Education, Micro-aggression, Viewpoint Diversity, and the Tolerance Mirage of Rampant Secularism

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Photo by Bob Rayner

One consequence of the contemporary postmodern ideology that there is no truth beyond each individual’s concept of it, is the increasingly desperate attempt on college campuses to eradicate any evaluative reflection concerning one tribe or person’s truth by any other tribe or person. This has led to the apparent evil of “micro-aggressions”, or what Lukianoff and Haidt describe in their Atlantic essay as vindictive protection – “creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.” [i]  Apparently, in this new understanding of political correctness, we should even apologize for saying that, “America is a land of opportunity”, because it may offend listeners who are citizens of other nations.

Even though an attempt to impose one’s perspective on others is logically antithetical to a postmodern ethic, it has become rigueur du jour in educational circles.  This new demand for a supposed tolerance advocated by some concerned about micro-aggression is a case in point. It’s really postmodern intolerance masquerading as tolerance, and it seems to have deluded many educators by its apparently inclusive language. Apparently, it’s permissible to claim that any group or activity on campus that acknowledges a belief in God must be banned because it is an attempt to impose religion on academic life (despite the fact that belief in the divine was at the very heart of the development of schools and universities in the first place), whilst the secularists’ claim that God has no place in the life of academia passes under the radar as being unbiased and religiously neutral! Such inconsistency is devise logic and would be almost amusing if it were not so dangerous and widely accepted.

This trend towards a narrow, secularized ideology underlines our contention that public schools and universities are becoming purveyors of dogmatically-defined and passionately-policed systemic thought control. This has caused schools and colleges to eschew any genuine commitment to viewpoint diversity. In the light of the Meriam-Webster dictionary’s definition of religion (“a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held with ardor and faith”), contemporary educational institutions have become religious hothouses committed to a dangerous faith. Postmodern, secular political correctness is not the removal of religion from education or from the public sphere. Rather, it is the attempted monopolistic takeover of those spaces by a proselytizing and subversive religion that robs humanity of tolerance, perspective, hope, and unified purpose.

Jonathan Haidt a self-declared centrist scholar who in his 2012 best-selling book The Righteous Mind raised concerns about the encroaching dominance of this new narrow religion, puts it this way in a recent article:

Something alarming has happened to the academy since the 1990s: it has been transformed from an institution that leans to the left, which is not a big problem, into an institution that is entirely on the left, which is a very big problem.

Nowadays there are NO conservatives or libertarians in most [secular] academic departments in the humanities and social sciences. The academy has been so focused on attaining diversity by race and gender (which are valuable) that it has created a hostile climate for people who think differently. The American Academy has become a politically orthodox and quasi-religious institution [Edlin underlining]. When everyone shares the same politics and prejudices, the disconfirmation process breaks down. Political orthodoxy is particularly dangerous for the social sciences, which grapple with so many controversial topics (such as race, racism, gender, poverty, immigration, politics, and climate science). America needs innovative and trustworthy research on all these topics, but can a social science that lacks viewpoint diversity produce reliable findings?[ii]

In Christian schools, we should nurture students to perceive and avoid the quicksand of the dangerous mirage of rampant secularism. In pluralist societies, education (including that found in our Christian schools) should champion the rights of all religious groups – secularism, Christianity, and Islam being just three examples – to be seen and understood. Adherents and evangelists for any one belief need not accept the veracity of other beliefs, but they should repudiate the insistence of contemporary secularists that the secular voice is the only one with a legitimate place in the public sphere. Such a position is totalitarianism, and let’s remember the lessons of George Orwell’s Animal Farm by affirming that such a position has no place in modern democracies.


[i] Lukianoff, G., & Haidt, J. (2105, September). The coddling of the American mind. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

[ii] Haidt, J. (2015). Viewpoint diversity in the academy. http://righteousmind.com/viewpoint-diversity/

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