Totalitarian woke culture drives out a true scholar at Portland State University
Peter Boghossian become newsworthy about four years ago when he co-published in legitimate academic journals nonsensical papers about dog rape at dog parks and the penis as a social structure. Academia, rather than being embarrassed and reforming itself, doubled down, turning him into a pariah. His efforts to teach open inquiry and logical thinking in his classes also saw his woke students turn on him. Boghossian has finally given up. He resigned from Portland State University and published an illuminating open letter explaining exactly what drove him out.
In his open letter, which you can read in its entirety at Common Sense with Bari Weiss, Boghossian describes an academic system that has completely abandoned any fealty to the old values of curiosity, rationality, open-mindedness, and the art of challenging people's ideas without seeking to destroy them. Indeed, given that his specialties "are critical thinking, ethics and the Socratic method," and his classes cover topics such as "Science, Pseudoscience, and the Philosophy of Education," Boghossian has built his academic life around principles of free inquiry, free speech, and logic.
Boghossian explains that in the past, universities supported these principles, but, at least at Portland State University, they have abandoned each one:
I've invited a wide range of guest lecturers to address my classes, from Flat-Earthers to Christian apologists to global climate skeptics to Occupy Wall Street advocates. I'm proud of my work.
I invited those speakers not because I agreed with their worldviews, but primarily because I didn't. From those messy and difficult conversations, I've seen the best of what our students can achieve: questioning beliefs while respecting believers; staying even-tempered in challenging circumstances; and even changing their minds.
I never once believed — nor do I now — that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.
But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.
What's concerning, and what we're seeing time and again in the corporate world as university students fill positions, is that thinking in academia is verboten. Instead, students are taught unswerving fealty to extremist ideas:
Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university's truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly.
Boghossian writes that as he saw this turn toward fanaticism in his classes, he tried to challenge it by asking questions about the students' moral certainty. All that happened was that a former student complained about him, causing the university to launch a Title IX investigation. These investigations don't even make a pretense of due process (as many male students falsely accused of rape can attest), and universities have no loyalty to men, especially White men.
Even when the kangaroo inquiry found that the charge against Boghossian was false, the investigator told him that, in the future, he could not discuss any leftist shibboleths if they challenged the notion of "protected classes." It was this censorship that led him to co-author a manifestly nonsensical paper entitled "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct" — which a peer-reviewed journal accepted. Collective academia was not amused to find itself, like Hans Christian Andersen's emperor, revealed as stark naked. Boghossian found himself the subject of crude and vile attacks.
Undeterred, Boghossian and his co-authors were able to get other legitimate, peer-reviewed journals to publish even more nonsense, with the best known being about rape in dog parks. His institution, rather than reforming, attacked him, announcing that the editors and readers of the publications, all of whom were exposed as intellectual frauds, were the subjects of an experiment and had not agreed to participate — meaning that Boghossian had violated rules of professional conduct.
Boghossian has more details about the irrationality, fanaticism, and hate that characterize academia. You really must read it. You should also watch Ayaan Hirsi Ali explain how wokeism and fanatical Islam are the same. Boghossian, I think, would agree:
Image: Peter Boghossian. YouTube screen grab.
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