Education, recent

Progressivism at the University of Melbourne: No Cause for Alarm

It’s tough being a conservative at university nowadays, or so the story goes. I found nothing surprising about Zachary Snowdon Smith’s tale of extreme and bizarre opinions expressed by teachers and students at the University of Melbourne, but I also don’t think campus conservatives are victims of an ideological indoctrination program. Like Smith, I am a University of Melbourne alumnus, but I studied both the humanities and the sciences. My time in student politics and as Secretary of the Student Union in 2009 made me well acquainted with the progressive tendencies at the university. However, I emerged from this supposedly dangerous indoctrination machine with no intention of becoming an evangelist for a “resentment-ridden ideology.” Australian universities like Melbourne are much too big and too diverse to ever run an effective indoctrination program.

Conservatives may, for or better or worse, find themselves a minority on campus. The University of Melbourne is situated in the country’s most progressive major city, as evidenced by their unique propensity to elect the Greens to the lower house in federal politics. The university has an urban campus filled with young, educated people, and is majority female—a perfect demographic storm for progressive politics. It’s no surprise that a majority of the students and lecturers have progressive leanings. But comprising an intellectual or ideological majority is not the same as indoctrination. It is simply the current academic vogue in the humanities, not some kind of systematic oppression of campus conservatives.

Universities cannot and should not act to curb the expression of views that might be interpreted as extreme or unorthodox. The University of Melbourne has a very liberal policy on academic freedom. All scholars have the right to express ideas or opinions even when doing so may cause offence. The only conditions are that discourse should be reasonable and in good faith and that any applicable ethics rules (for example, research ethics) are adhered to. Therefore, if a teacher or student, argues that female genital mutilation has positive aspects, that is not grounds for disciplinary action. The World Health Organization and United Nations would disagree, but we should not sack teachers or expel students merely because they disagree with the WHO or the UN.

It is simply impossible to tell ahead of time which of today’s stupid, unlikely, or unreasonable ideas may be discovered to be useful and true tomorrow. Classic historical examples might include Copernicus and Galileo, but there are numerous questions over which academics reasonably disagree. Gender studies professors argue about whether sex work is empowering or disempowering for women and what is the best legal and policy approach towards it. Neuroscientists, like myself, argue with each other over the relative contribution of a particular molecule towards a mental disorder or disease. In each case, one group might think the other side’s arguments are stupid or unsupported by evidence. University administrators cannot and should not try to pick winners in these arguments. The best approach is to just let the academics argue about it until they come to a resolution.

It is easy to forget, when complaining about the dominance of progressive politics within universities, that the humanities are just one faculty within a much larger campus. On the same campus, the commerce faculty might teach first year students classical or neoliberal economics, while the humanities professors might assign readings from Karl Marx. Peter Singer, a University of Melbourne alumnus and laureate professor, might inspire a new generation of animal rights activists as the university fills its biomedical precinct with animal research laboratories. If the humanities on campus are really indoctrinating students in just one way of thinking, you only need to walk across campus to find another department full of people whose indoctrination program is completely opposed.

Students also complicate the indoctrination story by bringing their pre-existing values into the classroom. According to Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, some students will resist engaging with certain topics, such as radical feminism, to express their political opposition to the topic. This includes self-righteous progressives, as she writes in a piece for the Conversation:

Certain students this semester seemingly felt no compunction at all to challenge my language. Mid-sentence. “Prostitution” for example, will promptly get corrected to “sex work” before we’ve even had the lecture discussing the politics of language. In a week on Black Feminism, an in-context use of “Nigger” should, apparently, have had me saying “N-Word” because that’s less upsetting. There is, seemingly never enough warnings I can give to buffer upset.

Students, even at the undergraduate level it seems, are no passive receptacles for knowledge. They can and do shape the curriculum through their actions, from explicit demands that have forced professors to reconsider the language they use, to more subtle signals that they send through their course selection and teaching evaluations. University administrators and lecturers are therefore in an unenviable position. On the one hand, many students are demanding more progressive classroom cultures. On the other, conservatives are denouncing them for being responsive to these demands.

Where students go after their degrees also shows that the University of Melbourne is a spectacular failure as an indoctrination machine. If the university was any good at indoctrination, we would not expect to find its alumni prominent in both of Australia’s major political parties. The University of Melbourne has hosted both a Liberal Club and a Labor Club since 1925 and proudly counts Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister and Liberal legend, Sir Robert Menzies, among its alumni. Its library even manages a special collection documenting Menzies’s life. The more left-wing Labor party has had prominent Melbourne alumni such as Gareth Evans and Kim Carr on its frontbench. Melbourne alumni can be found in both the progressive Grattan Institute think-tank and the conservative Institute of Public Affairs. Recently, James Patterson was returned to the Senate on the Liberal ticket, having previously worked for the Institute of Public Affairs and studied at the University of Melbourne.

