Arbeid og utdanning

– Universitetene våre forvandles til uklekkingsanstalter for dogmatisme

Redaktør for nettmagasinet Spiked Online Brendan O`Neill tar et forrykende oppgjør med britiske studentforeningers håndhevelse av politisk korrekthet ved landets universiteter. I en kronikk i The Spectator forteller han om en avlyst universitetsdebatt om abort mellom ham og The Telegraph-kommentator Tim Stanley, og gjør seg noen tanker om…

Redaktør for nettmagasinet Spiked Online Brendan O`Neill tar et forrykende oppgjør med britiske studentforeningers håndhevelse av politisk korrekthet ved landets universiteter.

I en kronikk i The Spectator forteller han om en avlyst universitetsdebatt om abort mellom ham og The Telegraph-kommentator Tim Stanley, og gjør seg noen tanker om hvilke følger studentforeningenes holdninger til fri debatt kan få for det øvrige samfunn.

Britiske studentforeninger fører en Ingen platform-politikk, som opprinnelig innebar at høyreekstremister og andre personer fra ytterfløyene ikke skulle gis noen talerstol på universitetene. Denne politikken har nå utvidet seg til å omfatte nær sagt alle hvis synspunkter ikke passer inn i en til enhver tid fremherskende gruppetenking, skriver O`Neill.

«Mens den irriterende «PK har gått amok-brigaden» har gnålt i vei om ekstreme tilfeller av politisk korrekthet (PK) – skoler som har forbudt sangen «Bæ, bæ, sort får» etc. – later det til at ingen har fått med seg at PKs grunnpillarer, fra ønsket om å ødelegge krenkende sjargong til trangen til å omskolere tilsynelatende korrumperte hjerner, har blitt svelget med hud og hår av en ny generasjon. Dette er en katastrofe, for det betyr at våre universiteter forvandles til uklekkinganstalter for dogmatisme.

Har du sett Stepford-studentene? De er alle steder. På universitetsområder i hele landet. Med stive blikk sitter de i forelesningssalen eller overvåker berusede sammenkomster i universitetsbaren. De ser ut som studenter, kler seg som studenter, lukter som studenter. Men deres studenthjerner har blitt erstattet av hjerner uten kritiske deler og som er programmert til konformitet. For det utrente øye ser de ut som vanlig bokslukende, debatterende, H&M-kledde ungdom, men enhver som har vært i deres selskap mer enn fem minutter vil vite at disse studentene er mer interessert i å stenge for debatter enn å åpne dem», fortsetter han:

I was attacked by a swarm of Stepford students this week. On Tuesday, I was supposed to take part in a debate about abortion at Christ Church, Oxford. I was invited by the Oxford Students for Life to put the pro-choice argument against the journalist Timothy Stanley, who is pro-life. But apparently it is forbidden for men to talk about abortion. A mob of furious feministic Oxford students, all robotically uttering the same stuff about feeling offended, set up a Facebook page littered with expletives and demands for the debate to be called off. They said it was outrageous that two human beings ‘who do not have uteruses’ should get to hold forth on abortion — identity politics at its most basely biological — and claimed the debate would threaten the ‘mental safety’ of Oxford students. Three hundred promised to turn up to the debate with ‘instruments’ — heaven knows what — that would allow them to disrupt proceedings.

Incredibly, Christ Church capitulated, the college’s censors living up to the modern meaning of their name by announcing that they would refuse to host the debate on the basis that it now raised ‘security and welfare issues’. So at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth, the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices.

– En av de sensurivrige studentene skrøt faktisk av sin rolle i å få debatten avlyst og bar sin intoleranse som en æresmedalje i en artikkel i The Independent, hvor hun argumenterte med at «tanken om at absolutt alt bør være åpent for debatt i et fritt samfunn har en skadelig effekt på marginaliserte grupper», kommenterer O`Neill.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered the Stepford students. Last month, at Britain’s other famously prestigious university, Cambridge, I was circled by Stepfords after taking part in a debate on faith schools. It wasn’t my defence of parents’ rights to send their children to religious schools they wanted to harangue me for — much as they loathed that liberal position — it was my suggestion, made in this magazine and elsewhere, that ‘lad culture’ doesn’t turn men into rapists. Their mechanical minds seemed incapable of computing that someone would say such a thing.

