Debate Debacle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 5:00pm in

Debate! The highest form of communication. You have to listen to every idea - even if that idea is “you should be dead.”

Choose Wisely!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/07/2018 - 5:00pm in

Goofball thinks we should live in a just society, but Galahad is worried about how that will poll.

Where the Open Exchange of Ideas is Most Protected and Valued

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/07/2018 - 5:50am in

“[A] commonly held, and wrong, belief is that colleges and universities suppress speech as a matter of course. In fact, the higher education sector is where the open exchange of ideas is more protected and valued than most other sectors in society.”

That’s Sigal Ben-Porath, a philosopher at University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, in an interview at 3:AM Magazine chock full of wisdom about many of the current debates about speech, politics, and inclusion in colleges and universities.

Professor Ben-Porath’s views on these matters is shaped by the historical and philosophical big picture, as well as her empirically-informed work on and experience with campus issues (see her Free Speech on Campus). The perspective is clarifying and informative.

Below are some excerpts from the interview, beginning with some general remarks about what universities are about:

Questions about viewpoint diversity, the boundaries of acceptable speech on campus, the need to encourage or discourage certain forms and types of expression on campus out of concern to maintaining an atmosphere of open minded inquiry, all these are the lifeblood of campus. It is what we do every day when we do our work well, and what we aim to teach our students to do. This does not mean that universities and colleges are perfect; we do fail when we create conditions that chill speech, when we discourage the expression of dissenting views, when we fall into patterns of dogmatic thinking. But to present higher education as a context where young people are being indoctrinated into certain political views, and where free speech is under attack, is to misunderstand research and teaching or to ignore the realities of campus life.

Interviewer Richard Marshall asks about some “common myths” regarding these issues. Professor Ben-Porath replies:

There are over 4000 colleges and universities in the United States, some of which are actively dealing with speech tensions, and there are many institutions of higher education globally which are dealing with similar tensions. The issue is commonly portrayed in the public debate as a matter of tension between a commitment to open expression on the one hand, and a commitment to inclusion on the other. This is a false dichotomy and a misguided representation of the two values—inclusion and freedom (especially freedom of expression)—as mutually exclusive. In fact, college campuses have many ways to address both commitments at once, by ensuring a robust and open inquiry. In the vast majority of cases, an inclusive climate is one in which more people and more views are protected and expressed. Focusing on marginal (though important) cases in which speech, especially bigoted, biased, and controversial speech, is exclusionary and undermines the equal standing of diverse members of the campus community is sometimes important, but it also distracts from the fact that for the most part the two values go hand in hand especially in the higher education context.

Another commonly held, and wrong, belief is that colleges and universities suppress speech as a matter of course. In fact, the higher education sector is where the open exchange of ideas is more protected and valued than most other sectors in society. Businesses regularly limit speech by their employees, as Elizabeth Anderson discusses in her recent book Private Government; schools are increasingly permitted to limit student and teacher speech, as Catherine Ross shows in Lesson in Censorship; social media platforms are run by private entities whose commitment to neutral protection of speech is questionable. Universities, while flawed, stand out as institutions where free speech is upheld. That does not mean we have nothing to improve—sometimes concern about hurt feelings can become exaggerated and chill speech; in some places viewpoint diversity should be more of an active concern than it is; and in many contexts some students are effectively silenced because their identities or ideologies are not equally valued. Free speech is regularly negotiated as part of our mission to expand and disseminate knowledge, and that is a constructive aspect of our work.

What’s going wrong in current debates is not an over-valuing of free speech, but an ideological co-opting of its banner:

While free speech has been politicized and even weaponized in recent years, I do not think that the correct response would be to downgrade it as a central concern for democracies generally and specifically for institutions of higher learning… Without wide protection for speech we lose part of the bedrock of our democratic values, in that we fail to protect the ability of individuals not only to think for themselves but also their ability to communicate their thoughts to others.

If we fail to protect speech in colleges and universities, and abandon the distinct ways in which it deserves and requires protection in the context of the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination, we lose our ability to push the boundaries of what we know both as individuals and as a collective (meaning, the knowledge held by a discipline, or by society). Institutions of higher education are built on the assumption that knowledge is evolving and progressing, and if we suppress speech we are sure to lose a key way in which our understanding of the world continues to grow. Downgrading speech as a key dimension of this work, and permitting its suppression, would mean halting the effort to expand and refine our shared knowledge, as well as limiting our ability to communicate and relate the knowledge we have to our students and peers. Hence I do not see freedom of expression as overly valued in the current debate; I do see it as sometimes improperly framed or wielded to advance ideological goals. To correct for that we—those who care about democracy and about research, teaching and learning—must not cede it to ideologues but rather hold on to its role as a cornerstone of both democracy and scholarly work.

