David Gilmour is an author and intellectual who happens to teach university English courses at the University of Toronto’s (UofT) Victoria College campus.
Do I agree with his views? No, I don’t.
But so what? Differences of opinions exist and are essential in a democracy — particularly when it comes to the concepts of academic freedom and freedom of expression.
Yet, make no mistake about it, there is currently an attempt by many on social media, as well as some of Gilmour’s university colleagues, to both censor and censure him — essentially making him a pariah in the process.
Why? Because his reading lists, apart from Virginia Woolf, allegedly include only male authors.
Have I ever met David Gilmour? No. Does he like women? I have no idea but I am sure his liking or not liking has nothing to do with his reading lists.
Look. It works both ways. As a retired academic myself (teacher education) I have met plenty of female professors who don’t like men but no one has censured them that I know of. I mean, we have entire university departments dedicated to feminist studies.
So, why is it perfectly acceptable to have an entire undergraduate degree taught by female professors whose courses are designed entirely around women’s issues and women’s rights but not acceptable for a male instructor to use a male-only reading list that he has chosen for a senior level English literature course?
I mean, I cannot recall hearing about men holding a rally to complain about the fact that women’s studies programs don’t include the accomplishments of all men throughout history.
Thankfully, U of T student, Rachel Bulatovich, gives us an idea of what it is like to take one of Gilmour’s courses in this Globe and Mail column this morning. She writes:
“If, on Tuesday, I went into his class and proclaimed that Ann-Marie MacDonald is the best writer in the world (she is a woman, a lesbian and a Canadian author: the holy trinity of Gilmour’s detest) he would likely challenge me by asking why I thought that. Of course, this is a ridiculous statement to make – equally as ridiculous as his comments about Chekhov – but I’m using it as an example because of its superlative nature. He would ask me why, and, if I gave him a good enough reason, he would nod and accept my point. I’ve contested his views before, and so have other students. If you put up a good fight and defend your own opinions, he will respect them.”
In other words, David Gilmour makes his students think — and key is the fact that even when he disagrees with them. as long as they can defend what they say, he is okay with that.
Look, I am of retirement age and came of age in the 1960s, part of a generation who fought the good fight, or so I thought.
Have young women today lost touch with how far we have come? Paternalism was the norm when women were expected to think as men did or to leave thinking to their husbands, brothers and fathers. In 17th and 18th century Britain, women typically weren’t even allowed to learn to read, let alone read newspapers or books.
Has political correctness in 2013 now brought us full circle? Are women now telling men what they can or cannot read or teach?
In my opinion, and thankfully I am allowed to have an opinion, if David Gilmour has done anything wrong, it is that he has told his truth — a truth some simply don’t like.
Something to think about.
Updates: (1) This latest Star column by Sandro Contenta indicates Gilmour will not be fired. Read the whole thing because Gilmour makes his own comments as well. As one of the commenters under the article says, likely Gilmour’s courses will be more popular than ever and full to overflowing. In the interest of fairness and academic freedom, I am glad to hear that. (2) Cross-posted Jack’s Newswatch.