and the videos and photos you’re seeing on social media.

Educate yourself on issues that matter. Go to your town hall meetings. Get involved in your school, city, and state organizations. And most important of them all - register to vote. If you are too young to vote, that does not mean that your voice does not matter. Volunteer at the polls. Discuss current events in your community. Practice civic engagement. Whatever you do, do not stop contributing to this turning point in history.

You are the future. You are the leaders we need.

It's about damn time something is done to end gun violence, and it starts with you.

The world is going to be a better place because of you, and don’t you dare let anyone convince you otherwise.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram
Cali C.
Cali C.

Related Content

Facebook Comments