Sandra Korn’s academic totalitarianism

I’ve often said that the best thing about Hamas is that they say what they think. None of the two-faced English vs. Arabic stuff we get from the ‘moderate’ PLO. They say they want to kill us, because they mean it.

So for the same reason, I enjoyed the Harvard Crimson piece by Sandra Y. L. Korn, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom.” Korn is not ashamed to put forth the idea that academic freedom should be limited when it conflicts with the political prejudices of the “university community”:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

And how does it “ensure” this? She provides examples, such as disruption of classes “with a bullhorn and leaflets” and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The irony in advocating coercive action to oppose research or speech that she and her peers consider politically incorrect is palpable, especially since the bullhorns and boycotts are reminiscent of the SA tactics of the 1930s.

While she understands that the purpose of academic freedom is to see to it that research is not “restricted by the political whims of the moment,” she apparently fails to grasp that the reason for this is that political whims are just that — whims. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese students took the lead in what Ms Korn must (at least, we hope she must) admit were terrible injustices. Their views were doubtless shared by most of the “university community,” but so what?

The principle of academic freedom does not require, as Ms Korn’s “academic justice” does, an omniscient and perfectly good community to decide which ideas may be discussed and which not. It says in effect “don’t suppress any ideas, let them compete on their merits,” because we are not smart enough to decide a priori (Korn thinks she and her friends are).

The fact that she chooses a boycott of Israeli universities as an example of a just limitation of academic freedom is a perfect example of the defect in her approach, because as a matter of fact, the ‘oppression’ of the ‘Palestinians’ is at bottom a whopper of a lie intended to cover up the desire of the Arabs to eliminate the state of Israel, and even in many cases to perpetrate a genocide of the Jewish population (viz., Hamas Covenant), something I am sure Korn would disapprove of.

Probably all of Ms Korn’s friends agree that only a right-wing Zionist nut would believe that. Maybe this is because the only voices that they hear are those of, er, left-wing anti-Zionist nuts. Academic freedom is intended to allow all (scholarly) points of view to be heard, in order to help us avoid precisely this situation.

Korn’s “academic justice” is more like academic totalitarianism!

This seems blindingly obvious to me, who did not go to Harvard (but like Ms Korn, did study the history of science, in which I learned about politically incorrect scholars like Galileo Galilei). So why doesn’t she get it?

Her bio indicates that she is “a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator.” And there could be the explanation: perhaps whatever she learned in her History of Science classes was overwhelmed by the main lesson taught in gender and ethnic studies, which is that there is no such thing as objective truth, there are only the political consequences of belief.

To illustrate, consider the example that opens her essay:

In July 1971, Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein penned an article for Atlantic Monthly titled “I.Q.” in which he endorsed the theories of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, who had claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race. Herrnstein further argued that because intelligence was hereditary, social programs intended to establish a more egalitarian society were futile—he wrote that “social standing [is] based to some extent on inherited differences among people.”

SDS then got out their bullhorns, to Ms Korn’s great approval. But does she approve of trying to stifle Herrnstein because she believes that his research was bad (how would she be able to tell if he were drowned out by the bullhorns)? Or is it enough for her that she believes that it “promotes or justifies oppression?” Does she also reject the theory of evolution on the grounds that it can be used to support social Darwinist policies that she (justifiably) dislikes?

I began by mentioning Hamas, and I should apologize to Ms Korn for comparing her to them, even in respect to their honesty. I’m sure she has never fired a rocket at a civilian population in her life. But there is something else that she shares with Hamas, which is a belief in ideology above all.

That is about as pernicious an idea as you can get.

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2 Responses to “Sandra Korn’s academic totalitarianism”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I am not sure you have used your time wisely in responding to this particular Israel- hater. They are all so stupid, and hypocritical. And worse. I feel such anger at these jerks considering the kind of murdering being done throughout the Middle East, and in fact throughout much of the Muslim world which they seem to find needs no censure,much less no boycott.
    There is now a very long list of these people who are of some Jewish origin. This adds to the pain and the outrage. But again I wonder if it is worth giving time and energy to the individuals who deserve nothing but contempt and ridicule.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    It’s not so much that she is anti-Israel, it’s the insufferable know-it-all attitude, plus the massive evil of the postmodern concept of truth as politics, plus the frank advocacy of totalitarian limits on speech and inquiry, etc. If this is where Harvard students are at, best close the place and apply its endowment to something more useful, like a falafel stand.