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August 2020

A kerfuffle was precipitated this week when it emerged that Chloe Clark, an English professor at Iowa State University, had threatened to dismiss students from her classroom for voicing views contrary to her own on gay marriage, abortion, and the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). This is what her initial syllabus notes for English 250 stipulated:  “GIANT WARNING: any instances of othering that you participate in intentionally (racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, sorophobia, transphobia, classism, mocking of mental health issues, body shaming, etc) in class are grounds for dismissal from the classroom. The same goes for any papers/projects: you cannot choose any topic that takes at its base that one side doesn’t deserve the same basic human rights as you do (ie: no arguments against gay marriage, abortion, Black Lives Matter, etc). I take this seriously.” It is, to be sure, a demand for intellectual subjugation far more frank than the usual indirect fare offered in the humanities. The statement also quite plainly contradicts its own call to forsake ‘othering’ as it effectively marginalises and censures any student wishing to express dissident views. To its credit Iowa State University quickly addressed the situation in line with its code on the First Amendment’s provisions...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. Earlier this month, I wrote a short piece about the toxic impact of ‘cancel culture’, especially as it is impacting upon higher education.  It is worth noting that the introduction of reductionist ideologies within the secondary school system means that we are churning out undergraduates who are ill-equipped to cope with the free intellectual environment that hitherto characterised our Universities.  Analogically,  ‘Foot-binding‘ was a historical and disfiguring practice conducted in China, only finally abolished in the early 20th century: its victims were no longer able to walk naturally and freely.  It is quite likely that the shackles of reductionism may have a similarly constraining impact upon intellectual development, but labelling academic freedom as the ‘problem’ misses the point by a wide mile.  Academic freedom can only be a ‘problem’ to students who are suffering from a societally-induced pathology, disabling the exercise of critical faculties, and subverting the capacity to tolerate opinions other than their own. Of course, those who have the greatest interest in fostering or supporting cancel culture are the same people most likely to deny that it exists.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago documents the painstaking lengths to which the Soviet...

Kevin Moss is a Christian Heritage trustee and PhD candidate in intellectual history. ‘Cancel Culture’ may not be new, but it’s suddenly gone mainstream.  Perhaps it’s a secondary symptom of the COVID-19 virus. It seems that those who are doing the ‘cancelling’ are keen that our awareness of what is going on needs drastically paring back.  Colin Wright, an evolutionary biologist, has written at quite some length, in order to document his own experience at the hands of the mobs who seem to control social media.  The irony here is that scientists who are Christians have, for many years, found themselves ‘cancelled’ (or existed under the threat thereof) for any public dissent from the presuppositional naturalism which has been used to weaponise the biological sciences against the very (theistic) worldview which gave rise to them.  Suddenly, those of atheistic or agnostic persuasion, are discovering that this toxic ideology has quietly morphed into something that is far more dangerous to Western intellectual culture, and has the capacity to bring the whole house of cards down. Well, evolution’s a bit like that. Of course the intellectual viability of the scientific project was always wholly dependent on its theistic foundations.  To mix my metaphors;  since Darwin, the...