For those who pay attention to the campus wars, this latest letter from University of Chicago should give us all pause. This letter, shown above, was cited as an example of a brave university defending free speech. The letter dares to suggest to incoming freshmen that they actually do not have a right to retreat from ideas and intellectual positions that they don't support.
Wow. Today's students have to told that education isn't a propaganda exercise designed to reinforce their existing viewpoints. Sure I applaud University of Chicago, but I must wonder: how did it come to this?
Because students have been told (maybe from first grade? nursery school?) that classrooms, and by extension the entire educational sphere, are a "safe" place where no one's feelings are hurt. That's a strange and truly scary kind of safety. I hope I never find it.
Safe is fine, when it's physical safety -- but the intellectual world is supposed to be a battlefield of ideas. You're supposed to learn how to fight for your beliefs, not to seek solace with those who already agree with you. Why go to school at all if not to develop your ability to hone your arguments? You're supposed to defend your arguments, with facts, logic, even wit. Without those tools (i.e., of true data, logical skills, and yes, wit), citizens are at the mercy of media professionals and politicians. People screaming at one another, rather than debating one another.
Just turn on cable news, and see what I mean.