– Med øyne skinnende av moralsk overbevisning forklarte de meg inngående at kultur forvrenger hjerner og former atferd og at det derfor er riktig av studenter å anstrenge seg for å holde så grusomme, misogyniske greier som avisen the Sun og sexistisk popmusikk unna universitetsområdet. «Vi har rett til å å føle oss komfortable», gjentok alle som et mantra. En – en fyr – sa at de obligatoriske samtykke-timene som nylig var blitt innført for nykommere på Cambridge, for å lære hva som er og ikke er voldtekt, var en glimrende idè fordi de kunne luke ut «pre-voldtektsforbrytere»: menn som ikke har voldtatt noen, men kanskje kan. De andre nikket. Jeg kunne ikke tro hva jeg hørte. Pre-voldtektsforbrytere! Hadde noen av dem lest Philip K. Dick’s dystopiske novelle om en grusom verden som jakter på og straffer pre-kriminelle, spurte jeg? Det hadde ingen:

When I told them that at the fag-end of the last millennium I had spent my student days arguing against the very ideas they were now spouting — against the claim that gangsta rap turned black men into murderers or that Tarantino flicks made teens go wild and criminal — not so much as a flicker of reflection crossed their faces. ‘Back then, the people who were making those censorious, misanthropic arguments about culture determining behaviour weren’t youngsters like you,’ I said. ‘They were older, more conservative people, with blue rinses.’ A moment’s silence. Then one of the Stepfords piped up. ‘Maybe those people were right,’ he said. My mind filled with a vision of Mary Whitehouse cackling to herself in some corner of the cosmos.

If your go-to image of a student is someone who’s free-spirited and open-minded, who loves having a pop at orthodoxies, then you urgently need to update your mind’s picture bank. Students are now pretty much the opposite of that. It’s hard to think of any other section of society that has undergone as epic a transformation as students have. From freewheelin’ to ban-happy, from askers of awkward questions to suppressors of offensive speech, in the space of a generation. My showdown with the debate-banning Stepfords at Oxford and the pre-crime promoters at Cambridge echoed other recent run-ins I’ve had with the intolerant students of the 21st century. I’ve been jeered at by students at the University of Cork for criticising gay marriage; cornered and branded a ‘denier’ by students at University College London for suggesting industrial development in Africa should take precedence over combating climate change; lambasted by students at Cambridge (again) for saying it’s bad to boycott Israeli goods. In each case, it wasn’t the fact the students disagreed with me that I found alarming — disagreement is great! — it was that they were so plainly shocked that I could have uttered such things, that I had failed to conform to what they assume to be right, that I had sought to contaminate their campuses and their fragile grey matter with offensive ideas.

– Hvor studenter en gang ville ha tillatt sine øyne og ører å bli bombardert med alt fra risikabel politisk propaganda til vulgær rock, skjermer de seg nå fra alt som kanskje kan bulke deres høye selvfølelse og, forbrytelsen over alle forbrytelser, gjøre dem «ukomfortable». Studentgrupper insisterer på at nettartikler bør utstyres med popup-advarsler, i tilfelle noen kan krenkes av artikkelens innhold, skriver O`Neill.

The ‘no platform’ policy of various student unions is forever being expanded to keep off campus pretty much anyone whose views don’t chime perfectly with the prevailing groupthink. Where once it was only far-right rabble-rousers who were no-platformed, now everyone from Zionists to feminists who hold the wrong opinions on transgender issues to ‘rape deniers’ (anyone who questions the idea that modern Britain is in the grip of a ‘rape culture’) has found themselves shunned from the uni-sphere. My Oxford experience suggests pro-life societies could be next. In September the students’ union at Dundee banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from the freshers’ fair on the basis that its campaign material is ‘highly offensive’.

