Evergreen State offers a new course on hearing other viewpoints; professor is doomed

November 22, 2017 • 12:30 pm

Bret Weinstein and his wife Heather Heying, until last year biology faculty at The Evergreen State College—otherwise known as The People’s Democratic College of Evergreen State, or TPDCES—have long departed, hounded out of Olympia, Washington for refusing to comply with black racism, and the school is back to its regressive ways. But, according to a reader who wishes to remain unnamed, there’s a new course in store for the students, one that has the potential to enlighten them. But I’m betting it won’t.

You can click on the title above, or simply read the course description below.  I’ve bolded the important parts, especially the last sentence!

“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind” – John Stuart Mill

One purpose of a liberal education is to free or liberate students from narrow perspectives, limited thinking, partisanship, and categorical rhetoric in order to obtain knowledge. Affirmations of absolutes should give way to identification and clarification of ambiguities of complex topics. This can best be achieved in an environment where we are confronted with our preconceived notions of the world and are encouraged to engage in the dialectic: the rational exchange of conflicting ideas in a common pursuit of truth. This demanding work can be challenging in a setting where diverse viewpoints are absent. Lecture, and seminar topics will address the questions of how, when, and why the human mind can be resistant to realities that run counter to strongly held convictions. We will explore how the values that bind us into cohesive groups of like minded people can also blind us to our weaknesses. This interdisciplinary course will draw upon such diverse fields as moral psychology, social science, statistics, and philosophy. We will extensively consult with leading national experts on these topics while using Evergreen as a case study on how colleges and universities might address contentious issues of political diversity, free speech, freedom of thought, and censorship. Students and faculty will begin the quarter by identifying their own personal intuitions on relevant contentious issues. We will then independently examine a controversial question which we feel most certain and passionate about, but from the opposite perspective than we currently possess. In addition, students will individually engage with communities who have identities, values and opinions dissimilar to their own, while reflecting upon these experiences through writing. Through weekly readings, critical thinking skills will be refined through careful quantitative and qualitative examination of evidence while analyzing underlying assumptions and biases. Students will learn to distinguish between conceptual, empirical, and value claims while becoming adept at identifying logical fallacies. As a class we will cultivate virtues of intellectual humility with the primary aim of pursuing knowledge and truth ahead of social and political action. All perspectives on issues are not only welcome, but strongly encouraged. However, students who require “ideological safe spaces” where particular viewpoints are considered offensive may want to seek a different program.

How could such a course get into the curriculum at TPDCES? Who on Earth is teaching it?

Well, the listed professor happens to be none other than Dr. Michael Paros, who teaches biology, just like Weinstein and Heying. And he happens to be, as I noted months ago, the only Evergreen faculty member who issued a statement in support of Bret Weinstein (see more here, though the statement isn’t reproduced). Paros said he expected to be called a bigot for supporting Weinstein, but I haven’t followed up on whether that happened.

If anything is tinder for another conflagration at TPDCES, it’s this course. It’s not a science course, so it will be taken by humanities students—the Regressive types. The last sentence is a direct slap in the faces of Regressives, as is the one about how tribal values can blind one to one’s weaknesses! How can the Cultural Revolutionaries stand it? Will Paros be forced to sit in class wearing a paper cone-hat and with a sign of shame around his neck?

More questions: whom will the students seek out having “identities, values, and opinions dissimilar to their own”? Republicans? Poor people? White people? And who will the “national experts” on these topics be? I can think of some: Greg Lukianoff of FIRE, Jonathan Haidt, Nicholas or Erika Christakis from Yale, Jordan Peterson, Weinstein himself or, Ceiling Cat help us, hard-ass conservatives like Ben Shapiro. (I doubt the students could listen to a whole talk by Shapiro without losing it.)

Yes, this could be a great course and an eye-opener for the students, and Paros is clearly offering it because he’s distressed at the thuggery, regressiveness, and close-mindedness of both the faculty and students at TPDCES. I wish him luck, but I have little hope that the students won’t picket this course or try to shut it down. I fear that Paros’s effort is doomed, but I sure hope not.

