ASU Professors: Free Speech Allows Too Many Right-Wing Ideas

They Said the Quiet Part Out Loud

ASU censorship

Not that long ago, a liberal education meant an education to liberate the individual. It was an education that taught the individual how to use Reason and Logic to give sound arguments in order to know the truth. Now, we have ASU professors telling us that a secular university education should shelter students from any ideas the expert professors at the university say are dangerous. The student becomes a dependent who must allow the experts to do the thinking.

On Monday, Nov. 27, the Arizona State Legislature’s Committee on Freedom of Expression at Arizona’s Public Universities will hold its second hearing. After the first hearing in July, ASU was asked to produce a report about the behavior of its honors college faculty who slandered Dennis Prager, Charlie Kirk, and Robert Kiyosaki in an effort to keep them from speaking at the honors college. ASU’s investigation concluded that there was no wrongdoing. This is because the professors were free to express their objections, and the event with these three was held and attracted a large audience. But did the investigation look at all of the evidence?

Just last week, two professors at ASU gave the world a gift by making their thoughts on free speech known in an essay published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. You may have always suspected that professors hold to radical leftist ideologies and attempt to block any other views from being taught at the secular university. You may have thought that such professors do not want right-wing ideas to have equal treatment on campus. These two professors removed all doubt. They give us a look into the mind of a radical professor and how such a one justifies denying freedom of speech while also using ASU class time to push their own political ideology.

These two professors tell us that we do not need diversity at the secular university. Intellectual diversity, that is. We only need the kind of diversity of which they approve. I believe they are correct when they say the following, “A diversity of opinion — “intellectual diversity” — isn’t itself the goal; rather, it is of value only insofar as it serves the goal of producing knowledge. On most unanswered questions, there is, at least initially, a range of plausible opinions, but answering questions requires the vetting of opinions.”  But they have no methodology for how to get the truth.  If they did, they would give us a sound argument to defend their presuppositions rather than demanding to be sheltered from free speech and right-wing ideas.

In order to make this point, they give the example of a creationist and a flat-earther. “Few would expect a biology department to hire a creationist or a geography department to host a flat-earther. In these contexts, a premium is placed on getting it right, in part because the social costs of getting it wrong are significant.” You wouldn’t want those views in the secular university, right? Therefore, we can also rule out right-wing political ideas. See the fallacy?  Intellectual sleight of hand.  A student can be taught how to give an argument to show the earth is not flat rather than simply having to rely on experts.  Students don’t need to be protected from debate. We all want to “get it right,” but to do so requires a sound argument.  And you don’t need to be an elitist to understand how to evaluate sound arguments.

From there, they conclude that the secular university should not be a public square of debate. It should only let in the approved ideas from the experts. The other ideas, the right-wing ones, are discredited and false: “On some fundamental questions, a diversity of defensible doctrines — what the political philosopher John Rawls called “reasonable pluralism” — may persist, as it does, for instance, with respect to certain philosophical questions. All of these are worthy of analysis and debate. But colleges are under no obligation to balance warranted, credible, true opinions with unwarranted, discredited, false ones.” In order to keep out these right-wing ideas, these two professors are willing to restrict freedom of thought and isolate the university from the public sphere: “Only by disavowing pretensions to be the public sphere can colleges perform their critical role in relation to it.”  A liberal education is lost.  The individual student can no longer learn to give sound arguments and identify fallacies but must rely on the experts.

Here’s the problem: they haven’t given any rational proof that their leftist ideology and presuppositions are true.  Do these include the belief that men can get pregnant?  Or that the world and its history are primarily to be divided into oppressed and oppressors?  Or that God is not real and did not ordain marriage?  We have many good arguments to show that such beliefs are false. What they are doing is limiting and avoiding rational debate because they cannot give a sound argument. The goal of a liberal education is to teach the student to spot these kinds of fallacies and false presuppositions.

How does this relate to the investigation of ASU and the second hearing? There is a confusion about free speech on campus that needs to be cleared up. Elitists like these two professors cannot, by fiat, demand to be protected from rational criticisms of their leftist ideas. That is academic freedom. However, at the first hearing, evidence was presented from students showing that honors college professors are using their class time and ASU resources to promote their personal beliefs. Freedom of speech and the right to give rational arguments to debate ideas is protected. Employees of ASU are not permitted to misuse the classroom or ASU resources for personal ends.  They can always start a blog or a podcast to share their ideas. It is this second problem that the ASU report did not examine when it did not follow up on the evidence from students. This will be an important part of tomorrow’s hearing.

Parents, students, donors, legislators, and pastors, you need to know how bad it is among such secular professors. Articles like the one I am discussing here are a gift because they said the quiet part out loud. They are a window into how these professors talk to each other at their elite salons. If you want an education that will liberate you to think for yourself, you must look elsewhere. Sound the alarm.

Dr. Owen Anderson has been teaching philosophy and religious studies for 21 years and is a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Arizona State University. His research focuses on general revelation and related questions about reality, value, and knowledge. He has been a fellow at Princeton University, a visiting scholar at Princeton Seminary, and a fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published several books including “Job: A Philosophical Commentary” (2021) “The Declaration of Independence and God” (2015) and “The Natural Moral Law” (2013). He regularly teaches Philosophy of Religion, Introduction to Philosophy, Applied Ethics, World Religions, Western Religious Traditions, and Religion in America.


About Dr. Owen Anderson 3 Articles
Dr. Owen Anderson is a Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Arizona State University