Readers of Miranda Devine’s piece likening Sydney University’s Faculty of Arts to a “leaking nuclear reactor” may wonder whether its indoctrination of students with leftist propaganda and postmodernist nonsense is an isolated phenomenon. The answer is no.
For the curious, here’s a list of things I would have learned from the Cultural Studies program at the University of Melbourne, had I not read more widely than my studies required:
* Knowledge does not describe the world: it is only a trick the powerful play on those they oppress. This being the case, it is more important that research expresses the appropriate politics and sentiment (determined not by yourself, but by your peers and superiors) than that it is carefully reasoned and backed by evidence.
* Human action is not determined by the individual will, but by external forces. This means that no-one is responsible for their failures, all of which are attributed to some kind of system, like patriarchy, colonialism, or, most likely, capitalism. (Asserting that people do bear responsibility for their own actions is condemned as “voluntarism.”)
* The less sense a piece of writing makes, the more likely it is to be a work of genius that is worthy of your reverence, and from which you should draw quotations to substitute for your own opinions in writing and in conversation.
* To be “subversive” and to reject, out of hand, any element of our present society, is always virtuous, independent of whether your criticism is reasonable and whether or not you propose any viable alternatives.
* If you don’t believe all of the above, you are probably some kind of right wing lunatic.
Devine is right to quote David Stove describing a faculty that harbours such beliefs as being actively dangerous. Teaching students that knowledge cannot be objective and that they are not responsible for their actions is liable to diminish their ability to understand the world and to use that understanding to shape their world and achieve their goals. It is that ability which created our civilisation, its culture, and its technology. Without it we are no better than animals.