“Alternative academia” is a term I am coining to describe any academic activity that occurs outside the confines of mainstream academic institutions. I am defining mainstream academic institutions as universities, community colleges and vocational schools; both public and private. I believe in the importance of the alternative academia acting as a check on the mainstream academia, much in the same way that the alternative media acts as a check on the mainstream media. I consider this blog to be a part of the alternative academia.
My first experience with the alternative academia was when I came upon Christina Hoff Sommers’ Factual Feminist series on YouTube in 2014. By then I had been in academia for 8 years, both as a student and an employee. I had come to the conclusion that there was something severely wrong with the brand of feminism being promoted in academia. Not only was their methodology pseudoscientific, but I found the ideology to be divisive and mean-spirited. I began to question the integrity of the social science departments, in particular women and gender studies departments.
Unfortunately, academia had found a way to effectively censor any opinions that contradicted feminist orthodoxy. They did this through primarily through a form of language policing known as “political correctness.” This language policing had been around ever since I was a freshman at the University of North Dakota in 2006, but I had noticed that it was becoming increasingly restrictive. Couple this with the fact that academic feminism was becoming noticeably more extreme on an annual basis, and it was inevitable for someone like Sommers to come along and disrupt the whole system.
The remarkable thing about Sommers’ Factual Feminist series is how effectively she was able to combat academic feminism using alternative academia. Sommers is a former professor of philosophy who had taught some women and gender studies courses sometime around the late 1980’s. Though she identifies as a feminist, she was able to recognize how corrupt mainstream feminism was becoming, particularly within academia.
Rather than combating academic feminists on their terms, she bypassed their system of censorship altogether by using YouTube as a means of challenging their ideology. It was remarkably effective, and truth be told her Factual Feminist series has probably done irreparable harm to the reputation of women and gender studies programs. But more importantly, she demonstrated how alternative academia can be used to challenge the excesses of mainstream academia.
Since then, more people have begun to use alternative academia as a means of bypassing censorship within mainstream academia. The most notable of these people is University of Toronto professor of psychology Jordan Peterson. Though he initially tried to challenge social justice from within mainstream academia, he quickly saw the futility in this effort and opted to use alternative academia instead. Among other means, his interviews on Joe Rogan’s podcast have caused millions of people to rightfully question the integrity of social justice curricula. This is a far greater and swifter impact then could ever have been achieved from within the confines of mainstream academia.
I do not want to give the impression that mainstream academia is a horrible thing. It has its purpose and is capable of accomplishing many great things. However, there are some issues that mainstream academia is simply not equipped to handle. This may be due to ideological corruption, as is the case with social justice, or from the random inefficiencies that naturally come with large bureaucracies.
Ideally, alternative and mainstream academia should compliment one another. Peterson and Sommers are the embodiment of this ideal. Both have received a level of education from mainstream academic institutions that would be difficult to replicate in alternative academia. Both have used mainstream academia to teach students, again in a way that would be difficult to replicate in alternative academia. And both have effectively used alternative academia to learn and instruct others when mainstream academia would not suffice.
This is the ideal I am trying to live up to. Mainstream academia has provided me with a rigorous education that would be difficult to replicate in alternative academia. Additionally, my employment as a researcher has given me experience with both experimental chemistry and the scientific community in a way that could not be achieved in alternative academia.
On the other hand, my use of alternative academia via this blog provides me with the opportunity to develop my protoscience into an actual science. This is something that has been historically difficult, if not impossible, to achieve solely from within the confines of mainstream academia.