Universities are large institutions with an enormous amount of diversity. The University of Melbourne boasts over 50,000 students from over 140 countries and its 4,600 academic staff produce over 7,000 research publications on an annual basis. With such a large body of students and staff, political and ideological diversity is inevitable, so it’s no surprise that among the University of Melbourne Student Union’s 200 affiliated student clubs are both libertarian and socialist political groups. A good indoctrination program would not allow these various groups to exist, let alone fund them through the student union.

The narrative of conservative victimhood at universities is based largely on criticisms of the humanities when universities also support students in science, commerce, engineering, medicine, and law. So long as campus conservatives are using their minority status to claim oppression or ideological indoctrination they are joining in a game of grievance one-upmanship with their progressive counterparts. Perhaps this strategy might win sympathy in the short-term, but it might also discourage more conservative students from engaging with these disciplines. In the long-run this will leave us all unable to communicate and argue on matters of substance where we reasonably disagree.

 

Shaun Khoo completed a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the University of Melbourne and a PhD at the University of New South Wales. He is currently a behavioural neuroscientist at the Université de Montréal.

58 Comments

  1. Scott says

    Wow, where do I start. First, your premise. While some may state that the problem at universities is indoctrination, I would think and most people contend that the problem is censorship, political correctness and a desire to shut down disagreeable, “hateful” or otherwise “violent” speech.

    As you state in your article in quoting Lauren Rosewarne, language and views in the classroom are self-edited and in fact censored to appease the fragile sensibilities of the “woke”. Universities should challenge such assertions whether they represent liberal or conservative ideology. A professor should be allowed to teach as they desire with whatever language they desire and be debated, not edited. More importantly, the administration should reinforce these ideas by supporting truly free speech and disciplining anyone who tries to control the language, teaching or actions of others.

    Universities have become businesses too afraid to expel and discipline their “customers” for illiberal behavior to effectively teach and challenge young minds. Free speech and more of it the cure.

    • Scott says

      PS – Conservative “victimhood” is a lovely talking point, but misses the point. Conservatives simply want their ideas, values and voices to be heard without attack. Debate and well thought out arguments are they key. I do not hear conservatives asking for “special” treatment as so many on the left seem to desire for their particular group(s). If I write a humanities paper and the professor truly hates my ideas and conclusion but they are well thought out, documented and coherent, my grade should not suffer for my ideology. Too often, that does in fact happen.

      • w2 says

        Tolerance is a tricky thing, right?

        I honestly believe that the reaction to political correctness has so exceeded the ills of political correctness itself that the complaint has lost its meaning.

        PC bullying is a weak branch from the same tree that bears racism and sexism. It is the misuse of group power to discriminate against another group defined as different. The obvious solution to is to stand up to it, to challenge it head on, to form groups with the power to counter it, to remain intellectually flexible, to recognize potential flaws in your own reasoning, to stand up for the rights of all, and to feel confident in your beliefs.

        Of course, whether the structures of a group or society — laws, rules, policies — will support and defend you has an important bearing on how you should respond. Just ask someone who has actually been discriminated against.

        Tolerance is a tricky thing, right?

        • Johnny Appleseed says

          Literally any Asian or White person whoe applied to universities in the US has been a victim of discrimination. At least unless they only applied to state schools in states that explicitly outlaw affirmative action in university admissions.

        • Aerth says

          “The obvious solution to is to stand up to it, to challenge it head on, to form groups with the power to counter it,”

          And then you hear you are Nazi, facist, racist, homophobe, transphobe, ableist and whatever else Leftist mob come up with.

    • Shaun Khoo says

      I agree that free and robust debate are the answers here. In my view the university should be commended for having such a robust academic freedom policy.

      • Farris says

        @ Shaun Khoo

        “In my view the university should be commended for having such a robust academic freedom policy.”

        That is to be commended. Now does that same university have prohibitions against “hate” speech?
        If yes, what are the penalties and is the forbidden conduct adequately spelled out to give people notice?
        Policies are one thing practices can be another.

        • ga gamba says

          The Institute of Public Affairs’ (IPA) annual audit on campus free speech rated Melbourne’s policies and actions red in 2016 and amber in 2017 and ’18.

