What’s Happened to the University?

Jeremy Sammut

29 September 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

JS men in black unlearn 2Many people are likely to have had a lightbulb moment that made them realise our universities are in trouble.

Over the past year, I have commented in many media stories about a range of social engineering initiatives across everything from early childhood education to corporate Australia pushing the ‘diversity agenda’ in matters of race, gender and sexuality.

What has struck me is that the ideological agendas being promoted aim to shape, set and enforce the boundaries of acceptable — as opposed to offensive racist, patriarchial or homo- or trans-phobic  thought and speech.

This has brought home to me the extent to which the precepts of postmodernism — which were taking hold in universities when I was an undergraduate — have entered mainstream society.

The postmodernism revolves around the idea that language used by the dominant culture or discourse creates social reality and oppresses certain victim groups. It follows that marginalised groups are liberated by restricting or regulating freedom of thought and speech around a range of issues that are simply no longer up for debate and discussion and dissent.

Yet debate discussion and dissent are the foundations of the freedom of enquiry that universities should stand for as bastions of intellectual freedom — but not in the post-modern academy.

According to Sydney University’s latest ‘Unlearn’ marketing campaign, students will not be pursuing enlightenment while studying for their degrees, but de-construction by being “taught how to unlearn…and, challenge the established, demolish social norms and build new ones in their place.”

The ‘Unlearning’ university promises not an education in how the world really works based on reason, logic, and rational analysis; it promises an indoctrination in how academic ideologues with a one-trick agenda demand it should work.

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