I came across this amazing (at least I think so) quote by Richard Rorty. Warning: it’s long, dense, somewhat inflammatory, and it has a rather “insider-ish” tone. He’s talking to his colleagues in academia. His self-awareness of power strikes me. He turns his own analysis of power onto himself and his colleagues to look at the biases of his role and profession. It’s a great example for all of us in power. It’s easy to fall prey to patronizing uses of power because you believe in your own cause so strongly.
It seems to me that the regulative idea that we heirs of the Enlightenment, we Socratists, most frequently use to criticize the conduct of various conversational partners is that of needing education in order to outgrow their primitive fear, hatreds, and superstitions… It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own … The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire American liberal establishment is engaged in a conspiracy. The parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students … When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank… You have to be educated in order to be … a participant in our conversation … So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours … I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei [domination free] about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents … I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stuermer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause.
Universality and Truth, in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 21-2.