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Nearly Impossible Conversations | Billboard Chris & James Klüg


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Beyond Woke with Peter Boghossian

Students and faculty embrace illiberalism at PSU & UO
May 12, 2023

(Snip)

Here are some things I learned from my experience with Chris and James:

  • I learned that conversations changed from, “They are not giving puberty blockers to children,” to, once compelling evidence was presented, “They are giving puberty blockers to children but that’s actually a good thing.” I experienced something similar in conversations with religious believers. The conversations would go from, “My faith is true,” to, “My faith is beneficial.” There was never an acknowledgment that the switch occurred—it remained unspoken until I mentioned it. I did the same thing in conversations about children and puberty blockers—stating that they changed their stance from “this is not happening” to “this is happening and it’s beneficial.” This usually elicited awkward silence.

  • Chris and James have different approaches to conversation. My approach is gentler and more oriented toward Street Epistemology, while theirs is somewhat harder on the edges and more forceful. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just different. One thing we have in common is an abiding concern for the truth and, if I may be blunt, a fearless presentation.

  • *Not one of the students who disagreed with us could make a basic argument. This had nothing to do with content of the conversation but rather a complete inability to substantively engage an idea, marshal evidence, or articulate rudimentary counterexamples. They did, however, have ample conviction and rely upon personal testimonies.

  • Students showed a complete lack of concern for the fact that those on their “side” of the issue were acting like spoiled children. Did it not occur to the individuals who were trying to have a conversation with us that their peers shouting and playing loud music in our ears was illiberal behavior? When I asked this exact question, they shrugged. Students did not seem to recognize that any attempt to shut down discourse should be deeply concerning. Consequently, it did not cause them to question whether they were on the right side of the issue.

My final comment is for educational administrators. Instead of worrying about how your students will react to questions and encouraging them to refrain from discussion, teach them how to have difficult conversations. Specifically, expose them to a plurality of views, teach them how to weigh evidence, explain why changing one’s mind is a virtue, show them how to listen and why listening matters, etc. Then you won’t have to worry because you’ll be educating instead of indoctrinating. (This carries the additional benefit of their degrees having value.) Once you commit to teaching students how to engage ideas, you will begin establishing a real university.

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* This is something I have found to be true of Progressives in general Online. It Seems the very idea of, But..I..Could..Be..Wrong is completely foreign to them.

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