Debra Soh writes about the science and politics of sex and holds a PhD in sexual neuroscience from York University.
The battle in favour of academic freedom has been a tumultuous one. In August, an event at Ryerson University, titled "The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses," was shut down after far-left group No Fascist T.O. harassed university administration.
The event was rescheduled for this past Saturday. As perhaps a testament to the public's frustration around being coerced into silence, the audience quintupled in size, from 300 to 1,500 attendees.
Contrary to how it was painted by activists, the event wasn't a hate rally promulgating white supremacy. Moderated and organized by former social worker, Sarina Singh, panelists included Jordan Peterson, the University of Toronto professor who opposes gender-neutral pronouns; Gad Saad, an evolutionary behavioural scientist at Concordia University; and Oren Amitay, a sessional lecturer at Ryerson University.
Dr. Amitay stresses that parents need to be involved in what their children are being taught, even before they reach university. As a testament to how entrenched these loopy ideas are, the indoctrination process begins as early as elementary school – take, for instance, social justice lessons in phys-ed class.
We can take comfort in knowing that ideologues don't bother to hide their agenda – according to Dr. Peterson, if your child's teacher uses words like "diversity, equity, inclusivity," and "white privilege," these should tip you off that something is amiss. He suggests allowing your child to leave class, if you feel it's appropriate.
These days, ideas that make students feel uncomfortable are called hate speech, and arguing against identity politics is conflated with advocating genocide. Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer's promise to remove federal funding from universities that don't protect free speech speaks to how serious of an issue this has become.
Beyond this, we must be active in using the tools available to us. A recent study from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 54 per cent of students self-censor to avoid offending someone. Understandably, no one wants to be called a bigot, a Nazi or part of the alt-right, but we are steadily approaching a point of no return.
Hold people accountable if you disagree with their opinion. It's not enough to privately voice support for your colleagues when they are being mobbed. Include your real name when making comments on social media – you don't need a large platform to bring about change.
Even if you feel like you are the only one feeling that way, I can guarantee that you aren't. As Dr. Saad points out, we all lead busy lives, but can't renege on our responsibility to do the honourable thing.
Like many, I believed this would be a passing phase, but instead I now see how ideology has mutated not just policy and education, but scientific inquiry. Studies in the hard sciences – including neuroscience, biology and sexology – now tout findings that are politically driven. Academic researchers actively choose to play along because they know that doing so will be lucrative for them; others are terrified of the public backlash they will endure if they don't.
Throughout the event, I couldn't help but notice the large fleet of scary looking security guards flanking both sides of the stage, along with the swarm of police cars blocking the entrance when I arrived. You would never see this level of security at an event espousing far-left ideas. This was similarly reflected in the logistics behind a recent speech at UC Berkeley by editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro, that came with a $600,000 price tag to cover protection by the police.
You're probably asking yourself what you could possibly gain from being a heretic. I can tell you from my own experience that fear of future consequences from speaking out is much worse than the consequences themselves – or the truth. It's extremely freeing to be able to say what you really think and believe and know that the people in your life appreciate you for who you are, not who you're pretending to be.