Everett Piper: Fighting cancel culture in our classrooms and universities. Here's how we restore freedom
Cancel culture in America’s classrooms
‘Blackout’ author Candace Owen and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk join ‘Sunday Morning Futures’ to discuss the role of Big Tech in cancel culture.
If you harbor any hopes that the ivory tower still stands strong, you can put those hopes to rest. It has crumbled. Consider Exhibit A in the case of the Sane vs. the Snowflakes at the University of Virginia.
On April 8, Kieran Bhattacharya had to seek the intervention of a federal judge to protect his legal right to ask questions – yes that’s right, simply ask questions – within the hallowed halls of Thomas Jefferson’s pride and joy.
The trouble for Bhattacharya began in 2018, when he, as a second-year medical student, decided to attend a panel discussion on the subject of microaggressions. During the lecture, he asked the presenter, assistant dean Beverly Cowell Adams, if only “marginalized groups” could be victims of such thought crimes.
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When Adams answered “No,” Bhattacharya challenged her by pointing out that the slides she had used thus far in her lecture indicated the exact opposite and that she was being “inconsistent.”
For committing the heinous malfeasance of challenging inconsistencies and engaging in something that used to be known as healthy debate, a “professionalism concern card” was filed against Bhattacharya. He was subsequently brought before the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee and accused of “aggressive and inappropriate interactions in multiple situations.”
The committee then told Bhattacharya he was required to undergo psychological evaluation before he could return to class. When he asked under what authority the school could require this, Bhattacharya was summarily suspended from school.
And there you have it. This pretty much sums up the state of today’s educational enterprise.
Our academic institutions have, for all intents and purposes, become perpetual nurseries where faculty and students alike are stuck in chronic infancy, shouting “You offended me!” every time someone dares to challenge their thinking or present a contrary idea.
This is not education. This is a joke. A very juvenile joke.
In my new book, “Grow Up! Life Isn’t Safe, but It’s Good,” I challenge our culture’s current infantile fixation on feelings over facts:
The solution to this self-centered navel-gazing is found in a 2,000-year-old letter titled 1 Corinthians: “Set aside these childish things,” and “grow up!”
“It seems that hardly a day goes by when the call for safe spaces and speech codes is not headline news. Every day our colleges and universities seem to stumble over themselves to prove that they are more bastions of ideological fascism than bulwarks of free speech, places where students and faculty alike are more passionate about restricting debate than they are about defending the freedom to disagree.”
The answer to this immaturity of the mind is not found in the childish whines of false “tolerance” or the ideological safety of “trigger warnings.” It isn’t found in more restrictions and more legalism. It isn’t found in forced speech codes or countless rules against “microaggressions.” It isn’t found in schoolyard taunts of “me and mine” and “us versus them.”
No, the solution to this self-centered navel-gazing is found in a 2,000-year-old letter titled 1 Corinthians: “Set aside these childish things,” and “grow up!”
The academy isn’t supposed to be a safe space. It’s supposed to be a place to learn. To learn that a debate is good, that disagreement is good, that a little dissonance is good, that pursuing the truth rather than protecting your opinions is good, that academic freedom is good and ideological fascism is bad!
Education – the best education – isn’t supposed to be safe, it’s supposed to be good!
I know it’s rude to say “I told you so,” but – I told you so! In my 2017 book, “Not a Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth,” I warned that this immaturity wouldn’t stay at Berkeley, Brown or the University of Virginia, but would end up in our boardrooms, our Congress, our courtrooms, and our living rooms.
I said over and over again that what is taught today in our classrooms will be practiced tomorrow in our culture. I said that ideas have consequences. Garbage in, garbage out.
Teach narcissism and self-absorption, and you will get narcissistic and self-absorbed people. Teach safety over freedom, and you will get a nation that will gladly give all its freedoms away under the guise of keeping everyone safe.
I warned of all this and, frankly, here we are. The snowflakes have graduated and brought their cancel culture with them. And in their new roles as “fact-checkers” they are canceling freedom of speech, freedom to disagree, freedom to debate, and even the freedom to ask questions, and they are doing all this under the banner of their juvenile cries of “You hurt my feelings” and “I don’t feel safe.”
But all is not lost. There is a solution to this nonsense, and it’s quite simple. The answer is found in the classroom.
The remedy to this disease of the mind is found in teaching good ideas. Ideas that make sense rather than nonsense.
Ideas like natural law rather than narcissism, self-evident truths rather than self-actualization.
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Superior ideas, like the content of your own character being more important than the color of someone else’s skin. Ideas like the priority of freedom over safety, and of the importance of the Sacred over the self.
The answer to the insanity is for students and faculty alike to grow up! Probing questions may not be safe, but they’re good.
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