Professor Ben-Porath emphasizes that we should not think that free speech and inclusion are necessarily in conflict:

I see freedom and inclusion as generally aligned and complimentary, and I suggest that tensions between them exist not at the core but only in the margins of their application. I reject this tension as inherent to the relations between these two important values, and I also reject it as it applies to the functioning of a university. If freedom as a general democratic value, understood negatively as lack of undue governmental restraints or positively as ensuring the substantive opportunity to act by one’s will, is respected and implemented, it ought to apply to all members of the democratic community. In applying freedom properly, we also recognize and implement a vision of inclusion, understood as creating access to all for participation as equal contributing members and to benefiting from all that the relevant community has to offer. I don’t think this is a particularly controversial vision of either freedom or inclusion…

While freedom, especially freedom of speech, is key to our mission, we cannot fulfil our mission if we fail to ensure that all of our members can openly speak and be heard—in other words, without true inclusion our mission to protect free expression as a way to maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry and leaning cannot be realized. For example, if members of racial minorities are consistently devalued and questioned, if women are consistently intimidated or ridiculed when they participate etc., than we do not in fact uphold and maintain an atmosphere of free inquiry, because we effectively silence or fail to hear what many in our community are contributing to the discussion. This does not mean that bigoted or biased speech must be censored to protect an inclusive climate, but it does mean that such speech—which is marginal to the overall endeavor—should be considered in light of its disproportionate impact on some members of our community. The university community, or some of its members (for example, student clubs, department, or the administration) can decide to take steps in response to exclusionary speech, for example by elevating the voices of those who are silenced by exclusionary speech, by emphasizing and enacting the inclusive aims of the campus, or by ensuring that there are groups, practices, and conditions that allow for all to participate and be heard.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Mohammad Ehsai, untitled

The post Where the Open Exchange of Ideas is Most Protected and Valued appeared first on Daily Nous.

Loan Stars

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 5:00pm in

A new game show called “Paid Off” will relieve a contestant’s student loan debt - if they win. Even the quiz show economy sucks for millennials.

How to Teach (Philosophy): Readings Sought

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 10/07/2018 - 4:15am in

What readings about teaching would you assign to philosophy graduate students?

That’s the question sent in by a philosophy professor tasked with developing a teaching curriculum for philosophy graduate students. Graduate students are rarely explicitly trained in how to teach college students, so what articles, books, websites, etc., are worth assigning and going over with them to help make them better teachers?


Some related posts: “How Will You Try to Improve Your Teaching?” (several links in that post), “Philosophy Teaching Games“, “Teaching As if Our Students Were Not Future Philosophers.”

book sculpture by Kylie Stillman


The post How to Teach (Philosophy): Readings Sought appeared first on Daily Nous.

Mike Launches Crowdfunding Appeal to Help Fight Libel Battle

On Wednesday, 13th June 2018, Mike annnounced that he had set up a crowdfunding page to raise money for him to take to court the organisations and publications that have libelled him as an anti-Semite. He has had to do this, because he simply doesn’t make enough from the Vox Political page to pay the legal fees himself, and so he has turned to the generosity of his readers.

He posted up the description of his case, and why he needs the money, which he has put on his JustGiving page. This runs

“My name is Mike Sivier. You may know me as the writer of the Vox Political website.

I am probably best-known as the man who forced the Conservative government to reveal the number of sick and disabled benefit claimants who had lost their lives after being denied benefit, after a two-year campaign.

In 2017, immediately before local government elections in which I was standing as a Labour candidate, an organisation calling itself the Campaign Against Antisemitism published an article falsely alleging anti-Semitism by me. I believe the intention was to corruptly spoil my chance of being elected.

The piece ‘quotemined’ investigative articles I had written about claims of anti-Semitism against Labour Party politicians, using only those words that could present the most prejudicial impression about me, in order to falsely suggest hatred of the Jewish people. A weblink to the article was then sent to the Labour Party, in an attempt to have my membership suspended. This led to newspaper articles including one in which my local Conservative MP libelled me.

