I recently completed the final semester of my undergraduate degree at a relatively reputable North American university. To fulfil my philosophy minor, I was required to enrol in a certain number of courses offered by that department. And so, in January of this year, I found myself signed up for one in particular named ‘Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity’. An immediate red flag. After four years as a student at this institution, I had already experienced more than my fair share of political correctness. But now I saw myself faced with 12 weeks of sharing a classroom with its most aggressive campaigners.
And yet, I tried to remain optimistic. As a philosophy course (rather than a political science or gender studies course) I hoped that personal biases would be set aside. As a philosophy course, I assumed that discussions would focus on the validity and soundness of argument structure. I was naïve.
The assessment for this course included two equally-weighted ‘comment sheets’ that together comprised about 40% of the total grade. In each ‘comment sheet’ we were asked to critique a paper. The first time around, I wrote honestly. My critique concluded that certain aspects of the author’s proposal to give special rights to those suffering from “enduring injustices” were ambiguous and contradictory. Some sections even made enormous logical leaps, leaving large gaps in the overall flow of the argument. Guessing that I would be one of the only students to say anything negative about the paper, I dedicated an inordinate amount of time towards this task, prioritizing it above other pieces of assessment. I received a B+.
For experimental purposes, the second time around I aligned my opinion with that of my classmates. Despite the second paper’s stance again suffering from similar failings as the first, I instead concluded that it was faultless. Through gritted teeth, I endorsed the author’s stance that testimonies of systematic sexism within minority cultures were “misleading and unrepresentative extrapolations”. I agreed that “cultural freedom” was more important than establishing a system of uniform rights for all. Compared to my first attempt, I dedicated only a fraction of the time and effort towards the task. Unquestionably my writing was of a lesser quality. I received an A+.
Now, I know that my experience in no way parallels the extremity of the atrocities recently carried out at Evergreen State College. Unlike Professor Bret Weinstein, I was neither mobbed nor sworn at for defending my opinion. However, I still experienced first-hand that, as a student, regardless of the quality of your writing, unless you choose to adopt the approved viewpoint you will never be ‘given an A’. And I believe that this is still representative of the increasingly-Orwellian nature of modern academia. Unfortunately, we are no longer being taught to think for ourselves but to regurgitate the rhetoric of our peers. And consequently, in a perverse way, all these attempts to ‘give the minority a voice’ are starting to silence the majority… simply because they are the majority.
Despite what was written on my syllabus, ‘Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity’ was not a course about arguments but was one about conclusions.
And so, fellow students, we are left with a decision – are we willing to sell our souls for the extra GPA points?
Bronwyn Allan is an intern at the Institute of Public Affairs