A college professor in Canada wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post which argues that social justice warriors are “the true defenders of free speech and open debate.” Apparently, he’s never been struck in the head with a bike lock for disagreeing with one.
Matthew Sears, an associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of New Brunswick, argues in his piece that SJWs have ushered in a new wave of open debate that rivals the more traditional Socratic method:
[M]any now insist that healthy skepticism and free inquiry… are in dire need of a revival in the academy.
I’m not so sure.
In fact, in important ways the social justice approach — which emphasizes the dynamics of power and oppression — that many fear has taken over the humanities and social sciences at its best is actually an improvement over the ‘disinterested pursuit of truth’ and more in line with the Socratic method. In fact, rather than constituting an attack on knowledge, the social justice lens reflects new ideas generated by academic disciplines and experts within them, and generally encourages expanding our knowledge and opening up subjects to new perspectives, much like Socrates advocated.
Sears drew parallels between SJWs and Socrates: “Socrates’s questioning of the powerful made these leaders so uncomfortable that they eventually used trumped-up charges of corrupting the youth to execute him, making him a martyr for free speech and open debate that many exalt today.”
But he then failed to make the connection that SJWs are not the peaceful debaters he thinks they are: “Even if Socrates regularly humiliated his sparring partners, his method of dialectic did not consist of mere ridicule or dismissal of the opinions of others. Rather, he sought out the most renowned experts on any given topic, took their ideas seriously, and proceeded to show where the ideas were lacking.”
Whereas SJWs close their ears to other ideas, yell loudly, throw rocks, set fires, and attempt to destroy anything or anyone with an opposing thought. Not sure how that is similar to Socrates’ or his successors' methods.
Sears is obviously the one disinterested in the pursuit of actual truth and takes the same detour so many leftists take — whatever is true for you is true:
Truth depends on different perspectives and lenses, and this is what experts in the humanities — the so-called social justice warriors — bring to education. Critical theories about race, gender and sexuality are not undermining education. Rather, they complicate and expand our understanding of familiar topics, including those in my own field of classics like ancient Roman imperialism and the nature of Greek homosexuality.
Sears says professors have a job in the classroom to not just be “referees in classroom debates” but act like the “experts” they are and “provide students with the best tools available to engage in debate.”
In his own classroom, Sears admits he doesn’t present “controversial and offensive topics, including rape, war, imperialism, slavery and racism” neutrally from “both sides.” Instead, he provides students the “necessary context” to “grapple with such issues.”
The professor swears that it is “exactly” his job to steer his students in a certain way and that his method is nothing like “P.C.-indoctrination.” It’s the “key to good teaching and learning,” he says.