This Breaks It Down Better than Anything Else I’ve Seen

As someone who works in education, I’ve also been alarmed by the way free speech is being stomped out of existence on some of our campuses, and the attack on intellectual freedom from certain sectors. it’s growing and it’s doing our students a tremendous disservice. We’re likewise seeing elements of this creeping into our communities too (we don’t, after all, exist in a vacuum).

A friend sent me this interview a couple of days ago and I finally had time to listen to it last night and it really does break the problem down better than anything else i’ve ever heard. This is relevant to our community dynamics too. Take a listen is you have the time. It’s worth it. 

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Posted on May 9, 2016, in community, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hmm, Galina…

    On the one hand, I take the general point; and in specific, the incident that Haidt had is particularly egregious, and the person pressing that incident lacked an appreciation of context (amongst other things), which is very unfortunate. There are many situations in which some people are truly over-sensitive about certain matters (e.g., a friend of mine who is totally pro-trans got termed a “TERF” because in a non-trans-related conversation on some social media thing or other, she referred to her uterus), and it is excessive and should be recognized as such.

    On the other hand, remember that this is Sam Harris (one of the “Four Horseman” of modern atheism) doing the interview, and the ways in which Haidt and Harris interpreted social justice as “the new religion” (and, being it is religion, it is therefore BAD), whereas “science” and its “facts” (the ones of which were mentioned in the interview) are automatically GOOD and UNBIASED and TRUE against the rising tide of liberal humanities and social justice treatments of some sensitive issues, is somewhat problematic at best. They were blaming prenatal testosterone levels for the reason why you, Galina, are studying classics rather than calculus, which gets very close to (if not running over into the realm of) certain forms of biological determinism and gender essentialism.

    In the few years I’ve been teaching (2011 to the present) at the community college I’m at, I’ve seen the exact opposite of what they’re discussing. There have been several incidents on this campus in that time: I was harassed for being a polytheist by one of my supervising professors (who said polytheism isn’t a “real religion”), and when I complained about this to Human Resources, my claim was dismissed and they didn’t even take an incident report; one of my students (that you met at the PLC) was harassed by an unknown person on campus for being pagan; I was sent an e-mail from a student that was highly offensive to Native Americans due to my involvement in the Healing Hearts at Wounded Knee project; and, in the last week, a trans student was pushed down the stairs and has been in the hospital ever since. We officially have a diversity committee (I’m a guest member of it), and a “zero tolerance” policy for these sorts of things, and yet in every one of these cases, nothing has been done. (The only one where there may be something done is the latter, but it’s still “under investigation” because physical injuries were involved). Where actual harm has been occurring, not just microaggressions (though I think some of those can be pretty egregious, too), nothing is being done in many cases…and, in the case of the student sending me the harassing e-mail about Native Americans, free speech and right of inquiry was cited as one reason why the college would not even suggest to the student that they should tone down their rhetoric, particularly to a professor about a non-college-related event.

    I am personally angry, uncomfortable, and upset when, for example, I read a religion textbook, website, article, or a history resource, which has obvious monotheist bias, or which paints polytheism or indigenous cultures and religions as less-worthy, less-advanced, and so forth. Based on Haidt and Harris’ comments and discussion, I should just “toughen up” and get used to it, right? Or, what about the “God Graveyard” incident from a few years ago…you know whose side they’d be on for that. But because you and I are polytheists ourselves, and are people who would find these things offensive, whereas a Christian or an atheist or many others wouldn’t have a problem with them, then it is we who are the shrill, over-sensitive people who are ruining colleges with our false liberalism.

    All of this to say: I think the situation is a lot more complex than what they’re saying here; and while there are certain sympathies with what they’re discussing to some of what is going on in polytheism/paganism, they’re relatively slight, and they wouldn’t be looked upon favorably by the people making the arguments in this case (“religious idiots reading things out of context,” they’d probably say). I don’t know if they’d get away with speaking in those ways with Neil DeGrasse Tyson in the room, or Melissa Franklin–in other words, people who aren’t white men (and cis het, etc., too!). If discussing something difficult or controversial in responsible and properly contextualized ways adds to the useful discourse, that’s one thing; if “questioning affirmative action” (which they mentioned several times) is done to demean a Black student’s qualifications for being educated, then I think that’s more than a microaggression, it’s an outright attack.

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