MONTGOMERY, Ala. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A law school professor is challenging students to rethink preconceived notions drilled into them in school.
Adam MacLeod is associate professor of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama. He delivered the speech in a Fundamentals of Law course. On November 9, he shared the speech's text in an article for conservative news outlet New Boston Post. He titled his article "Undoing the Dis-Education of Millennials."
He thought the millennials in his classroom needed the lesson, owing to shortcomings in the American education system and modern culture at large. MacLeod explained in the piece that his students are "mostly Millennials."
He elaborated, "Contrary to stereotype, I have found that the vast majority of them want to learn. But true to stereotype, I increasingly find that most of them cannot think, don't know very much and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings."
MacLeod was hesitant to jump on the millennial-dissing bandwagon so popular among people his age. He sees millennials' stereotypical faults as an inheritance from the culture they grew up in, reinforced by wonky instruction in the classroom. He wrote, "Their minds are held hostage in a prison fashioned by elite culture and their undergraduate professors."
Building on the metaphor, MacLeod continued, "They cannot learn until their minds are freed from that prison."
This realization provoked MacLeod to deliver a speech to the class that would shed light on common modern biases, which he sees as obstacles to serious academics.
The law professor began his in-class speech by warning his students that they had been robbed of a meaningful education and critical thinking skills:
Before I can teach you how to reason, I must first teach you how to rid yourself of unreason. For many of you have not yet been educated. You have been dis-educated. To put it bluntly, you have been indoctrinated. Before you learn how to think, you must first learn how to stop unthinking.
Next, MacLeod told his students that he needed to pull metaphorical "weeds" out of their minds, "Each of you has different weeds, and so we will need to take this on the case-by-case basis. But there are a few weeds that infect nearly all of your brains. So I am going to pull them out now."
He described and debunked three common attitudes, which he thinks hinder modern students from engaging in rational discourse.
First, MacLeod condemned close-minded and dismissive tones that degrade opposing viewpoints as "isms." He said, "You have been taught to slap an 'ism' on things that you do not understand or that make you feel uncomfortable or that make you uncomfortable because you do not understand them."
He admitted that words like "socialism" and "Nazism" are exceptions to this rule, as they are standard terms among historians and in the other social sciences.
But MacLeod insisted, "'Classism,' 'sexism,' 'materialism,' 'cisgenderism' and (yes) even racism are generally not used as meaningful or productive terms, at least as you have been taught to use them."
The law professor quipped that "slapping a label on the box without first opening the box and examining its contents is a form of cheating."
MacLeod connected this "weed" with the modern tendency to despise old ideas just because they are old:
One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery. Or, to use a term that you might understand more easily, "ageism."
The second bias that MacLeod's speech debunked is the idealization of "diversity" and "equality." He argues that "diversity" and "equality," in the way they are typically used today, are logically contradictory to each other: "So when you say that we should have diversity and equality you are saying we should have difference and sameness. That is incoherent by itself."
MacLeod set his sights on a final alleged fallacy: "Third, you should not bother to tell us how you feel about a topic. Tell us what you think about it. If you can't think yet, that's OK. Tell us what Aristotle thinks or Hammurabi thinks or H.L.A. Hart thinks."
MacLeod's speech closed with rules for in-class discussion. The three rules correspond to the three common biases his speech singled out.
Humorously, his third rule features a quirky punishment: "If you ever begin a statement with the words 'I feel,' before continuing you must cluck like a chicken or make some other suitable animal sound."
In the November 9 article, MacLeod commented, "To their credit, the students received the speech well. And so far this semester, only two students have been required to cluck like chickens."
This summer, MacLeod penned a piece for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, "Law Schools Guard Entry to the Profession and Should Teach Virtue." In the July 26 article, he wrote about the need for law schools to educate the whole person, instead of merely providing job training. Students, he argued, should encounter texts that provoke deep questions about the nature and purpose of the legal profession.
Faulkner University, where MacLeod teaches, advertises as "a Christian university." It was founded in 1942 as a (Protestant) Bible college and is proud of its Christian identity.