          In May 2018, University of Melbourne staff voted to go on strike as a protest against a proposed new workplace agreement governing speech and academic freedom. The employees’ union argued that the change in the agreement removing definitions of academic and intellectual freedom would limit legal protections for staff who “make controversial or unwelcome public comments” because of uncertainty about the latitude of academic and intellectual freedom they would be afforded by their employer under the new agreement. Background on this issue here.

          Reading the University’s Appropriate Workplace Behaviour Policy, I find there is the requirement employees “not intentionally cause serious risk to the reputation or viability of the University.” This raises the question how the effect of an opinion and/or action on the “reputation” of the University is to be judged. Is it some sole administrator’s view, or that of the governing body, or a survey of student or larger public opinion? Key to this is how it’s applied, and applying policies evenly with regards to reputation, and the risk to it as well, seems to me fraught with all kinds of difficulty, especially when the language is vague and no specifics of reputation risking words and actions are provided. Good luck getting that nailed down.

          For example, in last month the workshop “How Privilege Manifests in Tutorials” was run at the University by the Student Union’s Environment ­Collective. Those running the workshop argued that “white, male students” and “students resembling Liberal voters”, should be discouraged from speaking to provide more space for women and non-binary people to contribute during tutorials. This is a recurring event of offensiveness and inequality. In its 2017 “How Privilege Manifests in Tutorials” the Student Union workshop stated “men should … not speak with absolute confidence when they are in fact not sure or expressing an opinion”. So, in two years men have gone from not speaking with confidence to not speaking at all. Nifty trick. How’s that for progress?

          How “absolute confidence” was to be assessed appears to be a mystery. Equitron 2000? And are the workshop facilitators absolutely confident in their assessment of others’ absolute confidence? Are women immune from speaking with absolute confidence when they are in fact also unsure or expressing an opinion? Are they being patronised if it’s implied they are unable to speak confidently when blustering? Are they being given carte blanche to behave in ways deemed unacceptable for men? How’s that for our cherished equality, eh?

          Had academics or officials planned or participated in these workshops would this risk or even damage Melbourne’s reputation? Because the Student Union is funded by compulsory fees levied on students by the University and distributed to the Student Union by the University, it appears that at the very least the University itself is adjacent to if not abetting behaviour that contravenes its policies as well as the law. Would the Uni continue a relationship with a contractor or supplier who discriminated against certain favoured groups of people? Highly unlikely.

          The Australian columnist, Janet Albrechtsen, asked several universities including
          Melbourne whether they supported the letter from the University of Chicago to new students which encouraged them “to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn without fear of censorship”. Albrechtsen found that no Australian university was willing to endorse the letter. In fact, they refused to reply, which is peculiar behaviour for publicly financed institutions and appears to defy the ideas of transparency and accountability. I wonder whether this breaches any law or uni policy. Perhaps the people asked were confidence lacking women?

          Universities in the Anglosphere may fall back on freedom eroding laws, for example Melbourne’s workplace behaviour policy states it “supports compliance” of twenty statutes including Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 and Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012. Of course, throughout the history of higher education institutions have defied laws deemed unjust, though at times these breaches were done to infringe the rights of students and academics.

          For the greater good and larger truth, presumably.

    • Yes, ever so incrementally, the tide is turning against the cultural Marxists but only after a very few stood their conservative ground and fought back loudly using both media and the courts as their offensive weapons. One year ago I used these weapons to defeat Santa Barbara City College cultural Marxists who tried to fire me after 23 years. After only two months of my coordinated media and legal counterattack the Marxists backed down and awarded me $ 120,000.00 as compensation for their failed systemic effort to squash both my First Amendment rights and my academic freedom. I found no public support on campus, but my inbox collected many secret notes “I’m with you 100%, Mark, but I can risk losing my teaching job, my house, and my family by sticking my neck out as you are doing.” That was the only sad part of my own little war against the cultural Marxists who tried to banish me after 23 years of exemplary teaching.

      You can read about my little skirmish triumph at this link:
      https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/10/19/how-a-professor-who-lost-his-job-for-being-conservative-fought-back-and-won/

      So, I’ve started a DECLARATION OF WAR AGAINST THE STATE OF CULTURAL MARXISM petition to be signed for the reticent. You can sign it at this link.
      http://chng.it/v5dyGJy4wg

      We want no money…just a head count of those pushing back the front lines in the cultural Marxist war against freedom, evidence, and the rule of both law and reason over feelings.

