VLast week, Jordan Peterson announced in an article in the National Post that he was quitting his tenure as a professor at the University of Toronto in protest – at the pre-retirement age of 59. A little over five years ago, hardly anyone in Germany would have been interested in this. In the meantime, however, Peterson has become a symbolic figure. In 2016, the Canadian psychologist became internationally known through a protest video against new pronouns for students and related legislation in the state of Ontario. He quickly became a star in the virtual and analogue world.
His YouTube channel, on which he addresses psychological issues and questions of good living, has more than four million subscribers. Again and again he campaigned eloquently and vehemently for diversity of opinion and against discourse restrictions demanded in the name of political correctness. He also defended former Google employee James Damore, who was fired for his criticism of the company’s ideological homogeneity and hiring policy. His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018) has sold millions of copies worldwide. On the tour on which he presented it, he filled huge halls worldwide. Thousands of listeners, mostly men, paid to see and hear him. Peterson is classified by his opponents in the conservative camp. The devout Christian sees himself as a classic liberal.
The video with his resignation message was viewed more than half a million times in one day. Financially you don’t have to worry about him. His videos, books and lectures have made him rich. But the reasons for his resignation should give any academic pause for thought. At many Anglo-Saxon universities, applicants for professorships must submit a so-called DEI statement as part of their application documents. DEI, or DIE, as Peterson contemptuously calls it, is a mandatory text on D (diversity, meaning ethnic diversity, not diversity of opinion), E (equity) and I (inclusion). The academic achievements of the applicants are only looked at if a non-specialist commission considers such a statement to be particularly innovative. Peterson, and not just him, sees this attitude test as making the universities a politically homogeneous zone. This development is as startling as the McCarthy-era interrogations in the post-war United States to ensure that no socialists were hired were.
Within just a few years, the woke movement has achieved dominance in many western societies that reaches far beyond the universities. In the meantime, the German Research Foundation is also demanding in its research proposals from every research project, no matter how special it is (e.g. radionuclide therapy for the treatment of metastasizing tumours), an explanation of how it intends to contribute to greater diversity and equal opportunities. Nobody is against diversity and equal opportunity, but tumor researchers certainly do more for society by doing something about tumors than by increasing the number of arbitrarily defined skin colors in their laboratories. Since when should we pay attention to skin color again? Hadn’t we put that behind us since Martin Luther King Jr.?
A fundamental debate about the tasks of universities is obviously necessary. Should they devote themselves to social activism or should they not devote themselves primarily or even exclusively to the search for truth? Those who, like postmodern activists, do not believe in truth will never be able to find it. At least a counter-movement to the woken dominance of opinion at the universities is beginning to form. The newly founded University of Austin wants to give scientists like Peter Boghossian and Kathleen Stock, who were expelled from their universities, the opportunity to discuss with their students the questions that are no longer allowed to be asked elsewhere. Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard, has also joined the new movement. Academic freedom is in serious jeopardy.
#Jordan #Peterson #Wokeness #truth #question