Universities: why intolerance is spreading

We have never talked so much about universities since we wonder whether or not a teacher can pronounce the word “nigger” in certain circumstances.

You would be wrong to find this anecdotal, because universities are the incubators of the society of the future.

This wind of censorship and intolerance, coming from the United States, mainly sweeps the social sciences.

How to explain the force of this wind?

The director of my doctoral thesis, Raymond Boudon, now deceased, had once seen this phenomenon rise and had offered a complex explanation that a colleague reminded me of.

It is in his work Why intellectuals don’t like liberalism (2004).


Reduced to its simplest expression, it is held in three interrelated points.

First, in many social science departments there is virtually no entry screening.

There are exceptional students there, but the average level is low.

Logically, the weaker the student, the more likely he is to swallow silliness.

Second, our time has seen the spread of the (false) idea that all opinions are equal.

Everyone’s right to their opinion is confused with the idea that all opinions have the same weight.

The guy who doesn’t know anything thinks he’s as competent as the guy who has studied the subject thoroughly.

We are in the era of “I-know-because-I-think-it”.

At the same time, in the social sciences, the idea (also false) has spread that objectivity is a myth, an illusion.

It is striking to see the number of professors whose work is only ideology disguised as science.

Students, for their part, often have great difficulty in going beyond the expression of their emotions, of their subjectivity.

Disciplines such as mathematics, physics or biology, because of the very nature of their knowledge, are better protected against these drifts.

In physics, for example, you don’t get out of it by simply expressing an “opinion”: you have to be able to test and validate.

Third, these phenomena – low average level and reign of subjectivity and emotion – combine to produce another: the soaring moralism, righteous indignation, political correctness.

Why ? Because judging is much easier than understanding.

Understanding a complex phenomenon is difficult. Feeling an emotion and making a judgment is within the reach of anyone.

For example, the labor market difficulties of immigrants have diverse and complex causes.

“Explaining” them all by the racism of the majority, it’s simple, it’s easy, and it gives a good conscience.


And it is this rise of moralism – facilitated by the low level and the valuation of feelings to the detriment of verified facts – which explains this new intolerance among so many students.

They impose themselves all the more easily as they reduce to silence, by intimidating them, those who do not think like them, and often benefit from the cowardly complicity of frightened managers.

In Canada, the multiculturalist ideology, which glorifies minorities, and anti-francophone resentment (“systemic racism”?) Are added to make it the perfect storm.


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