      — Cordially
      Professor Mark McIntire
      SBCC Philosophy Department, Retired

  2. Memetic Tribe says

    The modern university = bread and circuses

  3. Morgan Foster says

    No cause for alarm. Keep your heads down, your mouths shut, and you just might get out of here with a degree.

    • ga gamba says

      Still… that’s a very expensive game of Simon Says.

  4. cfkane1941 says

    I think I need to let go of this stereotype I have of behavioral neuroscientists. The one about them being really thoughtful, skeptical of their own ideas, dedicated to looking at all parts of an issue, and never adopting a Pollyanna attitude.

    Because this column is simply a lot of words expressing the argument, “Shut up.”

  5. My experience as a student in humanities is this: Yes, things are not as terrible as some people imagine them to be, but there’s still a problem. Many feel the need to censor themselves in order to avoid controversy, even when it some to evidence-based things like “there’s no proof that multicultural societies are more equal” or “heritability exists” or “certain ethnic groups appear to commit more crime than others”. Literally saying factual things like “certain ethnic groups appear to commit more crime than others fore various reasons” can put you at risk. We actually had a professor who got in trouble because of saying something like that.

    • Emma says

      If you have to self-police your thoughts and speech, then you know things are just as terrible as people imagine them to be.

      • I self-censor my self when I’m around family, friends and when I’m at my country’s version of college because I know that expressing a controversial opinion will cause some controversy. I won’t get publically shamed or disowned because of it, but it will cause controversy nonetheless, and I don’t want to deal with all the accompanying hassle. I don’t know what fantasy world you live in where expressing controversial opinions doesn’t cause controversy, but it sure as hell isn’t this one. Never has been, never will be. The world isn’t perfect, deal with it.

        • OleK says

          @Nietzsches Moustache

          I don’t mean to be pedantic, but precise in terminology. I would say that the opinions you self-censor are likely not controversial in the least – just contrary to those in some of the environments/situations you happen to be in (college/family).

        • Azathoth says

          When the type of ‘controversial’ things you have to self-censor are as innocuous and self evident as ‘women are not men’ there’s a problem.

      • Academics should have the freedom to express evidence-based statements without fear of being persecuted. It makes no sense for a criminologist to have to censor themselves on crime.

      • ghoul says

        Re: Emma,
        So you never self-police your speech talking to your friends and relatives? E.g. every time you feel like calling someone an idiot, you just say it out loud to their face? Really?

  6. “It is easy to forget, when complaining about the dominance of progressive politics within universities, that the humanities are just one faculty within a much larger campus.” Lefty destruction of the humanities is a minor problem for this author. Author also seems to suggest that law faculties, etc., are not also dominated by progressives. We now hear warnings that the progressives are assaulting engineering and the hard sciences — the so-called social sciences were conquered a while ago. It’s useful to let this guy tell his story. He convinces no one.

    • Stephanie says

      This attitude is bleeding out to the hard sciences, too. Just the other day, my science department sent out an invitation for people to contribute to crafting a diversity, inclusion and equity statement for the department. Why such a thing is necessary or desirable was not justified.

      I’m thinking of attending the meeting to see what unholy mess they are cooking up. Any suggestions on what I should say or look out for?

      My sense is that the best possible statement would be “this department judges individuals on their merit alone.” Any mention of immutable characteristics categorizes people in a way that obscures their individuality and fetishizes their differences.

      There will certainly be a land acknowledgement statement, which I will say is insincere. Anyone who believes that this land rightfully belongs to whatever Aboriginal tribe would act on that belief by not living here.

      • Photondancer says

        On their scholastic merit alone. Otherwise you’ll have them claiming their position in the oppression hierarchy is a merit.

        Totally agree with you about the acknowledgment of land statements. They’re rapidly descending into farce. I went to the latest CityTalks event in Sydney and nearly every speaker felt the need to make one.

        Tiina

  7. Tom Shen says

    The author sounds like a guy in another time and place who would say “sure that (guy who will remain nameless) has taken over the Sudetenland, but France, Poland and other countries are still independent, so what’s the big deal?”

  8. GL says

    I have to agree with the author in that the crisis is overstated. This conversation is typically too binary for my taste (non-binary for the win!). Having said that, there is certainly a crisis. I watched the three part documentary about Bret Weinstein’s Evergreen experience on YouTube, and it is disturbing. Of course, Evergreen has always been an outlier, so it may not be a good barometer of society at large.

    • EK says

      @GL

      Expand your focus a bit and observe that almost all of the governments in the so called West, and all governments in the Anglosphere, are paralyzed at the moment over the race, gender and class questions collected under the heading of intersectionality and social justice in their universities.

