Entertaining a question on critical hypocrisy

Since joining the student community of Groningen, I don’t think I’ve encountered any topic as worrying as the story of Tjeerd Andringa and his recent ban from teaching. Many of the ideas that he pushed onto his students are worrying at best and his reaction and comments upon being discovered reveal deep hypocrisy.

On my undergrad, I took a module called Critical Theory. Not unlike Andringa’s class in critical thinking, the basic idea was that we would learn to analyse and challenge hidden power structures in society using wide variety of methods.

Often, we were encouraged to apply the techniques to real-world scenarios like the Ford Foundations influence on the behavioural sciences or how pharmaceutical companies were ushering in an opioid epidemic in the USA. Such examples offered useful and practical opportunities to apply our developing skills. 

What Andringa has done is, in my opinion, a gross manipulation of the discipline. He was not helping students develop critical thinking skills; in truth he was attempting to create followers of his own ideas. His praise of those convinced by material such as that linking vaccinations to autism while commenting that students who disagreed should ‘allow themselves to grow’ is proof enough of this.

He created his own little classroom kingdom, one where he was ruler, and his preferred ideas were the truth

Incidents such as this also reveal a deep hypocrisy. Andringa was claiming to help his students to develop tools to reveal and challenge hidden power structures of society. But in reality, he created his own little classroom kingdom, one where he was ruler, and his preferred ideas were the truth. He then hid this behind his title and power as an academic and any student who dared to think critically and question this was criticised for their efforts.

He became so much of what he claimed to hate.

This hypocrisy deepened in his statement to UKrant as printed in the article breaking the story. In it he states his position that any lack of a desire to entertain an idea we do not accept is the sign of an uneducated mind. I’ve spent enough hours in boardrooms with high-ranking academics to be able to smell a patronising comment with a dash plausible deniability and that one has the same stench.

In reality, these ideas have been discussed and disproven time and again. Asking questions is fine but attempting to convince people of the link between vaccination and autism and pondering ‘the dominance of the jew’ with them at your barn goes beyond entertaining a question.

There’s nothing entertaining about this at all…

NIALL TORRIS

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