The New Gulags

In today’s world, loud voices claim that free inquiry and open discussion are no longer part of the solution to society’s ills; they have become the foundation of the problem.

At Goldsmiths University in London, LGBTQ activists have not only been waging a campaign to identify and presumably oust any faculty member who refuses to give unconditional support to transgender ideology. They have also suggested that any bigots who disagree should be dispatched to the gulags for re-education.

 

As a new teacher at Grove City College, I thought it appropriate to start my upper-level humanities course by informing the students of my broad educational philosophy:

I am over fifty. I no longer care what anyone except my wife thinks about me. That particularly applies to anyone under the age of thirty-five. You should therefore feel free to disagree with me on anything I say because it is virtually impossible to offend me. But I must also add that, old and closed-minded as I am, I have no vested interest in holding an incorrect opinion on anything. Therefore, if you think I am wrong on some issue, be it historical, philosophical, or ethical, then you are under a moral obligation to persuade me to change my mind. But when you do so, please give me an argument, not some emotional plea based on your feelings. After all, if you simply feel I am wrong and I simply feel I am right, we’ll quickly find ourselves at an impasse.

That is my philosophy of education in miniature: I want to teach my students to think, which means the classroom must be a place where I challenge them and where they are free to challenge me. That is the only way true learning can be achieved in an ethical manner. It is not political, in that it privileges neither the right nor the left. It privileges only the common humanity of teacher and student. And yet it seems  such a philosophy is under increasing pressure from the usual suspects. In today’s world, loud voices claim that free inquiry and open discussion are no longer part of the solution to society’s ills; they have become the foundation of the problem.

Take, for example, the latest skirmish in the TERF Wars. At Goldsmiths University in London, LGBTQ activists have not only been waging a campaign to identify and presumably oust any faculty member who refuses to give unconditional support to transgender ideology. They have also suggested that any bigots who disagree should be dispatched to the gulags for re-education. Such silly analogies are common in the world of online polemics; what raises this silliness to the level of malevolent absurdity is that the students, after their proposal was criticized, attempted to justify it by claiming the gulags were compassionate educational institutions.

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