      The global hegemon, the US, appears ready to start a war anywhere and at any moment or ready to impeach the duly elected executive in order to avoid dealing with the questions the idiot Koo blows off as no big thing.

  9. X. Citoyen says

    Shaun doesn’t see a problem with humanities education at Melbourne because he never got one. Like the fish that doesn’t believe in water, Shaun is a product of the very indoctrination he claims doesn’t exist. Have a look at the BA foundation year subject areas for history:

    Identity
    Language
    Power
    Reason
    Aboriginalities
    Representation

    Meanwhile, everything germane to a history education—like World War 2, American history, and the Black Death—are electives.

    Here’s the course description for Identity:

    Who we are and what we do is all tangled up in our identity. This subject considers how identities are constructed and maintained through mediated processes of self and other. The subject investigates the myriad demands and devices that figure in constructing our senses of self and other (including language, leisure, beliefs and embodied practices). By exploring identity in diverse contexts, across time and place, the subject maps varying conceptions of self and other and how these conceptions are constructed and maintained. A key focus is on how these mediated conceptions of self and other are translated into material practices of inclusion, exclusion, discrimination, violence and criminalisation.

    Pure, unadulterated po-mo framing in the first year to make sure you never go off the reservation thereafter: You can think thoughts you’ve been insulated from seeing, after all.

    Not surprisingly, this approach to seeing the world seems to be snatched logic’s chair around Shaun’s mental table. He constructs of straw man of the conservative complaint, and then backs it up with specious counterfactuals—e.g., if conservative thoughts were persecuted would there be a Liberal Party group on campus? There are lots of students and faculty, so there must be lots of different opinions! Ugh.

    • X. Citoyen says

      My typos are cringe-worthy too, but far less so than the author’s thinking.

    • CA says

      X. Citoyen

      “Like the fish that doesn’t believe in water . . .”

      Actually I’d slightly modify that to “like a fish who never heard of water”.

      The mere assertion that a diversity of opinions or ideologies exist at his university as proof of lack of indoctrination makes me a little suspect. Our postmodern Grand Inquisitors have triumphed when they’ve convinced everyone that there is no knowledge, only a diversity of opinions. As the great Roberto Calasso said of the fate of knowledge in the modern world:

      “Doubt slashes at every thought that raises its head. But its blade grants its victims an easy resurrection. Those thoughts quickly reappear – as opinions.”

    • JA M says

      In the US, there are a disturbing number of universities where one can get a 4 year history degree without taking any actual history classes, as many of the educated self-styled intellectual superiors insist that various sociology classes are “history” merely because they bring in some historical (often highly selective) information.

      Thus, someone can get a 4 year history degree and never hear anything about the revolutionary war that founded it, the founders of the nation and how they crafted the government (and the principles of the budding nation), or any of the historical context required to make any rational sense at all of all the sociological theory being substituted for history.

  10. Cedric says

    The author’s final sentiment: “In the long-run this will leave us all unable to communicate and argue on matters of substance where we reasonably disagree.”

    This is exactly the problem created by hardcore leftists in academia! Reasonable voices get shouted down because they don’t fall in line. The author exhibits a serious lack of awareness ending the article this way. Sheesh.

  11. It’s unfortunate that the author downplays the impact of “indoctrination” on campuses. The students of today are the heads of HR, politicians and lawmakers of tomorrow. Even though some of them will shed their fringe ideals when they have tasted money and freedom, others won’t, and that is why we now have stupid ideas like unconscious bias testing for job applicants, Bill C-16 here in Canada and people like AOC get elected.

  12. TheDude says

    Student shaping curriculum is part of the reason why most college grads can’t reason their way of wet paper bag and scream at the sky when they don’t get what they want.

  13. mirrormere says

    Shaun Khoo-
    You attended UofM 2006-2011. Although postmodernist ideologies were rampant in the curricula at that time (and before), they have since dropped their pretense as to what their ultimate goal is – to reshape the world in their image. Further, you were shielded from the brunt of their dogma by the rigorous scientific training you engaged in. They have broken out of the bonds of the humanities and science is their next front. It has started already in your field (https://medium.com/s/meghan-daum/male-and-female-brains-are-different-should-it-matter-6db82ead5e20). This ideology is dangerous because it rejects fact-based science and enshrines confirmation bias. We need you to recognize when it insinuates itself into your workplace and stand against it. You will not be able to do so if you don’t recognize the harm it can cause.

