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E-Pluribus | July 12, 2023
DEI's undertone of conformity; the roots of academic freedom; and censoring science.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Cathy Young: Diversity, Equity, and … Conformity?
Proponents of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in theory want to expand the universe of ideas, but in practice DEI can simply produce conformity. Cathy Youth writes at The Bulwark that, in DEI’s current form, tolerance too easily turns to intolerance and inclusion to exclusion.
[Consider] Karl Popper’s famous “paradox of tolerance”: To what extent can society safely tolerate the speech of those who advocate intolerance? In this case, the students were making it overwhelmingly clear that they believe no person who dissents from progressive ideas on diversity, equity, and social justice can be tolerated in the department. They were, moreover, using their influence to keep such a person from “enter[ing] the social area” of UCLA.
ONE CAN CERTAINLY AGREE THAT, in a broad sense, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” should be a part of the twenty-first-century academy. The devil, of course, is in the details of how those terms are defined. A college or university should expect faculty members to treat students fairly. But does that mean fairness without regard to race, ethnicity, sex, etc.?
Or does it mean a proactive model that requires an extra effort to “uplift” underrepresented groups?
Should “inclusion” require an effort to introduce racial and sexual diversity into a literature curriculum even if the specific subject covered by the class does not readily lend itself to such an effort?
Should it require using a racial, ethnic, or gender lens when discussing philosophical topics?
And should it require—as the UCLA graduate students who set out to block Inbar’s hiring seem to believe—a specific stance on various political issues, such as abortion rights?
Read the whole thing.
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Judith Friedlander: Lessons From Early Advocates of Academic Freedom
With academic freedom under increasing pressure, educator and author Judith Friedlander at Persuasion explores its roots and the role its early proponents played in setting up boundaries to establish and preserve the freedom to express and advocate ideas free from government reprisals.
The New School for Social Research was founded in New York City in 1919 by several members of the AAUP’s organizing committee. They did so as an act of protest against university presidents who had fired pacifist professors in 1917 for opposing America’s decision to enter the Great War. Much to this group’s disappointment, the AAUP’s leadership endorsed those dismissals, siding with presidents like Nicholas Murray Butler of Columbia University, who had threatened his faculty and students with these words: “What had been tolerated before [is] intolerable now. What had been wrong-headedness [is] now sedition. What had been folly [is] now treason.”
When two faculty members ignored Butler’s warning, they were fired summarily, enraging advocates of academic freedom on campus. Among the most outspoken critics were two eminent historians and founding members of the AAUP, Charles A. Beard and James Harvey Robinson, both of whom responded by resigning from Columbia in protest, even though they disagreed with their pacifist colleagues.
[ . . . ]
Inspired by Beard and other champions of academic freedom, philanthropists stepped forward to subsidize the group’s proposal to create a new kind of educational institution, primarily for adults, where professors welcomed full-throated debates on the urgent issues of the day. And they did so defiantly, after Congress had passed the Espionage Act in 1917 and the Sedition Act in 1918, which severely restricted the rights of free speech during times of war.
When the New School opened in February 1919, conservative politicians tried to close it down immediately. State agents sat in on classes and newspapers published rumors about “Who’s Who” on the faculty, ominously suggesting that some of them might be engaged in “shadow Hun, shadow Bolshevist or other Un-American Propaganda.” The smear campaign continued into the spring semester of the next academic year, when New York State’s Joint Legislative Committee Investigating Seditious Activities officially branded the New School as a radical institution: “The New School for Social Research has been established by men who belong to the ranks of the near Bolshevik intelligentsia, some of them being too radical in their views to remain on the faculty of Columbia University.”
Read it all here.
Michael Bailey: My Research on Gender Dysphoria Was Censored. But I Won’t Be.
In June, we featured a piece by Colin Wright on the plight of Michael Bailey and his co-researcher who found their published research paper on gender dysphoria retracted after pressure was applied to the journal in which the article appeared. Now Bailey himself addresses the controversy head on at The Free Press, declaring that he will not be intimidated into silence.
Our article was published to a fair amount of attention. It was covered positively by the conservative press and also was retweeted widely both by families and others concerned about ROGD. But from the start, it got negative attention from trans activists and their political allies.
Almost immediately these activists began to lobby both the publisher of Archives of Sexual Behavior (Springer Nature Group) and the organization affiliated with the journal (International Academy of Sex Research, or IASR) to retract the article and to punish the editor of Archives, psychologist Kenneth Zucker, because he had published our work.
On May 5, a group of 100 academic activists and gender clinicians published an online Open Letter expressing “ethical” and “editorial concerns” about the journal and “serious concerns over research ethics and intellectual integrity” of our article. This was a pretext for their real complaint: dislike of certain ideas and the people responsible for them. That is clear from the open letter, which focuses less on our article and more on Ken Zucker.
Zucker is a giant figure in academic sex research, and especially the science of gender dysphoria. He helped found the Family Gender Identity Clinic in Toronto, one of the first international centers for the study and treatment of childhood and adolescent gender dysphoria. He was chosen by the American Psychiatric Association to chair the working group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders for the 2012 revision of its diagnostic manual, known as the DSM. Since 2002, he has edited Archives of Sexual Behavior, the most important academic journal covering research on sexuality, sex differences, and gender dysphoria.
But Zucker has also become a target of activist ire. That’s because he believes that gender dysphoria is a problem that should be treated, if possible, with psychotherapy to prevent transition rather than drugs and surgery to facilitate transition. Zucker’s most zealous critics accuse him of promoting “conversion therapy,” but this is incorrect. Conversion therapy is a religiously motivated attempt to change sexual orientation; it doesn’t work. Gender dysphoria, unlike sexual orientation, can change.
Zucker—like many others—wants to help youth avoid the psychosocial upheaval associated with gender transition and a lifetime of potentially unnecessary medical treatment. His position was almost universal until the past few years. The fact that it has become verboten is the result of a powerful activist movement that has been astonishing both in its effectiveness and its lack of scientific evidence.
Debate is essential to good science, but that is not what these activists want. They seek surrender. And that is what they got.
Read it all.
Walter Kirn and Abigail Shrier with a brief exchange on the growing perception by the powers that be of the “risks” of free speech and expression:
And finally, the (bi-) Cycle of Deception. Optics rule the day at the European climate conference: