Richard Rorty, who died not long ago, was a major postmodernist philosopher who reasoned that since we can never know an objective truth, we must instead pursue pragmatism. He was also a popular professor at Wellesley, Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Stanford. Rorty at least tended to face up to the implications of his beliefs and was honest about what he wanted to achieve. Here is what he thinks of his students, their parents, and the beliefs they tried to instill in them. In this agenda, he is by no means alone:
The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire ‘American liberal establishment’ is engaged in a conspiracy. The parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students . . .
When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank. . .
You have to be educated in order to be . . . a participant in our conversation . . . So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours . . .
I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei [domination free] about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents . . . I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause ( “Universality and Truth,” in Robert B. Brandom [ed.], Rorty and his Critics. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, pp. 21-22).
Why do parents send their children to colleges that subject them to this sort of teacher?
HT: James Tallmon & Rob Spinney (two Patrick Henry College profs who are emphatically NOT like this!)