  14. TarsTarkas says

    The summation of the column is ‘Since I do not believe that there is a problem, there isn’t a problem’. He who refuses to open his eyes cannot see.

  15. TF Smith says

    There is some wishful thinking going on here. Postmodern Leftism is creeping into the hard sciences and Mathematics. I know of one institution where statistical problems involving “males” and “females” are not allowed as undergraduate case studies, lest anyone be “triggered”. In the same institution there are short postgraduate courses in the Mathematical Sciences which are open only to women – men can attend but only if they put on a skirt and identify as female. I fear this is only the beginning.

    • JA M says

      ” Postmodern Leftism is creeping into the hard sciences and Mathematics.”

      But hard sciences and mathematics are white heteronormative cisgender patriarchy that further entrenches the white supremacist colonial oppression on the rest of humanity and must therefor be radically altered to a more “fair” form of “science.”

      And don’t you dare mention empirical evidence, you racist!

      (hopefully my sarcasm is easily detectable)

  16. JWatts says

    The thesis is: “I also don’t think campus conservatives are victims of an ideological indoctrination program.”

    But that’s mostly a matter of definition and the author makes it into a strawman argument by assuming that ideological prejudice is acceptable as long as it doesn’t rise to the level he considers to be indoctrination across the entire University.

    This point in particular undermines his entire premise:

    “The narrative of conservative victimhood at universities is based largely on criticisms of the humanities when universities also support students in science, commerce, engineering, medicine, and law.”

    He’s not attempting to refute the criticisms regarding the humanities. He’s just arguing that since the bias against conservatism is primarily focused in humanities and the University has many different departments, it shouldn’t be considered indoctrination. That’s just a classic fallacy of composition. He’s effectively arguing that if any program doesn’t indoctrinate then you can’t argue the whole indoctrinates.

    If one program in the University was found to be racist in it’s behavior (but not it’s written policies) would the author accept the argument that the University isn’t racist because it’s just one department? I sincerely doubt he would reach the same conclusion.

    How many people would find the following acceptable if the bigotry were directed against a race or sex or religion?

    “If the humanities on campus are really bigoted in just one way of thinking, you only need to walk across campus to find another department full of people who are completely opposed.”

    However, the author would make the argument that if the bigotry is towards Conservative students, then it’s acceptable.

  17. jolly swagman says

    this guy is a conservative in the same way Karl Marx was a conservative i.e. not at all. There’s no way a conservative would be permitted to be Secretary of the Student Union at the University of Melbourne in 2009. And as for academic freedom at that University, has he not heard of Geoffrey Blainey?

  18. Peter from Oz says

    I wonder whether a lot of the people posting here are thinking of their own experiences in American colleges. Australian universities are very different to American colleges. For a start the undergraduates mostly live at home and not on campus. The university system is based on the Scottish model with tinges of Oxbridge thrown in.
    There are very few rules
    People in Oz don’t ”go to college” in the same way as Americans do. And entrnce depends purely on academic performance in the last year of high school.
    Of course there are a lot of lefty fools amongst the students and the teachers at Australian universities. That is to be expected, as unformed and inexperienced people are always going to be upset about the way the world works, mostly through a total lack of understanding.
    Other than the academics, most people grow out of leftist silliness when they graduate and pass out into the larger world. That is not to say that many do not stay liberal (in the American sense), but they do tend to see through the excesses of the regressives on the extreme left.

  19. Alexander Paterson says

    James Paterson is spelt with one “t”.

  20. jimhaz says

    most people grow out of leftist silliness when they graduate and pass out into the larger world]

    And those that do not go on to write articles for the Guardian and nowadays the SMH Daily Life writers who do create a big influence on left based folks.

    Australia has long been better than the US in terms of looking after people, because we do not have minorities that are large in percentage terms ie, we do not have a large black or Hispanic population like the US has. Although our majority migrant intake has changed from European to Asian and Indian, both Asian and Indian folks are culturally eager for self-improvement.

    Now even though we have far less tribal cultural and lower Western EQ influence than the US, this in no way does not mean that the left will not adopt all the unfair blame grievances that the US has. In the end we have the same problem in that a) our universities are now businesses more than universities and b) more women are now undertaking degrees and women tend to have a worldview that follows trends and aims to mother.

    Our assertive/self-absorbed women, gays, trans and feminine male types will lend up causing the same sort of detrimental ‘equality’ insanity that occurs in the US. Such types are naturally attracted to university and public life because they are not masculine out door types, so will concentrate on domains dealing with communication.

