We Must Not Give In to Academic Outrage Mobs

The nastiest development in recent years on our college campuses is the rise of academic outrage mobs. They consist of people are so certain of their righteousness that they eagerly assail anyone who dares to disagree. Such individuals are bad and must be silenced if not driven out completely.

One scholar who is disturbed about this is Indiana University sociologist Fabio Rojas. In today’s Martin Center article, he takes a look at the rise of the academic mob.

What the mob is interested in is policing within academia. Rojas explains:

The focus of this policing is racial and gender inequality. Some call these inquisitors the ‘intersectional Left’ because of the movement’s reliance on intersectional social theory that emphasizes the overlapping categories of gender, race, and class. Others merely use the phrase the ‘Academic Left’ or the ‘Critical Theory Left.’ This academic subculture is an important shift in the way that many academics think of their mission. Inequality is no longer seen as a problem to be studied and addressed through academic research. Instead, inequality has become a master framework for discussions of institutional legitimacy and academic merit. A professor, or institution, that does not adequately address inequality in the proper way, or with the proper words, is deemed an unwitting accomplice in a system of institutionalized discrimination.

Discussion and debate are verboten. Groupthink and conformity are mandatory.

Rojas recounts a number of the distressing instances within the last few months, where professors have been punished for not going along with the mob’s demands.

“Academic outrage mobs are bad,” Rojas continues. “They are a form of surrender. Rather than see opposing ideas as something to be debated and rejected, the academic outrage mob moves to censure and erase ideas. Genuine debate requires that we seriously engage with ideas that are profoundly wrong, offensive, and possibly dangerous. Thus, academic research requires a degree of level-headedness — an ability to calmly look at opposing points of view, however repulsive, and say, ‘this is why they are wrong.’”

Moving back to dogmatism from debate is a human retrogression. We need to stop it.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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