What is happening to higher education? Higher education was something to be respected, and if possible, sought out for yourself. It was lauded for its ability to expand your mind, to challenge your opinions, and the opinions of others. In university you explored culture, exposed yourself to different ideas, and grew into your adulthood more fully … and hopefully became a better human being for it.
More and more we see this pursuit disappearing from the university landscape.
I have always respected higher learning. I still believe education is vitally important, as without it we stagnate; but students are no longer being exposed to a variety of ideas.
Students cannot even mention an idea outside the realm of what is deemed acceptable thought, for fear of offending someone; universities are becoming stagnant in their inability to look outside of their safe-spaces.
For those seemingly few teachers that do indeed welcome varying ideas into their classroom – to discuss and dissect, to prove or disprove – I am grateful they’re still around. They help shape tomorrow’s leaders into free thinkers, rather than mere followers.
But on the whole, I find myself actually mourning, as if a dear loved one is dying. I find myself wishing the prognosis would change, but as time ticks on things seem to only worsen.
I, genuinely, want our universities to thrive once again. I just don’t know if they will.
The case of Lindsay Shepherd
Lindsay Shepherd, former teacher’s assistant at Wilfred Laurier University, made headlines around the country only last year when she recorded a conversation between her and three others (her supervisor Nathan Rambukkana, another professor Herbert Pimlott, and manager of Gendered Violence Prevention and Support Adria Joel).
The three had called her into a meeting to reprimand her for playing a 5 minute video clip from The Agenda, which airs on TVO (a public broadcaster), of a debate including Jordan Peterson (a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto) regarding Bill C-16.
By playing the clip (which they likened to neutrally playing a clip of Hitler), they claimed she had broken the law, that she had violated the schools Gender and Sexual Violence policy, and that she was transphobic (despite the fact that she was pro-trans rights).
It took quite some time before Shepherd was officially vindicated (despite how glaringly obvious her innocence was to anyone who heard the clip).
Valerie Flokstra was reprimanded for citing scientific study on abortion
Valerie Flokstra, a former student of the University of the Fraser Valley, had seen what had happened to Lindsay Shepherd. It was Shepherd’s forethought to record her inquisition that inspired Flokstra to do the same when she herself was called into a meeting.
During a class discussion on the topic of rising pre-mature births contributing to an increase in autism, Flokstra asked about the possible role of abortion, citing studies demonstrating there may be a correlation between pre-mature births and a rise in abortion rates.
This seems a valid question, related to the topic at hand, as it provides a possible explanation for the rise in pre-mature births (at least in part). One would think this would certainly be an acceptable line of inquiry at the university level. But much like Shepherd, Flokstra had spoken outside of what was deemed appropriate.
Some might be asking what, exactly, she said that was wrong. It, literally, can be boiled down to just one word – abortion. Abortion is a taboo topic at the university level. Apparently, according to teachers Nancy Norman and Vandy Britton, it’s taboo regardless whether you’re speaking for or against the practice! And in this case, it was neither. But university level students, you see, have to be shielded from any mention of abortion, because a medical study might make them feel uncomfortable (or as they put it, “unsafe”).
This seems so wrong. We protect children by withholding certain information, while they’re growing up, to offer only what is age appropriate. This I understand. But in a university, young adults (there to gain the knowledge and tools required for their future endeavors) are essentially being coddled and protected as if they were still children; unable to process all the information available. They are still being treated as if they are not ready to learn at the adult level yet.
So if university students are now basically treated as children, one has to wonder … exactly how old does a person need to be before they are allowed to discuss controversial topics and be given a chance to examine all the facts?