A few brave scholars urge students to think for themselves.
August 29, 2017
The letter, signed by professors from Harvard, Princeton and Yale, is published by Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. This seems altogether fitting, given the Princeton grad’s large role in the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment protection of free speech. This is also bound to set campus radicals in search of a Madison statue to deplore. But perhaps at least a few of them will stop to ponder the nature of the freedom they enjoy to protest. They might also reflect on this week’s message from professors including Princeton’s Robert George:
The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry.
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.
So don’t be tyrannized by public opinion. Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber. Whether you in the end reject or embrace a view, make sure you decide where you stand by critically assessing the arguments for the competing positions.
These views should probably come with a trigger warning on Ivy League campuses, but are likely to be celebrated by parental check-writers from sea to shining sea.