by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center highlights one academic’s open campaign against censorship withing higher education.
As academia becomes ever-more entrenched in groupthink, it can be intimidating to be a lone voice that refuses to toe the ideological line. And for good reason: failure to at least appear to agree with the ideological consensus on campus can result in a number of professional—and personal—consequences.
But those potential consequences haven’t deterred one professor, Adam Ellwanger, from penning an open letter that pushes back on academia’s censorious tendencies. Authored a few months ago, the letter decries the dangers of groupthink in academia and outlines specific positions and resolutions. Since then, the letter has been widely circulating and has gained the signatures of over 170 academics worldwide.
Ellwanger is a professor of English and director of the graduate program in rhetoric and composition at the University of Houston-Downtown. In October, the Martin Center interviewed Ellwanger to learn more about his letter’s inspiration and purpose. …
… “If we’re trying to find out what’s true, then it’s great to have different perspectives so we can have a dialogue and bring ourselves closer to the truth. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening on campus anymore. I don’t think as many people are interested in seeking truth as much as they are in imparting doctrine. And when it comes to imparting doctrine, viewpoints are a hindrance, it makes it harder to indoctrinate—for lack of a better term.
“And then this summer, in the wake of the events of May and June with the killing of George Floyd and some other events, I was observing discourse at my university and other universities. I was surprised at the degree to which there was an explicit, enthusiastic endorsement of views that I would only call for lack of a better term Marxist, postmodern, and anti-foundational ideas about truth.
“At that point, it became clear to me that this was getting worse and not getting better. And I decided I needed to write out for myself what I am and what I’m not willing to do when it comes to the expectations my university has of me.”