Det går knapt en uke uten rapporter om at noe «krenkende» er blitt forbudt av studenter, fortsetter O`Neill, og viser til noen eksempler. Over enn 30 universiteter har forbudt Robin Thicke’s utskjelte, men populære låt «Blurred Lines». Ved Balliol College i Oxford rettferdiggjorde studentrepresentanter forbudet som en måte å «prioriterte våre studenters velbefinnende». Studenters helse kan tydeligvis ta skade av en tre minutter lang popsang, kommenterer O`Neill tørt.

Over 30 studentforeninger har også forbudt avisen the Sun, på bakgrunn av at Side tre-piken kan gjøre alle pre-voldtektsforbryterne til virkelige voldtektsforbrytere. Hvor radikale feminist-studenter engang brant BH`ene sine, insisterer de nå på at at modeller tar BH`en på. Mens studentforeningen ved University College London forbød Nietzsche Society på bakgrunn av at klubbens eksistens var en trussel mot UCLs studenters sikkerhet.

Stepford concerns are over-amplified on social media. No sooner is a contentious subject raised than a university ‘campaign’ group appears on Facebook, or a hashtag on Twitter, demanding that the debate is shut down. Technology means that it has never been easier to whip up a false sense of mass outrage — and target that synthetic anger at those in charge. The authorities on the receiving end feel so besieged that they succumb to the demands and threats.

Heaven help any student who doesn’t bow before the Stepford mentality. The students’ union at Edinburgh recently passed a motion to ‘End lad banter’ on campus. Laddish students are being forced to recant their bantering ways. Last month, the rugby club at the London School of Economics was disbanded for a year after its members handed out leaflets advising rugby lads to avoid ‘mingers’ (ugly girls) and ‘homosexual debauchery’. Under pressure from LSE bigwigs, the club publicly recanted its ‘inexcusably offensive’ behaviour and declared that its members have ‘a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of banter’.

Straffen er å tvungen deltagelse i likeverds- og mangfoldstrening. – På britiske universiteter i 2014 får du ikke bare skolering – du får også omskolering på sovjetisk vis, mener O`Neill.

The censoriousness has reached its nadir in the rise of the ‘safe space’ policy. Loads of student unions have colonised vast swaths of their campuses and declared them ‘safe spaces’ — that is, places where no student should ever be made to feel threatened, unwelcome or belittled, whether by banter, bad thinking or ‘Blurred Lines’. Safety from physical assault is one thing — but safety from words, ideas, Zionists, lads, pop music, Nietzsche? We seem to have nurtured a new generation that believes its self-esteem is more important than everyone else’s liberty.

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the freedom to lay down on a chaise longue — they meant the right never to be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness. At precisely the time they should be leaping brain-first into the rough and tumble of grown-up, testy discussion, students are cushioning themselves from anything that has the whiff of controversy. We’re witnessing the victory of political correctness by stealth. As the annoying ‘PC gone mad!’ brigade banged on and on about extreme instances of PC — schools banning ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’, etc. — nobody seems to have noticed that the key tenets of PC, from the desire to destroy offensive lingo to the urge to re-educate apparently corrupted minds, have been swallowed whole by a new generation. This is a disaster, for it means our universities are becoming breeding grounds of dogmatism. As John Stuart Mill said, if we don’t allow our opinion to be ‘fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed’, then that opinion will be ‘held as a dead dogma, not a living truth’.

Men er ikke dette bare et problem for studentene ved universitetet? Nei, mener Brendan O`Neill og avslutter med en dyster advarsel:

En dag vil disse Stepford-studentene, med deres lyst til å forby, deres krig mot fornærmende sjargong og skremmende snakk om pre-kriminalitet, styre landet. Og da vil det ikke bare bli de av oss som fra tid til annen har grunn til å oppsøke et universitet som får lide for deres døde dogmer.

The Spectator: The rise of the Stepford students