28 thoughts on “Evergreen State offers a new course on hearing other viewpoints; professor is doomed

  1. Dr. Paros is a brave man and has my full admiration. Perhaps there are others at Evergreen who were distressed at the previous events and will now find the courage to stand up. Given the administration’s cravenness, it isn’t surprising they kept quiet before.

  2. Michael Paros would make a hell of a guerrilla warrior — always turn your enemy’s strengths against them. Here’s hoping he has cadres among the Evergreen rank and file.

  3. This course sounds terrific. It is the kind of thing that would have really excited me as an undergrad back in the day. I hope it goes well and becomes a turning point for TESC students.

  4. Since this course is optional I suspect the idea is to siphon off those few who would be genuinely interested in taking it while actively discouraging those of a regressive disposition. Naturally though, some of the latter will consider its existence an affront, and sign on to it only to destroy it.

    I do hope they don’t succeed.

  5. My guess is they are offering this course so they can turf the only other liberal progressive left on campus: PAROS.

    1. Reminds me of the old joke about the fellow who was ridden out of town on a rail. Afterwards he was asked how it was. He said if it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, he’d just as soon have walked.

  6. Hmmm. The fact that they consider censorship to be a contentious issue is troubling.

    We will then independently examine a controversial question which we feel most certain and passionate about, but from the opposite perspective than we currently possess.

    Let’s say they examine racism. It is unlikely that they will change their minds. What they really need to study is censorship, the regimes that have used it and why, and how it has affected people. We can all agree we don’t like racism; we should all agree that racists shouldn’t be prosecuted for their opinions. People are saying that other people shouldn’t be allowed to say hurtful things. The people who say that need to be pushed on how they suggest stopping it. As Mises said, behind all government action is the threat of violence.

    1. Also the fact that this is a class, and likely a small one given that it sounds fairly interactive, is rather ghettoizing the idea self-examination. Now they have their Potemkin village, and the students who take this will all self-select, probably from the more broad-minded populace.

  7. The regressive left is spreading out from its base in higher education and journalism.

    Here’s the latest case of a farmer in Maryland disrupting a conference and forcible removing the participants:

    The regressive left calls for tolerance, but physically prevents speech they don’t approve of.

    1. The group that was ‘kicked out’ was Richard Spencer’s Neo-Nazi seig-heiling freak show.

      Whether private venues have the right to choose to host Nazis or not is a completely different issue than whether public academic institutions or those receiving public funds (which is all of them) have the right to exercise the assassin’s veto against faculty and speakers.

  8. It sounds like tough love light. Maybe if the class was just strapping them in chairs and making them listen to Fox News with a strong dose of Sean Hannity. If they survive that they should be able to take anything.

  9. I am an engineering professor, but I currently teach a similar humanities-style course entitled “What We Know That Just Ain’t So”. This is my first semester teaching it, and I’m at a small, private, liberal arts college. It’s largely a course about such human failings as confirmation bias, logical fallacies, and spotting pseudoscience. I have made DAMN SURE to target typically liberal manifestations of this stuff (e.g. vaccines-autism nonsense, nutritional myths).

    But our class discussion often strays to the more interesting end of the pool. So far the 15 first-year students I teach have gamely engaged such topics as ‘virtuous pedophiles’, ‘biological cognitive sex differences’, slippery definitions of ‘racism’, and of course campus censorship. The discourse has been pretty lopsided in favor of well-reasoned positions (apparently I haven’t drawn any activists). I was nervous a bit at first but I feel very vindicated and honored to be teaching such a group.

    This week I described for them what was happening at Wilfred Laurier in Canada and they were universally mortified with the administration’s response there (to be fair, I don’t know their inner thoughts, but there was rapid consensus outwardly).

    1. This is great to hear. I hope you’re targeting both left-wing anti-science views (e.g. the gender pay-gap) as well as right-wing nonsense (e.g. climate denial, evolution denial). Both extremes have their anti-science coteries that deserve criticism!

      1. Absolutely. We’ve done modules on climate change, gun control, vaccines, nutrition, creationism… and I just finished giving a talk on tribalism/partisanship where I showed students Dr. Haidt’s work on Moral Foundation Theory.

        I think the only topic the students seemed to have totally rejected my ideas on is determinism (they like their free will, hah)

Leave a Reply