Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Jonathan Cole: The Chilling Effect Of Fear At America's Colleges

   Worth a read, though I'm not particularly interested in psychological and sociological speculation about why illiberalism is flourishing in universities. Don't miss this part:
Today, nearly half of a random sample of roughly 3,000 college students surveyed by Gallup earlier this year are supportive of restrictions on certain forms of free speech on campus, and 69 percent support disciplinary action against either students or faculty members who use intentionally offensive language or commit “microagressions”—speech they deem racist, sexist, or homophobic. According to a free-speech survey conducted by Yale last year, of those who knew what trigger warnings are, 63 percent would favor their professors using them—by attaching advisories to the books on their reading lists that might offend or disrespect some students, for example—while only 23 percent would oppose. Counterintuitively, liberal students are more likely than conservative students to say the First Amendment is outdated.
   There's a really interesting link in there to this: Robert K. Merton, "Insiders and Outsiders: A Chapter In The Sociology Of Knowledge." Now...when I think about the sociology of (widespread) belief (incorrectly called "the sociology of knowledge" by its practitioners) I usually think about the train wreck that is the "strong programme," as represented e.g. by Barnes and Bloor. But I'm fairly far into the Merton piece thus far, and it's pretty interesting. He's basically discussing what's come to be known among feminists as "standpoint epistemology." That's a train wreck of its own...but anyway, Merton's discussion is interesting as far as I've gotten.


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