    They will infiltrate everything the same as the US and the indoctrination will not be that different.

    Always in the back of my mind in relation to our multicultural society is what will happen when the times go bad. Whites are picked on now even though things have been rather good for decades – wait until the tide turns, as it always does at some point when societies are propped up on debt, excessive consumption, plutocratic taxation. They’ll want socialism of the communist type, not the ‘some things are better off with a gov monopoly’ type socialism we had in the 70-80’s, prior to the rent seeking suckholes gaining undue influence on government thanks to the trends the corrupt US political system have caused.

  21. Hmmm says

    The author seems to think the current ideological diversity of the school can be seen in the fact that its alumni include both Labor and Liberal politicians, namely:
    – James Patterson (age 31)
    – Kim Carr (64)
    – Gareth Evans (74)
    – Robert Menzies (died 1978)

    I can imagine intelligent, thoughtful articles arguing that concerns about left-wing hegemony and suppression of conservatives’ views and voices are exaggerated. This isn’t one of them.

  22. Kevin Herman says

    This is actually a case of the guy you think is beating your head in with a sledgehammer is actually doing it. Its not your imagination.

  23. Trav says

    This is such a poor reply, with little specific information or rebuttal to the original article.

    Absolutely nothing new or interesting shared.

    Universities are no longer a beacon of enlightenment values. Whether they “indoctrinate” people or not is secondary to the fact the the education received is ideological and of a low standard.

  24. Francisco d'Anconio says

    Big difference between 2009 and now. Haidt and Lukianoff have the beginning of all the campus insanity coming into vogue in the last several years, not 10 years ago. 10 years ago Obama was against gay marriage. The world has turned a few times . Also, there are some silly statements like ” Universities cannot and should not act to curb the expression of views that might be interpreted as extreme or unorthodox.” Universities CAN NOT act to curb the expression of views…” ? Really? A university can not do that? I think there is ample evidence that it not only CAN happen, but it occurs with great regularity.

  25. I studied Communication at the University of Newcastle and thankfully graduating in 2013 meant I missed most of the progressive craziness that followed in the years since.

    I however helped run a Skeptic and Atheist society while there and after I graduated. Towards my last year and after it really became a “taboo” area when anything Islam came up, (but not Christianity).

    The university even tried to implement new club terms that outlined we would not part take in activities that could ‘offend’ other students. We managed to get that clause removed.

    I’m glad I was out when I was.

  26. Ralph says

    Australian universities have a terrible record when it comes to free speech and allowing actual intellectual debate.

    Australia’s greatest historian, Geoffrey Blainey, was hounded from his position at the University of Melbourne after he dared to criticise immigration and multicultural policies in the 1980s.

    An interesting account of the ‘Blainey affair’: https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2008/10/stuart-mcintyre-and-the-blainey-affair/

    ‘Progressive’ insanity within the universities has only worsened in recent decades.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Andrew Eden-Balfour

      No, they’re demanding inclusion. Different thing altogether, old boy.

  27. Bab says

    Shaun, thanks for this piece. It echoes what Claire Lehmann has been saying about Australian universities, and it aligns with my own thoughts on the topic. Basically, Australian universities are still largely public and still mostly accessible to the working class, who complete tertiary education expecting it will help them get a job. They have very little patience for campus politics of any particular bent.

    In my own university tutorials, you would have about two or three young Liberals and about two or three woke activists, they would go at each other hammer and tongs and the rest of us would talk behind their backs about what a bunch of wankers they all were.

  28. Arend says

    This is an interesting transition. It is impossible to tell whether this passage is a strong or weak spot in the argument. Simply impossible. 🙂

    “Therefore, if a teacher or student, argues that female genital mutilation has positive aspects, that is not grounds for disciplinary action. The World Health Organization and United Nations would disagree, but we should not sack teachers or expel students merely because they disagree with the WHO or the UN.

    It is simply impossible to tell ahead of time which of today’s stupid, unlikely, or unreasonable ideas may be discovered to be useful and true tomorrow. Classic historical examples might include Copernicus and Galileo, but there are numerous questions over which academics reasonably disagree.”

  29. Mark Harrigan says

    Anyone who can conflate the ideas of female genetic mutilation with the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo and somehow argue that we should not censure the former because the latter was ridiculed at the time and later found to be true does not deserve to be taken seriously.