Labour obligingly suspended my membership, and subsequently launched a one-sided investigation in which I was found guilty despite being absent from the proceedings, at which none of the evidence I had presented to the party was mentioned by the investigator.

A copy of the report to the Labour Party committee that heard my case was then handed to a member of the national press. This led to further newspaper articles claiming I was not only an anti-Semite but also a Holocaust denier (an innovation by the Labour Party investigator).

I have been trying to persuade all those involved to retract their unfounded claims and apologise. These lies have harmed my main business – the Vox Political website – by encouraging readers to believe I should be avoided because of the unacceptable views they have attributed to me.

My attempts seem unlikely to produce positive results so it seems I must resort to court action.

I need your support to fund the court campaign to clear my name.

Please support this case and share. As a Labour Party member, I believe in equal opportunities for all people, no matter the colour of their skin, their religion or ethnic background, or any other accident of birth. My campaign to force the Tory government to release its sickness and disability death figures was an example of my commitment to end discrimination, prejudice and hate based on such characteristics.”

He ends his article with an appeal to readers to support him, either by donating or sharing the link, or both, which is

The article is at:

All this is absolutely true. And I’ve written time and again that Mike is no racist, Anti-Semite or any kind of Nazi. He and I had an uncle, who was of Jewish descent, with whom our family used to go on holidays when we were children. Our father had done his national service in Germany, not far from Belsen concentration camp, and showed us the photos he’d taken of the remains of that terrible place, and the memorial the British army put up to the Jews murdered there.

He has always enjoyed the friendship of people of different cultures, religions and nationalities. One of his mates at college was a Muslim Nigerian. And while he was there, he was one of the speakers reading out the names of some of the victims of the Holocaust in a performance commemorating them and the others butchered in the Shoah. He had done this at the invitation of a female Jewish friend, who was deeply moved by his performance.

One of the books I’ve got on my shelf on the Third Reich was given to me by Mike after he went on a College trip to Berlin. It’s on the Nazi Sicherheitsdienst – the infamous ‘Security Service’, which formed a part of the apparatus of state terror in the Third Reich. It was published by the-then West German government to acccompany an exhibition on the SD and the horrors they perpetrated following the redevelopment and archaeological investigation of the organisation’s headquarters in what was then West Berlin. As well as information on the SD and the other parts of the Nazi secret police, like the Gestapo and the Krimipolizei, the ordinary criminal police, who were also responsible for persecuting political and ethnic enemies of the Nazi order, the book also gave due coverage of the Nazis’ victims. It described the network of camps, and gave the figures for the number of Jews and other victims murdered in the occupied countries. It also had a photographs and potted biographies of some of the most notable victims. It is most definitely not the kind of book Nazis, ant-Semites and Holocaust deniers want people reading, let alone give to their relatives.

Mike and I grew up in the ’80s, when the NF and BNP were very much in the news and trying to make their presence felt through terrorising and attacking people of colour and lefties. It was also the decade when Blacks and Asians also fought back against racism with the support of White sympathisers. There was a real fear at the time that the BNP or something like them could gain power, especially under Thatcher’s noxious government, with its links to South American Fasciss like Pinochet and the horrific Rios Montt. This fear was expressed in some of the comic literature that both he and I read, which dealt with issues like racism and persecution.

It shows the absolute contempt for truth or any kind of journalistic integrity that he, and so many others like him, have been smeared and libelled by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the scumbags of the right-wing press. I full support Mike in his court battle, and hope others will too.

The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 12:30am in

People get awfully solemn in the United States about the civic function of our institutions of higher education. They talk about college as the nursery of democracy and the care that we must take with our young people. As educators, the future is in our hands. I believe it is worth puncturing this solemnity with some awkward questions.

That’s Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University, in a review of several books on questions regarding free speech on college campuses in The New York Review of Books.

He writes:

There’s a sort of moral panic going on: writer after writer, politician after politician, says we ought to be frightened about what’s happening on campuses because that is where the future of free speech will be determined.

