This post is part of the series The Modern University
Other posts in this series:
- Problems of Free Speech in the Modern University
- Ideology and the Modern University (Current)
In my last posts, I have discussed a number of problems in the modern university. Ideology is much different from these things. An ideology is a belief or system of beliefs that does not promote itself solely by argument. They do not belong in universities, nor should they influence universities.
Ideology is present in modern universities in three ways: it opposes the expressions of certain opinions, actions and arguments, it promotes the acceptance of certain opinions and actions without fair argument and it determines the correct way to view a subject or topic. For those people who share opinions that the ideology is compatible with, they may underestimate the power and influence of the ideology. They may even believe that the ideology does not exist. Everyone else is well aware that it exists.
In modern universities, the current ideology is secularism. Secularism is a religious belief in the power and centrality of humanity. It manifests in the modern university in a number of ways. One of these is an attitude towards religion. Most secularists do not think of themselves as being religious – even if they are strongly secular. This delusion not only inhibits their own understanding of themselves, but it also leads to misunderstandings of other religions. For example, secularists tend to think of religion either as a (poor) way of explaining mysteries in the world or as a tradition of ritual activities. Since religion is neither of these things, they act against a religion while claiming that they are not doing so.
Since ideologies are not maintained only by argument, most advocates of ideologies use methods such as intimidation, shame and threats to maintain or increase the influence of their ideology. Secularism is a good example of this. Most advocates believe in threatening legal action, attempting to embarrass those who are not secularists and using peer pressure to enforce the secularist agenda. All of this is contrary to the very purpose of a university. If opinions and arguments must be evaluated, they must be evaluated on their merits alone. Threats, intimidation and shame are influences that prevent arguments from being evaluated on their merits. They are irrational.
The results of ideology in modern universities are twofold. First, true (and false) positions are not recognized on their merits but simply as a result of adhering to ideology. My class on the historical evidence for the holocaust convinced everyone of the truth of those events and of the depth of evidence for them. Historical skepticism was eliminated simply by carefully examining the evidence of holocaust deniers. Second, what is true and false is distorted to the degree that the ideology is wrong. No ideology is perfect. Since an ideology does not allow for correction on the basis of evidence, such errors are never removed from an ideology.
I think that this series has done much to expose the true nature of universities and the problems facing them. I think that these truths are the place to start for anyone who wishes to fix these problems.