We have established authorities, and we are reluctant deviate from them and embrace alternative views from less established individuals or groups.
Is this good or bad?
Well, both. It’s good because there’s a reason established authorities are “established”: it’s an accomplishment to get into Harvard, to earn a position in the federal government, to rise through the ranks of a big company to become it’s CEO. Accomplishment should be rewarded and one of the rewards might very well be presumptions in your favor in a whole host of contexts.
But it’s bad, too. The established authority doesn’t have a monopoly on truth, and when it’s wrong it must yield to the truth like everyone and everything else. By all means have a presumption, but the reluctance to deviate should not become a menace, strangling truth in its crib every time it emerges from a non-established source.
The establishment newspapers in the United States are the New York Times and the Washington Post. The estaiblishment newspaper in Canada is Toronto’s Globe and Mail. So their handling of this story on the editorial pages is very interesting. The essence of the issue is here:
The question is, taking for granted that there is a good faith disagreement between the University and Dr. Buckingham about how programs should be structured, whether he is entitled to break ranks and publicly complain about the process. That isn’t obvious. Reasonable people may disagree about how to arrange and structure academic programs so that they can function effectively and efficiently – not just as discrete, stand-alone units, but as a university. In the end, though, someone needs to make a decision. Assuming that the final decision belongs to the central administration, and not to the individual deans, there is some merit to the claim that Dr. Buckingham and others have an obligation to implement it – and not to foment dissent among the rank and file professoriate.
One would want to be extremely cautious before reaching this conclusion…
Exposing itself as terminally establishmentarian, though, the writer goes on to note that the university, in firing the good Dr. Buckingham entirely, went too far because they might have undermined another very important establishmentarian concern: tenure of university faculty.
Nowhere in the article is any opinion on the relevant merits of the university’s or Dr Buckingham’s substantive disagreement given. Who is right or who is wrong does not appear to matter. This article is really about something else: preserving the status quo. And the Globe and Mail is firmly in favor of that.
For quite understandable reasons, I’m afraid.