Douglas Carswell

18 NOV 2015

The Closing of the American Mind?

What is the role of a university? Is it a place of free inquiry, which expands the bounds of knowledge, and rigorously scrutinises the orthodoxies of the day? Not anymore. Instead of promoting freedom of thought and speech, universities increasingly restrict it.

In The Closing of the American Mind, the American philosopher Allan Bloom warned about what was happening on campus. Relativism, he wrote, had replaced critical inquiry. Universities increasingly indoctrinated students with contempt for the past, and for the West. As a result, students learnt only to subscribe to a set of lazy cultural doctrines.

Bloom published his book in 1987. The situation has only got worse since. Students today actively work to restrict free speech. Any dissent from left-wing political norms is condemned on the basis that it is a form of oppression. Those who disagree face trial by the mob.

The campus inquisition has recently reached extraordinary proportions. At Yale, academics who questioned an e-mail calling for "cultural sensitivity" in Halloween costumes faced a gang of students demanding their resignations.

Here in Britain, it is no different. At Oxford last month, students claiming to be oppressed by a statue of Cecil Rhodes protested to insist the university remove it. "No platform" policies are used ban certain people – like members of a party that recently won 3.8 million votes - from speaking.

Students used to protest against the Establishment. Now they have become part of it. They collude with culturally Marxist academics to enforce orthodoxies, not challenge them. In the battle for truth and progress between Galileo and the Church, today's students are predominantly with the Church.

Freedom of thought and speech is indispensable to our society. It's what creates the innovation that propels economic progress. It's what differentiates the democratic West from the countries that millions are now fleeing. It is irresponsible for us in Britain to allow radical censorship to flourish at our public universities.

But the biggest losers from the campus inquisition, I suspect, are a large silent minority of students. Young, inquisitive people – like many I spoke to at Warwick University a few weeks ago – who don't agree with the left-wing consensus, but are too intimidated to say so. If we're going to worry about oppression on campus, they are the people we should be thinking about.

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