Friday, April 14, 2023

Being Unwoke at Harvard


                                             (Grand Haven, Michigan)

In 1974 I graduated, from Northern Illinois University, with a Bachelor's degree in philosophy. My time in NIU's philosophy department was exhilarating. I was a new Christian, working out my worldview. Several of my professors were of a different worldview. And yet, they allowed me to reason together with them.

"Come, let us reason together." (Isaiah 1:18)

As I was nearing the end of this degree program, I received a call from the head of the philosophy department. He and another professor would like to meet with me. I went to his office, sat down, and the department head said, "We think you should enter a PhD program in philosophy. We'll support you, and write your recommendations."

Note this: these two professors were not professing followers of Jesus. I was. We had our differences. Yet, they wanted to champion me. I have not forgotten this.

Ahhh, those were the days when a university education allowed for dialoguing and reasoning together over ideas, many of which ran contrary to one's own. There was no mocking or ridiculing in my philosophy classes. Just rational discussion. What a fertile ground for learning! Because you won't really understand your own worldview without understanding other worldviews that challenge yours.

I am one who came out of the secular university stronger in my faith than when I entered in. I was allowed to engage ideas, not be triggered by them. To engage with that which threatens you can strengthen you. 

This is not the case in today's American university. "Students at many colleges these days operate like Red Guards in China’s Cultural Revolution. Being unwoke is socially punished. Breaking that culture of conformity will take reinforcement across the institution." (Wall Street Journal, "Harvard Has a Free Speech Moment: Fifty Professors Form an Alliance on Academic Freedom")

Most of the Woke Red Guard I encounter are asleep at the wheel of reason. They can bully. They cannot think. Or, in a Nietzschean move, they prefer bullying over thinking. (See here.)

But, perhaps there is some hope for the woke. At Harvard, Stephen Pinker (an atheist, btw), and fifty diverse Harvard professors, are forming "a new faculty-led Council on Academic Freedom dedicated to the free exchange of ideas as a cornerstone of “reason and rational discourse.”"

These professors confess, sadly, that Harvard has seen “cases of disinvitation, sanctioning, harassment, public shaming, and threats of firing and boycotts for the expression of disfavored opinions.”

Being unwoke at Harvard. A ray of hope?