Liberal Arts Falling Left

(Daniel Wolfe, Queen’s University)

University campuses in Canada are slowly transforming the study of liberal arts into the leftist arts.

Universities have historically been the leading actor in the market for liberal arts education. Students are expected to gain skills at university to be used in their post-graduate ventures. However, the values of this liberal education are being heavily influenced by the recent popularity of left-leaning politics such as postmodernism and neomarxism. Specifically, fallacious privileging of ‘producer over product’ is negatively impacting students.

The importance of this topic lies in the quality of education being received by liberal arts students. As a liberal arts major, I expect my quality of education to match the aggressive costs of tuition the university demands. One of the major purposes of taking this program is to pursue a career in the liberal arts, and for this the development of literature analysis and argumentation skills are essential. The observations I will build upon are those I have made across multiple courses in the Political Sciences, History, and Philosophy departments at Queen’s University.

When insufficient instruction in these areas is being given to students over the course of a multi-year liberal arts degree, holders of that degree will not be able to match the level of skill in argumentation practiced by scholars in the field. This should be a significant concern for current and potential liberal arts students—in the competitive job market we all will face, there will be no room for poor writers and thinkers.

One leftist tool of analysis university classrooms emphasize is the leftist idea of ‘producer over product,’ to the detriment of students’ skill building. ‘Producer over product’ describes the largely leftist tendency to place excessive importance on the biases of the author—the producer—over the value of the work he/she produced, the product. For example, when told to examine important literature, students are taught that the influences of race, gender, etc. on the author can discredit the argument being made in the work.

This is a logical fallacy. The bias of the author can only discredit the argument insofar as it has caused an implicit or explicit error in the premises. If that is not the case, the merits of an argument or position are being denied not on the bias of the author, but the bias of the reader. In this case, students are being taught with a bias to undermine the value of certain arguments given the context of the author. The influence of this example is harmful in that it narrows students’ ability to approach a work critically, and by extension diminishes their overarching critical thinking skills.

Additionally, due to being taught in an educational environment with implicit logical fallacies, students will habitually apply this reasoning to other areas of life. Political views influenced by this tendency to focus on producer over product are likely to lean left, potentially contributing to the tendency for young voters to support left wing political parties such as the Green Party or the NDP.

As the leading institutions for liberal arts educations, universities must be mindful of political influence seeping into classroom instruction beyond reasonable application.