I have always known that Sydney University, like most of Australia’s tertiary institutions, has a tendency to favour the left side of politics. Being a right leaning student in the Media department I am quite accustomed to being exposed to bias and left-wing dogma on a weekly basis. If I am honest, I thrive on the constant debate I am forced to conduct, and believe the upward battle most outspoken right-wing students face only hones our skills for the real world. The ‘conservative rebel’ is an oxymoron label I wear with pride. Despite my general acceptance of the University’s politicised approach, a recent policy decision has, in my opinion, firmly crossed the line. In instituting the ‘Unlearn’ Program Sydney University is flaunting its Marxist colours to a new and alarming extent. For this reason I feel compelled to call the program out for the postmodern fallacy it is.
The ‘Unlearn’ program is compulsory for all undergraduate students and if you aren’t bordering on the edge of an Alex Jones style rant by the end of reading the online description, you have a lot more self-control than me.
Throughout our lives we’re taught important lessons. We learn how to talk, to write, even how to behave. But not everyone has been taught how to unlearn. To be brave enough to question the world, challenge the established, demolish social norms and build new ones in their place.
Promoting independent thought is an integral part of any of a university’s raison detre, and questioning assumed knowledge is an important part of this. Where my ears prick up however, is where the University demands that students don’t just question established social and intellectual norms, but that they deliberately demolish them and erect new ones in their place. This is the same university that encourages safe spaces, bans movies it deems ‘physically threatening’ and covers up photographs of former deans and foundation heads as these white males may be ‘offensive’. Sydney University has shown repeatedly that it places limitations on independence of thought and that it is not the bastion of free speech and expression Michael Spence claims it to be. So that begs the question, what are they actually saying here? I think the answer is that they do not wish you to challenge their establishment but rather your own personal established thought and morality that you have developed through your upbringing, family and society. This all needs to be discarded so that they, the University’s self-ordained apostles of ethics, can be the ones to build new ones in the place of the old. The University is compelling you to unlearn what you previously thought and build new thoughts in their image. Note that the program does not mention anything about being exposed to a diverse range of ideas, instead it speaks of a way of filtering truth, which is where the program becomes truly unsettling;
We’ve always put our trust in the news. Today’s technology means news spreads fast, anyone can publish it, and there’s lots of it, which leaves us little time to decipher useful facts from fakes… But what if the same technology that fools us, could tip us off? Could computers help us filter the truth?
After reading the section ‘Unlearn Truth’ I started constructing a tinfoil hat. They might as well have said ‘We don’t like the news now because traditional media is dying so we want to filter the internet so you only listen to us’.
Professor Nick Enfield and his team are fighting the war against deception through the Post Truth Initiative… They’re also building a “Bullshit Detector” – a computer capable of analysing speeches, articles and even tweets to tell if someone is being deceptive.
Really Nick Enfield? Well I call bullshit on your ‘Bullshit Detector’, I don’t need your machine to tell me what is true. That is supposed to be the point of University! To teach you critical thinking and research skills so you can decipher truth yourself. Traditional academia is about the search for truth and knowledge, not the search for a way of filtering it.
This program is truly Orwellian and disturbing, and what’s worse is that it’s compulsory. Sydney University should be prioritising teaching its students to learn and think critically. University is supposed to be a place where you are intellectually challenged and forced to develop reasoning, debating and research skills that will enrich your life and allow you to contribute to society in a productive manner. This program does the opposite and it is a threat to our future. But don’t take my word for it, you can read about the program in detail here: http://sydney.edu.au/unlearn/home.html?cid=pp_brand-unlearn