Jordan Peterson's Excellent Idea

Peterson - Carlos Osorio.jpg

The orthodoxies of the campus left have come under intense scrutiny over the last couple of years across North America—targeted by conservative ideologues like Milo Yiannopoulos, Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro, but also by moderate centrists like Professor Jonathan Haidt, co-founder of Heterodox Academy. In Canada, the point-person for this movement is University of Toronto prof Jordan Peterson, who vaulted to notoriety a year ago with his tough-minded critique of Bill C-16 and his refusal to use non-gendered pronouns. Since then, Peterson has become something of a bête noire among self-styled campus progressives, a role he plainly relishes. "Stay home with your mom," Peterson said in one of his many podcasts. "Don’t come to university if you want to be safe."

Last week Peterson floated the idea of launching a website correlating university courses, instructors, research methodologies and pedagogy. In typical fashion, he antagonized his adversaries by suggesting that such a resource would reveal whether a given course was offered in a "corrupt” discipline, and thus allow a prospective student to decide for herself whether she wished to “become a social justice warrior.” Now, however, Peterson is having second thoughts. He has decided to ice the idea of the website—on the grounds that it "might add excessively to current polarization."

Irrespective of whether one agrees with Prof Peterson's views, his idea is a good one. Universities are public institutions, and transparency advantages everyone—presuming that Peterson or any other web administrator stays on the right side of Canadian libel law and posts accurate information drawn from university sites, CVs, course syllabi, academic journals, conference proceedings, and the like. Peterson's critics, in short, should call his bluff. They have nothing to hide, since presumably their methods and approaches are highly regarded within their chosen fields. They might even benefit from a little cost-free publicity.