    The author may well have attained a BA (Hons) from Melbourne – apparently they did not acquire the skills of logical discourse or reasoned argument in doing so

  30. Geary Johansen says

    I think ‘woke’ liberals are in for a shock, when whatever Democratic Candidate who kowtows to the left of the party causes Trump to be re-elected in 2020. The only candidates who have a snowballs chance in hell of defeating him, are Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang. And whilst I very much admire Bernie for his commitment to blue-collar workers, although he has principles, they are very much the ‘wrong principles’.

    80% of Americans hate political correctness, and of the 8% of Americans who self-describe as progressives, 30% admit that sometimes the left goes too far. Make no mistake- this is not grumbling over some poorly chosen word or the often malign assertion that white people just want their privilege back. It’s that we completely reject the premises inherent to Foucault, postmodernism and most of all, intersectional feminism. As my name might suggest, I descend from vikings on my fathers side (and quakers on my mothers). As, according to my mothers extensive work on the family tree, my ancestors took no part in slavery or colonialism- does this mean that I will be exempt from the white privilege tax, when the British government finally gets round to implementing one. Although, if any Irishman wants to claim a drink from me, for my ancestors setting up Dublin as a slave town, I will happily oblige…

    Perhaps it is the fault of our teachers or parents, for misleading young people into thinking that their opinions will always be valued- but, as my father used to say, opinions are like arseholes- everybody’s got one. The true value of an argument is on it’s merit, not it’s appeal to emotionalism. I could go on about how Foucault was fundamentally wrong, and that Trust is the basic social unit of currency of the West, with power merely a useful by-product. The exception proves the rule after all- as with politics we elect those we distrust least.

    But for most of us, it’s the oppressor versus oppressed narrative that really takes the piss. The West is the most free, least oppressive, most liberal cultural phenomena in history- not that it’s saying much, given history. But whilst most of us would freely admit that there are structural disparities baked into the system, and that there are very dark chapters in all our national histories, in the modern context almost all the disparities are perverse rather than pernicious. We need engineers, not activists, to finally fix the inherited problems of circumstance and deliver on Martin Luther King’s dream of social justice and wrest it back from the cultural marxists. Hence my extensive posts on education and policing.

    What the progressives really need to do is read Jonathan Haidt’s ‘The Righteous Mind’ or Steven Pinker’s ‘Enlightenment Now’, and throw in Adam Smith’s ‘The Wealth of Nations’, for good measure. Because at least then they could at least see that, by almost every conceivable measure (other than the long-term worry of climate change), the world really has become a much better place over the past two centuries. At least if they read the latter, they might be able to critique capitalism and markets constructively, rather than simply classifying them as evil, regressing to socialism. They might note that many economies have become overly-corporatised, with the structural costs for setting up vibrant niche businesses as alternatives to conglomerates, and providing much needed labour to Western economies, becoming prohibitively expensive. They might wonder if technology is leading us like cattle into a slaughterhouse, drawing us towards an Omega Inflection where our ingenuity to strip away jobs, exceeds out ingenuity to create them.

    The real problem is that the internet, like our education system, is very good at generating knowledge in breadth, but not in depth. It must be noted that the Founding Fathers, in constructing what was then the ultimate aspiration of the Age of Enlightenment, foresaw a need for not only free speech, but also a free press- they knew that their grand experiment intrinsically relied upon well-informed voters. That enterprise is now failing- not because of war, or the fifth horseman of socialism- but because nobody can be bothered to engage with the other side’s ideas. I believe in education as a way to lift the poor out of poverty- it just needs to be recalibrated to actually work without quotas. I believe that judicious investment in community resources can act as the hammer to pro-active policing’s anvil in reducing violent crime- because these two approaches from widely different ends of the political spectrum have done a huge amount to reduce crime, in high crime neighbourhoods. Gary Slutkins theory of violence as a contagious disease really is worth a watch on TED, for conservatives and liberals alike.

    Until then we get President Trump, in all his glory. Because, if you live in the mid-west or rust belt, and were deeply disillusioned with politics before President Obama, and even more so after (because whilst he may have delivered for the coasts, he didn’t deliver for you)- at least now you get to see to the very same liberals who condescendingly told you you needed to ‘Learn to Code’, squirm and whine every day on national television. Because love him or hate him, and whatever else you might think of him, he does make for great TV.

  31. Aerth says

    “It is simply impossible to tell ahead of time which of today’s stupid, unlikely, or unreasonable ideas may be discovered to be useful and true tomorrow. Classic historical examples might include Copernicus and Galileo”

    The only similarity between female genitals mutilitation and Copernicus discoveries is that truth about both is inconvienient to certain religions. Nothing more. Copernicus discovery wasn’t “stupid, unreasonable or unlikely”.

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