So the cultural libertarian crowd is currently imploding after popular YouTuber Sargon of Akkad started a change.org petition to suspend the teaching of social justice courses in universities until they can be reviewed and reformed into something less harmfully dogmatic. You can read and/or sign the petition here. According to him it’s not meant to really get anything done but to simply make a statement about how many people are truly opposed to the concept and hopefully help back up individual students who want to take the fight to their universities.
I signed it. And I was conflicted about signing it, at first. Because, on the surface it does seem a bit censorship-y. But I ultimately signed it and think it was the right, dependable position. I just wanted to offer a brief explanation of my reasoning.
I was at first hesitant to sign because I was worried about the pretense set by calling for the removal of classes we disagree with. I then realized that this is not a matter of disagreement, this is a matter of someone actually just being wrong and overtly ideologically biased, which we would not allow in any other situation.
I have no problem with the theories behind social justice being taught. My problem with it is much the same as my problem with religious teaching in schools. You can teach people about it – tell them what its tenants are and what the Scripture says and what ideas it has on certain topics – but the second you teach it as the capital-T Truth, you’ve gone too far. And that is what is happening with social justice right now.
There’s a difference between teaching a class about feminism and teaching a class feminism. If you taught a class about feminism and the students decided on their own they agreed with it, that would be one thing. But gender studies classes currently go into teaching with academic feminism, despite being just one of many social theories on gender relations, as the perceived factual basis of all discussion. They do not read a paper proposing the existence of rape culture in America and discuss its pros and cons as an idea. They read the paper as need-to-know background information on the facts of the matter and spend the class not discussing the validity of ideas (which should be the point of social theory classes) but discussing how the undeniably true fact of rape culture manifests itself in society, as it must do, since rape culture is definitely a thing we have, no argument there.
That is my issue. And they teach this as fact-based and supported even when the notion of rape culture has been overtly questioned and criticized by many legitimate sources, RAINN being the biggest one. I’ve been in a gender studies class that perpetuated patently untrue information: the wage gap (which does exist but not to the extent they treated as fact -the 3/4 of a dollar argument), the 1 in 5 rape statistic which is overtly and obviously untrue to anyone with access to the publicly available FBI crime statistics, and the blatant denial of the gender-neutral nature of issues like domestic abuse. This is not a rare occurrence, apparently.
Then there’s critical race theory in academia, which has chosen “the harms of whiteness” as the thing they teach as the fact of the matter. There are shit tons of theories on race relations – the thing about sociological theories, and the main reason I often have trouble taking sociology seriously, is that you can kinda just make up whatever you want, call it a theory, and people can’t really argue. There are critical race theories that aren’t focused entirely on white racism and how it effects everyone else, but those apparently aren’t worth going into. Critical race theory, as it is now, promotes the idea that we deal with racism through collectivism (different races need to be treated differently based upon how they fall on the scale of whiteness in order to achieve equity). This is actually anti-science seeing as how multiple psychological studies show that inherent biases (both positive and negative) are caused, encouraged, and worsened by collectivist thinking and highly mitigated by encouraging people to see others as individuals and not part of a collective. Yet, somehow, telling people that the right way to deal with race is to take into account above all else someone’s place in a collective is going to solve racism.
There are the people who insist that art is dangerous and has “wider cultural impacts.” Even though past and current studies have shown that violence and sexism have no causal/causative link with games or film. Some studies even show an inverse link between video games and violence, in certain situations. And yet, Anita Sarkeesians’ videos (that would make anyone who has ever done an actual conent analysis scream) are shown as academic videos attesting to the link between video games and violence against women.
Then there are sociology courses that unabashedly teach from Marxist, anti-imperialist perspectives as the truth. I would be fine with these ideas being taught, the issue is that they aren’t taught in conjunction with anything else. We are never given articles with a wide array of ideas to compare and contrast and make up our own minds about. We are given articles that we’re supposed to take as accurate descriptions of how things are, and the discussion starts there. The idea that “America sucks, it’s so imperialist and clearly in the wrong” is taught as just the truth.
One of the most interesting things about being in Japan is having a class on Japanese art and culture where the Japanese professor and Japanese students didn’t automatically demonize the West and Western influences in their country. I went to a lecture about being a black woman in Japan. Some holier than thou (stereotypically white) SJW girls tripped over themselves when they heard about a black woman running a salon in Japan where the majority of her customers wanting braids and perms were Japanese because they thought those hairstyles looked cool, no other reason, and the black salon owner and black presenter thought that that was great and a sign of progress instead of crying about cultural appropriation. They’d of course got the idea of cultural appropriation in their heads in college, even though it’s clearly not one that reflects how actual human interactions work.
These classes are straight-up inaccurate. And they are being taught as the truth to people who trust that what they’re being taught in college isn’t a crock of bullshit. This is growing to be the eqivolent of a school teaching a class on homeopathy, not to learn about it as a concept, but as a genuine alternative to modern medicine even though there is evidence to the contrary. It’s like that God’s Not Dead movie where, instead of teaching a philosophy class on theory of religion, the professor decided that he would just enforce atheism on the entire class.
You wouldn’t be okay with colleges teaching classes about how creationism is right. The private colleges that still do that are rightfully mocked and not taken seriously. But, for some reason, teaching dogmatic social theories with holes in them the size of the fucking sun as the Truth when it’s social justice being taught is okay. Why? I don’t buy the pseudo-Libertarian idea that the intellectual market place means that these overtly inaccurate teachings need to continue. If you’re going to argue against that, you might as well argue that peer review shouldn’t exist because someone somewhere wants to read your patently false article about how vaccines really do cause autism.
False or theoretical information being presented as True to people who go to those classes because they don’t know any better is not “the market place of ideas.” Do you think that drug companies should be allowed to sell dangerous medicine under false pretenses just because there is a market of people who would buy those false pretenses hook-line-and-sinker? Well, that already happened (look up Fen Phen), and those drug companies rightfully got lambasted for feeding people bullshit to the detriment of their health.
These people aren’t making a choice to believe something based off of lots of sources and soul searching, they are being told what’s true by people who they trust to be right, and the “truth” they learn is actively damaging many young people’s physical/mental health and personal relationships. Not to mention that it’s seeping into the real world as these indoctrinated people enter work forces wanting to “help,” based in inaccurate or outright false social ideas that don’t readily apply to anything outside of academia. There’s my cultural appropriation example, wherein those two girls scoffed at something that, in reality, caused positive social interactions and cohesion. There’s the example of college grads trying and failing to help blue collar workers’ unions because they were too hung up on dismantling white privilege to actually help.
So I signed the petition. I signed it because, if you’re going to teach social theory, you need to teach social theory, not the Lord’s Truth. I signed it because the teaching of these theories needs some serious revision in order to cut the bad fruit off of the tree. I signed it because, if you’re going to teach about Patriarchy Theory, you should probably teach some counters theories too.