Thursday, September 22, 2016

Question. Is Berkeley's course on Palestine the end of history? - by Ben Cohen

...What we are looking at here is nothing less than the indoctrination of students using, with perfect irony, the First Amendment as cover. If we carry on like this, we'll end up with what Francis Fukuyama famously called "the end of history;" just not in the way that he meant it.

The campus of the U of C, Berkeley.
Credit: Getty Images.
Ben Cohen..
21 September '16..

In his forthcoming book "The New Philistines," the Wall Street Journal correspondent Sohrab Ahmari devotes a few paragraphs to a symposium on art and identity convened by the radical magazine, Artforum. "Indeed, there was never any real disagreement among the participants, and this was typical," he writes. "These are discussions among in-the-know artists, academics and critics, who all agree about nearly everything: everyone knows that ‘neoliberalism’ is something bad; that liberal democracy is merely a more subtle form of tyranny; that Western societies are racist and sexist by design."

Ahmari's insights into radical groupthink in the art world could equally apply to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, like literature, international relations and history. The fact that this trend exists is hardly news; the tendency of university teachers to discourage their students from engaging with conflicting or competing views by imposing a mixture of dogma, so-called "trigger warnings," and intellectual bullying has long been established. But the situation is getting worse.

Case-in-point: "Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis," now on offer from the University of California, Berkeley. An activists' seminar masquerading as a unit of academic study, the course was pulled last week after university authorities determined that it didn't comply with required teaching standards. This week, it was promptly reinstated following the intervention of a group called "Palestine Legal" on behalf of the course teacher, Paul Hadweh.

Interestingly, the web page advertising the course specifies that it's open to all students and that "no prior knowledge is necessary." Judging by the themes examined in course facilitator Paul Hadweh's course, along with the set textual readings, he might just as well have said "prior knowledge unwelcome." In this course, students are expected to behave like blank pages upon which an uncontested, single truth is engraved – and anyone who says otherwise must, by definition, be a racist, a colonial sympathizer, or a Zionist.

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