Re: “Freedom is a duty”
Oct. 19, 2006
To the Editor:
In Allison Buchan-Terrell’s article “Freedom is a duty,” she paraphrases me by saying “there is a lot of censorship at universities.” This sentence requires an explanation without which the quote is misleading.
Officially, there is no censorship at our universities; every researcher is free to choose the content and method of his investigation within the domain of his expertise. In addition, every researcher is free to submit his papers and write what he considers appropriate wherever he chooses. Censorship does exist, however, in two forms: indirect censorship and self-censorship. Limited space allows me only to discuss self-censorship.
Today, which professor would dare lecture on topics such as homosexuality, (learning) disabilities, aboriginals (so-called First Nations), sexual, racial, and genetic differences, equity or Islam, unless he does so in a politically correct, i.e. safe, way?!
Many students are eager to make up their minds on these issues and would love their professors to analyze them in a detached manner, but most professors censor themselves out of fear. Only those who preach and propagandize the preordained and politically correct version are willing to talk about them, and they do so only with the “approved” Orwellian terminology. An entire generation of our students is being cheated by being denied honest debate on many important issues, and the main culprits for this state of affairs are our harassment policies, hate laws, political correctness, and the timidity and cowardice of professors.
In such an intellectually repressive atmosphere, it even becomes possible for academics such as anthropology professor Douglass St. Christian to accuse Professor Phillipe Rushton of having a “particularly nasty and dishonest agenda of intolerance and bigotry.” In our current censored atmosphere, many academics aren’t even embarrassed by such ugly ad hominem arguments. Those who don’t submit to political correctness and its dogmas are freely made the object of abuse, the price for not having censored oneself.
Servanne Woodward of the Department of French raises an interesting question in her letter. Should journalists’ reporting not concentrate on “prize-winning professors” rather than on the “least significant researchers”? Professor Rushton may well be among the “least significant researchers” — although his research is clearly much better than much research in sociology, women’s studies and education that nobody objects to — but she ignores the fact that the debate of The Gazette is not about the quality of research, but academic freedom. Undoubtedly, in the context of academic freedom, Rushton’s research is of far greater importance than much of what is otherwise considered “significant,” and Woodward’s letter is entirely beside the point.
With respect to Islam, self-censorship is even more deplorable. With so much violence committed in the name of Allah and the Koran, there is great need to examine the origin and sources of the religion’s violent elements. The Islamic form of political correctness, against all reason and evidence, insists Islam is a peaceful religion and self-censorship conceals the important remainder. All kinds of violent threats are made to prove Islam is not violent, while peaceful Muslims observe in silence and let self-censorship do its anti-intellectual work. Again, all our students are cheated and systematically prevented from gaining a better and more realistic understanding.
Today, self-censorship is the bane of academic life as much as overt censorship was a calamity in the past.
Professor Emeritus, Psychology, KUC