Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Examining the Progressive Stack and Its Influence On Academia

In modern society today it would be politically incorrect to say America is exceptional, or that there is no such thing as a gender pay gap, or even my opinion that gay-marriage is an oxymoron. Someone somewhere will be offended and their offense to your ideas trumps your opinion. What you should notice the minute you or anyone you know displays a hint of these same ideas, is immediately you will be categorized within the framework of progressivism as lesser. Lesser in kindness, caring, intellectual and feeling. This framework of progressivism is founded upon the correlation of victim-hood and privilege within society. 

Using this correlation, a category is formulated by taking the details of a person, such as their sex, gender, race, and sexuality. Building upon historical, political, and anecdotal biases, people who use this way of thinking make rulings on whether or not your opinion matters within the context of what is being discussed. A great example of this is what is known as the progressive stack, performed by Occupy Wall Street protesters so that people deemed marginalized would have a chance to speak. The theory behind this stack is that those who are not marginalized (meaning those who are white, heterosexual, a young adult and male) are already encouraged by society to express themselves. Groups that have special consideration are those that include women, homosexuals, transsexuals, bi-sexual, non-whites, children, and elderly people.

So lets say I'm a young man who has something important to say regarding capitalism and its negative impact in my life. I would have to start from the bottom of the queue. If a marginalized person wants to speak I would have to be bumped down, while they get bumped up. Why would this happen? Two reasons come to mind.

Liberal groups are using progressive stacks to establish an equity of experience, in which all experiences are valued no matter the percentage of a specific category represented in society. Therefore if the group is made up of 60 percent white experiences and 40 percent non-white experiences within society, modern progressive liberalism would focus on trying to equal the percentages to either balance out both or encourage one over the other in a specific forum. This ensures an equity of experience circle, where one minute you are an oppressed group the next you are a group that is given privilege of speaking because you are actually an oppressed group that is usually never given a chance to speak, until of course this very moment.

The next theory is more cynical as it allows for people of marginalized status to speak not because there is a correlation between value of experience and marginalization but experience of a person is not valued, rather it is tolerated because they have to tolerate it. No one truly cares about person X's experience but they must let them speak because they are part of the marginalized group. So we must listen and respect a homosexual woman's opinion not because of the content of her opinion but because she is a woman and homosexual. She is different and we want to show that we respect her for being in these categories.

Feminist Alison Burtch tweet on 'progressive stack'

Both theories could be possible, although I have doubts with the second theory due to the fact that most groups emphasize the collecting and gathering of many peoples experiences for evidence. Thus if you were to give a pro-choice argument the value of a woman's experience or opinion is going to be viewed as having more value than a man. Now we could make the claim that the content of her experience is going to be ignored, but I find that her anecdotal evidence would be viewed as integral to the argument and thereby immense value. That value is determined by what she says, not only the fact that she said it. A conservative woman's opinion on abortion is not going to be viewed as valuable by those who want to promote a more progressive argument. The correlation between victim-hood and privilege brings about the belief that those who are more likely to have privilege are less likely to care as much as I do.

What does this mean for academia?  Most concepts that stem from progressivism, such as this progressive stack and diversity are learned and is not usually something people are accustomed to knowing or understanding in nature. Some say progressivism is something that is taught, not something that people readily know by way of natural (logical) thought. For example, some American children are taught to feel shame when celebrating Columbus day or Thanksgiving.
That being said it is incredibly telling when you realize that most of the Occupy Wall Street protesters were college educated. They believed the progressive stack was not only a means to support who they deem are oppressed, but rather it's a process under the banner of diversity.

Universities who want to promote diversity are likely to make judgements that are along the same lines as the progressive stack. They are using superficial categories to define what it means to be oppressed and privileged, in turn colleges make decisions that support those who they determine are oppressed, no matter the circumstance of the person they find has privilege. Beyond affirmative action, decisions like the progressive stack could imply that professors have a bias toward students who they feel are less privileged, these groups would get special consideration, topics will be aligned to this way of thinking, and hiring decisions of future professors who subscribe to progressivism could also be a result.

As someone aspiring a professorship this is troubling, not because I'm conservative, but because college is extremely lacking in the diversity of ideas, making students highly unlikely to engage in critical thinking causing them become unable to fully understand why they associate themselves with certain ideologies. This is exemplified when someone shares ideas that is viewed as not progressive they are simply labeled as racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or any other adjective that is meant to belittle their statement. Students are not encouraged to critically analyze work they are taught to merely react to it by way of an emotional or anecdotal response. If I were to say that I disagree with the concept of gay-marriage, regardless of my reasons why I would be labeled homophobic. Now if you were to ask the student why, they can't answer that question. These students have formed a correlation which has been entrenched deeply into their way of thinking that there is this dichotomy of those with privilege and those without, and it leads to oppressing those who they feel oppress others. This correlation between victim-hood and privilege reinforces the belief that those who are more likely to have privilege are less likely to care as much as I do. The issue we find most offensive is that colleges don't challenge that assumption or oppression, rather promote what they consider to be "safe spaces" for the purposes of diversity and acceptance of those who they feel are oppressed by society in general. My next post will be devoted to the dissecting concept of "safe-spaces" and why they are detrimental to the purpose of education and intellectual diversity.

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