In 1990, I enrolled in a commercial law course as part of my LLB program at Macquarie University. My lecturer was Mark Cooray, a conservative academic lawyer of Sri Lankan origin. In those days, Macquarie Law School was dominated by a group of “progressive” lawyers pushing the “Critical Legal Studies” barrel.
Cooray was scathing of the “Crits”, arguing their approach to learning and teaching law put the cart before the horse. “How can undergraduate students be expected to criticise the law before gaining a proper understanding of it?”
In their approach to exposing alleged biases of supposedly left-leaning academics, the Young Libs are behaving like a bunch of leftwing “Crits”. Which probably explains why the main (if not the only) instrument used by National Young Liberal President Noel McCoy to generate his list of academic leftists was that great scholarly authority Professor Google.
To borrow Cooray’s sensible conservative logic, how can undergraduates with little exposure to a discipline or subject be expected to criticise their lecturer or tutor before gaining an understanding of the discipline or subject itself?
Just how seriously should we take the words of academic novices when determining the degree of bias (or lack thereof) of an expert in a field?
It’s true that there is a lack of diversity in university education. Most universities don’t hire undergraduate novices to teach.
So where did this Young Liberal idea come from? It seems the Young Libs are taking a leaf out of the far-Right CampusWatch project which seeks to expose Middle East Studies academics who don’t subscribe to the types of hawkish positions on the Middle East that even many Israelis find disturbing.
One can only wonder what newly elected Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull would make of such pseudo-conservative nonsense from the Young Liberals. Then again, these were the people whose votes proved so crucial to his preselection victory.
First published in the Crikey daily alert for Friday 10 October 2008.
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf
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