I don’t like being told what to think. Being told what to think makes me feel worthless. It makes me feel like I’m subscribed to an orthodoxy. I presume this is how religious tribes work. They teach you what to believe in, and if for some reason your convictions run contrary to its teaching, you suddenly become an enemy. I’m afraid Universities function in a very similar manner. In fact, at University you not only become an enemy to the leftist orthodoxy, but you also automatically become a member of a radical right wing group.
Take for instance what happened with Lindsey Shepard in 2017. She was reprimanded for playing a video showing a debate over gender pronouns. She later become labelled as a member of a right wing group. Many people believed she was apart of a white supremacy movement on campus. It was sad seeing her be straw-manned. In a tweet, she confirmed her political stance.
Lindsey Shepard, along with so many other students, simply want to challenge the status quo. Just because they question the notion of white privilege doesn’t mean they’re white supremacists. Similarly, just because a Professor teaches her students that there are differences in physical ability between men and women doesn’t categorize her as a sexist. I suspect many people understand the difference. It’s not that difficult. Why is it, then, that we continue to see this problem slowly reaching its peak?
Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and Professor at New York University says that there is prestige to be gained by identifying others for being racist, misogynist, and so on. When someone is rewarded for this nefarious behaviour, it becomes contagious. That is, it becomes sort of like a game to see who could identify the most divisive people on campus. This needs to stop. This game is currently going undetected on campus. And perhaps that’s a result of the hegemonic ruling class of the left. If we continue to let students and Professors accumulate personal gain by misrepresenting innocent students, I predict it’ll eventually lead to unintended consequences.
It’s highly possible that these students erupt with frustration to subscribe to these alt-right groups involuntarily. Becker’s labelling theory shows that those who are labelled as “deviant” leads a person to engage in deviant behaviour. But worse of all, my biggest concern is that we’ll have educational institutions that under educate our students. How do students learn if they’re afraid to question? Or better yet, how do students engage in discovering the truth when they are coerced into radical groups? Isn’t it instinctual to just keep quiet to avoid this trouble?
I, for one, won’t be trapped in a soundproof box. I’m confident many other students won’t as well. However, there are a small group of students who will. People are using “misrepresentation” as a ploy to suppress intellectual discourse. If we don’t solve this perplexing problem, this small group of students will grow into an indoctrinated student body. What’s the point of enrolling in University when we are taught what to think, instead of how to think?
By Vinu Selvaratnam
The views expressed in this article are my own and does not represent any institution.