What’s happened to the University?

Trigger warnings, cultural appropriation and safe spaces. Who decided to bestow guardian status to Australian universities? And why should we let this proliferation of politically correct ideals become the norm, prescribing, censoring or outright banning texts, gagging speech and curbing the exchange of ideas?

“The radical transformation that universities are undergoing today is no less far-reaching than the upheavals that they experienced in the 1960s in the US and UK. Today, when almost 50 per cent of young people participate in higher education, what occurs in universities impacts directly on the whole of society.” — Frank Furedi

Although we haven’t experienced a transformation as radical as our counterparts in the US and UK, these notions of restricting free speech all in the name of not causing offence will grab hold and cripple our universities.

This is an engaging, informed and robust look at how we got here, where we are headed and what the alternative is to this new status quo.

What’s Happened to the University?

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.