Today I’ll be speaking at The Telegraph Festival of Education and I’ve noticed a theme in the many, many different sessions: how to deal with a new kind of censorship in (higher) education. If you want to know what I mean, this article in Fire that I found via Steven Pinker is a sad but clear example:
The University of Northern Colorado (UNC) appears to have investigated two professors for asking students to simply consider all sides of the debate over today’s most controversial political and social issues. The investigations were prompted by student complaints made through UNC’s “Bias Response” system, which encourages students to file online reports of any “offensive classroom environment” to administrators, who may then intervene with the theoretically offending faculty.
So what was the terrifying fact that the professors did, they asked students to see more sides from a debate. To be more concrete:
According to UNC documents obtained by Heat Street under Colorado’s Open Records Act, a professor asked his students to read The Atlantic’s “The Coddling of the American Mind” (co-authored by FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff). The piece warns that the growing institutionalization of aversion to presenting views that students may find offensive or disagreeable deprives students of the opportunity to confront views they disagree with. The professor engaged students in a discussion about opposing viewpoints on, among other things, transgender issues, prompting one student to file a Bias Incident Report with university administrators. As characterized in the student’s complaint, the professor argued that “transgender is not a real thing, and no one can truly feel like they are born in the wrong body.”
And I who thought that learning to have an open mind is important in (higher) education. Silly me. The most dangerous part of the story is the advice one of the professors received: just don’t discuss the topics anymore…