On this AEI Events Podcast, Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School joins AEI to discuss the state of debate and disagreement in academia today, reflecting on the value of reasoned dialogue and civil debate.

Illiberalism is ascendant in academia. Reasoned dialogue and civil debate, once considered the essence of university life, are giving way to ad hominem mudslinging and appeals to emotion.

Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania Law School experienced this after coauthoring an op-ed arguing that the decline of bourgeois norms has wreaked cultural havoc. Statements, letters, and petitions poured forth accusing her of racism, sexism, and every genre of bigotry imaginable. Additionally, 33 of her colleagues signed a letter denouncing — but not debating, or even engaging with — her article and “categorically reject[ing] all her claims.”

Watch the full event here.

This event features an introduction from AEI’s Sally Satel (0:41) followed by a lecture from Amy Wax from Univerisity of Pennsylvania’s Law School (4:41). Audience Q&A follows Wax’s lecture (31:00).

This event took place on February 20, 2018

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There are 3 comments.

  1. Peter Meza Member
    Peter Meza Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Very difficult to rationally debate with someone who won’t rationally debate, or doesn’t even believe in rational thought for that matter:

    Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks (Summary)

    “An example in how postmodernists and modernists differ can be seen in their attitude to education. For modernists, education is the means of equipping children with the tools for exploring and understanding reality, developing critical thinking skills, and learning how to reason and engage in rational debate. There will often be a set of canonical texts that will be seen as essential to a proper education (for an example see here). Postmodernists on the other hand do not view the primary purpose of education as a way of becoming more adept at reason, but as a means of understanding and creating identity, and teaching people to be more open to the subjective identities of others (see Sensitivity or Diversity training). For postmodernists, there is no set of canonical texts (see debates on whether strictly western curriculums are ‘racist’), no objective laws or facts, but subjective interpretations that are enforced by groups through power. Education is not a means of understanding the world but a tool for political power.”

    • #1
    • March 29, 2018, at 3:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. David Bryan Member

    Perceptive, brilliant, and true.

    • #2
    • March 30, 2018, at 3:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  3. Taras Coolidge

     The members of the academic lynch mobs that Prof. Wax talks about have done us the favor of putting their names on petitions to silence people who disagree with them. 

     Organizations concerned with academic freedom should compile those names into directories that will be useful in themselves; for example, if any of these professors are nominated for posts in future Democratic administrations.

     Compiling the names will also permit us to objectively identify which departments at which universities are the most dangerous for dissenters to take courses in. 

    • #3
    • March 30, 2018, at 4:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like