The next generation of neo-progressive Ivy League educated social engineers is rising, and the future for free speech looks bleak as a result. One of this next wave of radical is The Harvard Crimson writer Sandra Y.L. Korn. In a recent piece, she argues that academia should give up academic freedom in favor of “justice.”
Korn argues that the liberal doctrine of academic freedom “seems a bit misplaced.” She asks: “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’?” She suggests replacing academic freedom, that bastion of higher education in free nations, with something called “academic justice.” She explains this by stating: “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.”
Korn’s targets include Harvard faculty member Harvey Mansfield, who published a non-politically correct book entitled Manliness. According to Korn, Mansfield’s book contains the view that “to resist rape a woman needs … a certain ladylike modesty.” While she laments that academic freedom would allow such a book to be published, her proposed “academic justice” would not.
Let us assume that some Harvard professor publishes the most appalling book imaginable. We can imagine that this book is as anti-Semitic as Mein Kampf, as racist as Birth of a Nation, as sexist as anything the Marquis de Sade wrote. Let us also assume that this book advocates kicking puppies, stomping kittens, supporting the British Monarchy, and not washing behind your ears. Is it more beneficial that such a book be published or that it be censored?
For what a Harvard education costs, one would think that they would still teach John Stuart Mill. Or perhaps Ms. Korn was busy buying Che T-shirts, drinking expensive iced coffees, being ironic, or whatever it is that overprivileged Ivy League hipsters do these days as they prepare to become the next generation of neo-progressive statist busybodies. Anticipating the eventual Supreme Court view on the First Amendment, Mill argues that more speech is always better for society than less speech. According to Mill, speech is always beneficial whether it expresses something true or something false. Even when the something false is ugly and offensive. If speech that is suppressed in the name of “academic justice” is true, then we have all lost something valuable. If speech that is suppressed in the name of “academic justice” is false, then we have lost the opportunity to rationally oppose the falsehoods. Providing rational arguments against falsehoods makes the holders of such true views stronger. Without such practice, the truth begins to lose its strength. It becomes taken for granted rather than rationally appreciated. By censoring even the most egregious falsehoods, we risk turning our cherished truths into nothing but stale and dead dogma. When this happens, it actually increases the likelihood that falsehood will be smuggled into our core beliefs when we begin to lose the ability to tell it apart from truth.
Apart from Mill’s argument, the question arises as to who is going to decide what works justify oppression. Presumably it will be some mob of elitist social engineers like Ms. Korn. What gives them the right to decide what should be published in academia? Ultimately such busybodies surely wish to export these ideas from academia to government. What gives such busybodies the right to decide what should be published in general? The Nazis who burned books similarly believed that they were promoting “justice.” Were they correct? Why should we expect any group to be correct about censorship? It is hubris for Ms. Korn and those like her to believe that they are wiser than society as a whole in determining what speech is valuable.