[Brian Julian is a Gutenberg College graduate (class of 2003). He is currently pursuing a doctorate in philosophy at Boston University.]
I came across the following quote from the philosopher Richard Rorty. I think it is one of the scariest things I have ever read. It is a precise picture of the anti-Gutenberg, which just shows the need for the Gutenbergs of the world to exist as an alternative.
It seems to me that the regulative idea that we … heirs of the Enlightenment, we Socratists, most frequently use to criticize the conduct of various conversational partners is that of “needing education in order to outgrow their primitive fears, hatreds, and superstitions”…. It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own….
The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire “American liberal Establishment” is engaged in a conspiracy…. These parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students…. When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank….
You have to be educated in order to be a citizen of our society, a participant in our conversation, someone with whom we can envisage merging our horizons. So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours….
I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei [domination free] about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents…. It seems to me that I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Sturmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause.
[“Universality and Truth,” in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and His Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 21-22.]