PETER DAY. Beware the Push-Me-Pull-You Syndrome in our Universities.

Thanks to Isaac Newton we know that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

And while Newton’s 3rd Law specifically relates to objects and motion; it can equally apply to the spheres of culture and politics.

Thus, if people perceive that a work or political environment is pushing too far left, they will pull right (think Brexit and Trump), and vice versa. 

The Research School of the Bleeding Obvious tells us that the Humanities and Arts faculties of universities are by nature left-leaning – an ever-deepening reality today as postmodernist and socialist preachers are afforded high priest status.

This Leftist trend has been particularly problematic in the United States where the emergence of, among other things, trigger warnings and safe spaces has shackled free speech and infantilized students.

Not surprisingly, ‘an equal and opposite reaction’ has emerged: in 2015, Jonathan Haidt (Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business) co-founded the Heterodox Academy. Haidt, along with hundreds of other university professors and graduate students had become fed-up (and scandalised) by the authoritarian nature of a number of university campuses and faculties. 

The Academy’s mission is summed up by the following statement that its members, regardless of political affiliation or ideology, have endorsed:

“I believe that university life requires that people with diverse viewpoints and perspectives encounter each other in an environment where they feel free to speak up and challenge each other. I am concerned that many academic fields and universities currently lack sufficient viewpoint diversity—particularly political diversity. I will support viewpoint diversity in my academic field, my university, my department, and my classroom.”

Is the Ramsay sponsored Foundation for Western Civilisation just Australia’s version of an ‘equal and opposite reaction’?

Surely, when all is said and done, the role of universities is not produce activists, but to pursue the truth through reason and knowledge and evidence; to engage in graceful discourse, diversity of thought, and dissent?

Peter Day is a Catholic priest in Queanbeyan.

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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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