Waldron discusses several different concerns of those worried about free speech on campus. One of these is that “colleges and universities cannot work as institutions of higher learning unless there is a spirit of unfettered inquiry in the research they undertake.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Speech, including controversial speech, is central to teaching and learning,” [Sigal] Ben-Porath writes. [Erwin] Chemerinsky and [Howard] Gillman devote a lot of attention to this as well. Historically the university has been a special domain of freedom, they say, and students are selling this heritage short when they shout down visiting speakers: “Campuses cannot censor or punish the expression of ideas, or allow intimidation or disruption of those who are expressing ideas, without undermining their core function of promoting inquiry, discovery, and the dissemination of new knowledge.” Claims like this sound more convincing than they are. Is the free research of mathematicians or philosophers or physicists really in peril because of how one group of students responds to an invitation to Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos? Most of the free speech issues on campus have nothing to do with the lectures, laboratories, or seminars in which academic freedom is implicated.

Aside from commencement addresses, a college or a university rarely invites or hosts speakers itself. Academic departments sometimes do, but few of the incidents that people complain about have involved speakers invited as part of a classroom series. Mostly it’s students showing off and trying to provoke and annoy one another. So we have to ask: What’s the connection supposed to be between the rough-and-tumble of student politics and academic freedom in the disciplined research undertaken in the schools and departments of the university?

I ask this because sometimes the complaints about student protests are quite absurd. Here’s a report from January 2016 in The Guardian: “Chris Patten, the chancellor of Oxford University, has told students involved in the campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes that they must be prepared to embrace freedom of thought or ‘think about being educated elsewhere.’ Patten accused students who had criticised Rhodes, who regarded the English as racially superior, of trying to shut down debate. He said that by failing to face up to historical facts which they did not like, students were not abiding by the values of a liberal, open society that ‘tolerates freedom of speech across the board.'”

This is nonsense. The students weren’t trying to shut down debate; they were trying to open it up. A dreary statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College is hardly a focus of higher learning. (I don’t remember tutors taking their charges out onto the High Street to study it when I was at Oxford. If they had, why on earth wouldn’t a debate about Rhodes’s views on imperialism have been a perfectly appropriate learning experience?) It is typical of a moral panic to run together all the issues that make us uneasy. Patten’s comments here are an egregious instance of that. He is worried about students disrupting provocative political speeches and he is worried about students questioning the value of cherished memorials. He wants us to believe that the questioning and the disruption are the same thing, whereas they are more or less polar opposites.

The whole review is here. Readers may also be interested in remarks by Jacob Levy (McGill) on how “freedom of speech is not a value of universities.”

(via Mary Fratini)

Robert Rauschenberg – Statue of Liberty

The post The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech appeared first on Daily Nous.

AAUP and AAC&U Issue Statement in Defense of Liberal Arts Education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/06/2018 - 11:07pm in

“We believe that institutions of higher education, if they are truly to serve as institutions of higher education, should provide more than narrow vocational training and should seek to enhance students’ capacities for lifelong learning”

That is an excerpt from a joint statement on the value of a liberal arts education issued by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U).

The statement, covered in today’s editions of Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education, takes issue with the mainstream perception of the liberal arts:

In recent years, the disciplines of the liberal arts, once universally regarded as central to the intellectual life of the university, have been steadily moved to the periphery and increasingly threatened—by some administrators, elected officials, journalists, and parents of college-age children. The study of the history of human societies and forms of human expression is now too often construed as frivolous, and several colleges and universities have recently announced the wholesale elimination of liberal arts departments. Politicians have proposed linking tuition to the alleged market value of given majors. Students majoring in literature, art, philosophy, and history are routinely considered unemployable in the technology and information economy, despite the fact that employers in that economy strenuously argue that liberal arts majors make great tech-sector workers precisely because they are trained to think critically and creatively, and to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

The associations urge resisting moves that would have the effect of denying all but the elite an opportunity for a liberal arts education:

The disciplines of the liberal arts… foster intellectual curiosity about questions that will never be definitively settled—questions about justice, about community, about politics and culture, about difference in every sense of the word. All college students and not solely a privileged few should have opportunities to address such questions as a critical part of their educational experience. And the disciplines of the liberal arts are central to the ideal of academic freedom, as well, because the liberal arts, by their nature, require free rein to pursue truth wherever it may lead. As a result, they provide an intellectual bulwark for academic freedom.

The whole statement is here.

Victor Vasarely, “Black Circle”


The post AAUP and AAC&U Issue Statement in Defense of Liberal Arts Education appeared first on Daily Nous.