by Katherine Eltringham –
Adjunct Professor –
For the past four years, I have been an adjunct faculty member at West Chester University of Pennsylvania in the Philosophy Department. Up until December of 2015, I was teaching Ancient Philosophy, Mediaeval Philosophy and Ethics. But after my department review, when the chair of the department came to observe my classroom, I was fired from teaching the Ethics classes – not because I am incompetent, cruel to my students or unjust in my grading policies. It was because I said – “All Lives Matter”.
I refuse to promote the leftist agenda and the confused logic of social oppression because I reject the fiction of ubiquitous racism, sexism and homophobia (or trans-phobia). The most vicious form of oppression is the use of political force to silence and squash the dissenters from leftism. I was supposed to teach about diversity and oppression in a State University where the only diversity they really care about is skin-deep, and the only oppression they recognize is “white privilege”.
Instead of recognising diversity and condemning oppression through media over which we have no control – such as skin colour or gender – I chose to advance diversity of thought, creativity, tolerance, respect, peace, justice and freedom. Instead of telling my students that they are all oppressed by the hatred of other individuals – women are oppressed by men, gay people are oppressed by straights, racial minorities are oppressed by whites, etc. – I chose to empower them through enabling them to take up their power of choice and self-responsibility. I tried to show my students that the real threat to a good society is not systemic oppression in the attitudes of those who have been indoctrinated by the mythical white patriarchy – the real threat is in those who would use the coercive force of the state to take away individual liberty and private property, and use the most seductive propaganda – i.e. the illusion that it is possible to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else – to do it.
The leftists complain about Trump’s famous line from the Apprentice: “You’re Fired!”… and yet they had no pang of conscience firing me simply for speaking the truth.
And then came the Strike. I have remained employed by the State University system even after being fired from the Ethics classes, but only on a very partial basis, teaching only a single class per semester. I suppose they found that it was safe enough to allow me my Ancient and Mediaeval Philosophy classes. What harm could I do talking about REAL justice rather than social justice in those classes? So, I am still an active member of the university, and I am NOT a member of APSCUF (the faculty union). When the Faculty was on the brink of a strike, I received a message from the APSCUF West Chester local chapter president, Mark Rimple. He sent a note personally addressed to me, asking to speak with me, and he provided his cell phone number. I did not call him, because I was busy preparing my classes – classes I was intent on teaching, even in the case of a strike. Here is an excerpt of my reply to him:
I have thought long and hard about unions in general and APSCUF in particular. I will tell you honestly that I have no desire to become a union member. I have a moral objection to unions (especially public employee unions). Also, if the union does indeed decide to strike, I will NOT be participating. I intend to fulfill my contract, teach my students, and receive my paycheck. Since I began working at WCU back in 2012, the law has enabled theft of my property in the form of a coerced “fair share” payment, which I have found morally repugnant from the start. Legalized theft is still theft. The union has gotten from me all that it will, and that involuntarily.
I think that you and I would certainly agree that teachers are one of society’s most valuable assets. This is why I am a passionate advocate of educational reform. There are institutional injustices perpetrated and propagated by the coercive power-structure of the state and its allies, and it is my firm belief that no teacher will earn a decent income until education is liberated from the state. I do not believe that strong-arming taxpayers is an ethical way to come by a desired income-level. That, too, is theft.
On the night of Tuesday October 18th, the union called the Strike, and on the morning of Wednesday October 19th, I crossed the picket line and walked into my classroom building.
What happened next is the most amazing part.
I hold regular office hours before my 9:00 am class. I arrived around 8:00 am to find three of my students waiting for me outside of my office. I invited them in, and we all picked the comfiest chairs. Since I usually share my office with many others, we had space to spread out and we had the privacy of the room all to ourselves.
My students were not closet conservatives or libertarians… in fact, they were rather strongly left-leaning. But they were also lost as to how to think about the whole event of the strike. I started explaining to them my moral convictions about not stealing from others, including through taxation. I explained the ethical perils of using force to get what you want out of others, and the perversion inherent in thinking one is entitled to a certain kind of lifestyle at the expense of others. I explained the free market and the robust ethical lifestyle that comes with taking responsibility for one’s own self-improvement. The hour vanished, and we had to go downstairs to the classroom. My one student said “Kate, I think we could probably stay in your office, because we are the only ones who are going to show up”, but I said, “Let’s go see, just in case.”
They were all there. I was ecstatic. I had told them I would be there, but I know the temptation to stay home when there is an official strike, especially for an early morning class (and for college students, 9:00 am is brutal)!
Later in the day, I got an email from one student who was present for my office hours – he wanted to read more about what I had been talking about. I sent him a couple of articles. On Friday, the third day of the strike, the same thing happened – I had the same students show up for my office hours, and then our pre-class discussion spilled over into class.
For me, the strike was an amazing “teachable moment”, and I think that there are some young minds who have been forever transformed by the power of rational, logical philosophical argumentation for the truth. Using the principles of natural law, and the reasoning of various philosophers from the Western tradition, I showed them the unassailability of personal integrity in the form of life, liberty and property. With the help of my favourite philosopher Plato, whom we were and still are studying, I was able to show them an alternative to the leftist-statist propaganda that permeates the university atmosphere.
I was the only member of the Philosophy department to cross the picket line, and I am not being hired back next semester for any classes (even the ancient and mediaeval). Coincidence?
My ethical stance for freedom and justice and against stealing makes me incapable (in their view) of teaching Ethics.