Thursday, September 15, 2011


"It sounds like a headline from The Onion"

Life of Brian Stoning Scene
"All Jews should be sterilized." If your professor said this, what would your reaction be? Sarah Grunfeld stormed out of the class and contacted the York University administration with bitter complaints. A rational, intelligent person would want to know the context and intent of that statement before responding, but Ms Grunfeld didn't want any of that. She'd heard her offensive statement and was eager to take the fight to the man for his oppressive and insulting statement.

The context is enlightening. Brendan Kennedy at the Toronto News tells the full story:
Johnston was giving his introductory lecture to Social Sciences 1140: “Self, Culture and Society,” when he explained to the nearly 500 students that the course was going to focus on texts, not opinions, and despite what they may have heard elsewhere, everyone is not entitled to their opinion.

“All Jews should be sterilized” would be an example of an unacceptable and dangerous opinion, Johnston told the students.
Now in context plainly the man is not advocating sterilization of anyone, let alone Jews. Dr Johnson is Jewish himself and was obviously stating that he considered this an unacceptable and dangerous opinion. Ms Grunfeld didn't care about any of that. One wonders if she was even paying attention.

Now, I disagree that not everyone is entitled their opinion; in fact I consider that typical of left-leaning PC ideology today. Freedom of speech means people are able to express things you consider terrible and shocking, and hold opinions that you disagree with and consider unacceptable. That's the price of a free, tolerant, and pluralistic society. Demanding otherwise violates the basic tenets of liberty that the west holds dear, particularly in the United States.

Of course, this is Canada, where you can be hauled before a "Human Rights" tribunal for holding some opinions, so in that country, perhaps Dr Johnson is correct.

Ms Grunfeld is a senior at York College, and she knew just how to deal with this anti semetic statement; call an identity group advocacy.
She contacted Oriyah Barzilay, the president of Hasbara at York — an Israel advocacy group on campus — who then sent a press release to media and other Jewish community groups calling for Johnston to be fired.

Blogs and Facebook groups picked it up, and in a few hours the allegations spread within the city’s Jewish community, albeit mostly online.
And now Dr Johnson has been forced to defend a statement which he condemned and called unacceptable.

Now, consider ms Grunfeld's capacity for rational thought, discernment, and ability to listen to a lecture. What kind of incompetent student is unable to even parse a simple sentence so obviously stated? How did she make it to her Senior Year if she's that confused by the English language, or that ill-inclined to pay attention?

At Legal Insurrection where I saw this story first, Professor Jacobson says:
The source I got the link from already made the point that “some students simply do not have the basic powers of concentration and comprehension required for college work–not to mention, of course, that there are way too many rewards to hypersensitivity and public offense taking.”

I would add that it doesn’t say much for the girl that she thought nearly 500 people wouldn’t storm out after making such an awful comment (assuming, of course, it had been in seriousness).
Which is a good point; just what does she think of her classmates that she was the only one who took offense? That alone ought to have been enough for her to stop and think and wonder if - perhaps - she might have misunderstood or not heard him properly.

But if you're one of the righteously indignant, perhaps one of the perpetually offended, that never seems to come to light. If anything, its a sign of just how righteous you are and how cowed and jaded the rest of the world is, needing your enlightenment.

Ms Grunfeld's response?
“The words, ‘Jews should be sterilized’ still came out of his mouth, so regardless of the context I still think that’s pretty serious.”
It is serious, but not in the way she thinks. It was a serious challenge for the class to learn and consider. And its seriously problematic for Canada that this professor is teaching students that some opinions cannot be held.

And as a commenter said... she just said "Jews should be sterilized" so shouldn't she be called up on charges? I can't help but flash back to a scene from Monty Python's movie Life of Bryan:
Elder Mathias, son of Deuteronomy of Gath.
Mathias [to a guard] Do I say yes?
Guard Yes.
Mathias [To the elder] Yes.
Elder You have been found guilty by the elders of the town of uttering
the name of our lord, and so as a BLASPHEMER...
Crowd Ooooh. [the crowd consists of many women wearing false beards]
Elder are to be stoned to death.
[The crowd look anxious to kill Mathias]
Mathias Look. I'd had a lovely supper, and all I said to my wife was 'That
piece of halibut was good enough for Jehovah'.
Crowd Oooooooh!
Elder BLASPHEMY!!!! He said it again
Crowd Yes, yes.
Elder Did you hear him?
Crowd Yes, yes.
Woman1 Really.
[There is a moment of silence as the elder thinks, after hearing the woman's voice.]
Elder Are there any women here today?
Crowd [Guiltily mumbles]
Elder Very well. By virtue of the authority vested in me...
[One of the more impatient women throws a stone and hits Mathias on the head.]
Mathias Oh lay off... we haven't started yet.
Elder Come on. Who threw that? Who threw that stone? Come on.
Crowd She did, she did... he, he, he, him, him, him, he did.
[Their voices drop as they realise their mistake.]
Woman1 Sorry, I thought we'd started. [in a beautiful female voice]
Elder Go to the back. There's always one, isn't there. Now where were we?
Mathias Look, I don't think it ought to be blasphemy, just saying Jehovah.
Crowd [Shocked] He said it again!
Elder You're only making it worse for yourself.
Mathias Making it worse? How could it be worse? Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah.
Crowd Ooooooh!
Elder I'm warning you... If you say Jehovah once more... [A stone flys by and hits the elder.] Right. Who threw that? Come on. Who threw that?
Crowd She did she did, he, him, him, him, him, him, him.
Elder Was it you?
Woman2 Yes.
Elder Right...
Woman2 Well you did say Jehovah.
[She gets stoned]
Elder Stop, stop. Will you stop that... stop it. Now look. No-one is to stone anyone until I blow this whistle. Do you understand? Even, and I want to make this absolutely clear; even if they do say Jehovah.
[The skocked crowd stones the elder to death, ending in the dropping of a huge bolder on his fallen body.]
Woman3 Good shot.
If its so horrible to even utter the words, what happens when you do so, Ms Grunfeld?

On a more serious note: what happens to a professor's ability to teach if this kind of response from a student can happen so easily and is straightened up with such difficulty? What happens to academia in general? I think we're seeing the results every day in colleges and universities across western civilization.

1 comment:

LS said...

"Jews should be sterilized." -- Sarah Grunfeld