Instead of asking questions, my university tells me the answers | Alasdair Johnston

Beginning university last autumn, I was genuinely excited by the prospect of being exposed to new ideas and challenging commonly held convictions. Now, at the start of my second year, I have realized just how naïve I was. Instead of fostering innovation, the very notion of subversive thinking is actively being discouraged in our universities. Americans know this all too well; and we are well on course to joining them in the complete surrender of our critical faculties.

I study politics at the University of Durham. Whilst perusing my course’s module options, I was drawn to a course entitled “Race and politics in the Obama era”. Immediately, I began to think about all the fascinating questions that could arise from such a module. Why have racial tensions increased so much under Obama? Does it matter that he is black? Does it matter that he is a Democrat? Why is the relationship between black American communities and the police so bad? Why are so many black people killed by other black people? How common is racial discrimination in the work place? I thought that this module was going to allow epic exploration into contemporary social issues in exactly the way I had expected possible when I first came to Durham.

However, upon reading the module description, I noticed that the university wanted the exact opposite. The description read;

“Contrary to dreams of a “post-racial” America after the election of Barack Obama, it appears as though political battle lines in the US has become increasingly synonymous with racial divisions. While the Democratic Party has transformed from a coalition of working class and labour oriented interests to a coalition of minority based interests, the Republican Party has increasingly become the party of white conservatism tied inextricably with racial resentment. What has enabled this transformation and how has it affected America’s politics?”

My heart sank.

Far from facilitating investigation, the University instead has provided an answer for the central questions to the course. How do races relate to parties? Is there any connection at all? Is one party better for racial cohesion than the other Instead of asking the question, the University has given us the answer: Republicans are racist. The University has decided this to be true, even in the face of the factual evidence that places with the worst racial tensions in America overwhelmingly tend to be controlled by Democrat local officials. Far from inspiring academic integrity, the foundations of this module are not based on empirical data, but a trendy sentiment – that the Republican party is “tied inextricably with racial resentment”.

Is the most conservative person currently allowed on American television, Judge Jeanine Pirro, a 'white conservative', despite being of Middle-Eastern descent and certainly not white?

I wonder if the member of the university’s faculty who wrote this understands what the word “inextricably” actually means. ‘Inextricable’ means impossible to imagine without. It means that two concepts are so closely related, they could not be seriously discussed without reference to one another. So, for students of the University interested in exploring race in America, they must first accept the premise that a good part of the Republican party is racist. It would be impossible to succeed in this module without first accepting this premise, since the module is founded on it. There is no possibility that the Republican party is not racist; the transformation “has” already happened. To suggest otherwise would be ridiculous; the connection is ‘inextricable’.

The use of the words “white conservatism” is equally extraordinary. Was Thomas Sowell, who in my opinion was actually too far to the right, a white conservative even though he was black? Is Sherriff David Clarke, one of Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters, “white conservative”…despite being black? Is the most conservative person currently allowed on American television, Judge Jeanine Pirro, a “white conservative”, despite being of Middle-Eastern descent and certainly not white?

What we see here is a reflection of a wider societal problem. The ability to challenge widely accepted ideas should be held in total reverence; we should glorify the individuals’ ability and right to possess different opinions. Instead, the currency of intellectual subversion is being devalued. The fundamental importance of thoughtful consideration is being undermined by the seductive allure of fitting in. As Soloman would have us understand, “All is vanity”.

Being a man of limited mental aptitude, I thought that the majority of Americans who identify as Republicans do so primarily because they believe in the Constitution, limited Government, and God. However, my university education has taught me that Republicans are Republicans because they are racist.

Is that true?

Who cares? Truth doesn’t matter anymore – as long as you belittle and insult people with conservative views, you can fit in at university.

Alasdair Johnston is a second-year student of Politics at the University of Durham

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