“Idea of a University” Runs Amok
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote his Summa Contra Gentiles principally for the Mohammedans (Muslims). As they did not accept the authority of either the Old or New Testaments, he wrote, “We must, therefore, have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent.” But Jacques Maritain, leading Thomistic philosopher of the 20th Century, also wrote: “There is no worse delusion” than believing “reason by itself alone [is] capable of making men act reasonably.” Canadian psychology professor Dr. Jordan Peterson would agree.
Last week Dr. Peterson spoke to a packed house at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario on, “The Rising Tide of Compelled Speech in Canada.” An epicenter of international controversy, and based at the University of Toronto, he has achieved notoriety by refusing to use politically correct language mandated by Bill C-16, passed by the Canadian Parliament in May, 2016, which forbids “hate propaganda” speech. So for instance, he refuses to address those transgender who accept neither male nor female by politically correct pronouns, stating there are now so many “non-male” and “non-female” pronouns no one can keep up with them.
Violence Does not Trump Reason
Jordan Peterson is not without support. New York officially recognizes 31 different genders while Facebook goes further, saying: “…if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own.” In opposing the pronoun police, Dr. Jordon holds “reasoned debate is how we settle things in a democracy. The opposite of free speech is not censorship, but violence.” Predictably, he has not been hailed as a free speech champion but branded “racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic.”
Early in his presentation last week, two women walked across the stage carrying a banner which read, “Freedom to Smash Bigotry.” Abuses were shouted from the balcony. Outside Grant Hall, dozens of students shouted slogans and obscenities while banging on the doors and windows of the auditorium. One protestor broke a stained-glass window of the historic Victorian Romanesque-style building. “Mark my words,” Peterson told the audience, referring to the incessant noise, “that’s the sound of the barbarians at the gates.”
This violence, which again Peterson predicted, brings to mind the words of Dante describing the condemned: “le gente dolorose c’hanno perduto il ben de l’intelletto” (the miserable souls who have lost the good of the intellect) – – Inferno III, v. 16-18). Violence has no place in education. The great John Henry Cardinal Newman begins his “Idea of a University” stating it must be a “place of teaching universal knowledge.” Unfortunately, today universal knowledge has been usurped by political correctness. Employing violence anywhere, let alone in a university is anarchy. It is more than a disgrace. An insult to reason and truth, it is in a sense diabolical.
An admission requirement for anyone who wants to enter the portals of academia should be a love for truth. Political correctness is the opposite of “teaching universal knowledge;” allegedly aiming at sparing offense, punishment for nonconformists is swift and severe. Promoting gender confusion does no one a favor. Until the day university presidents are made of sterner stuff, we need the Jordan Petersons of the world to stand up to the thought police. Out of the madness surrounding Peterson emerges a book he has penned: “Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” He may be on to something. We need to make higher education…well, higher.