Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Students should not be opposing freedom of speech

I may not agree with a lot of people. Ok, it's more like I don't agree with a lot of people, but I am not about to go incite a riot or bully others to shut up. In fact, it is something I find a turn-off in many political pundits who rather than engage the points of debate instead shout, demean, and use bullying to stiffle their opponents. I don't think imitating that bad behavior lends credibility to anyone's cause. So, it was with some concern that I recently read this article on "Mob Rule on College Campuses."

"While academia has its own crimes to atone for, it's the students who have become the bullies as of late. A disturbing number seem to feel that theirs is an inviolate world to which no one of differing opinion need apply. As a result, everything from pie throwing to disrupting speeches to attacks on speakers has become commonplace."

That kind of behavior is not acceptable. A college campus should be a place where students and other members of the academic community should be exposed to different ideas. They should be coming together to discuss and debate the points, not to bully or disrupt. If you don't like what someone has to say, say so in a civilized manner. If you feel a need to get violent, maybe it is time for you to get up and leave. Part of the beauty of freedom of speech is that they may be free to speak, but you are free not to listen. When students behave in disruptive and even violent ways, it takes away from their dignity as well as from a campus's ideal of being a place for ideas to flow.

"It is not only conservative speakers who are at risk of having their free speech rights trampled upon on American college campuses. Those who dare criticize radical Islam in any way, shape or form tend to suffer the same fate."

We need to be able to engage ideas, debate them openly and freely. And yes, we need to criticize bad ideas. This sounds easier said than done. However, if we claim that as a nation we value free speech, then such behavior on our campuses, which are supposed to be havens of ideas and free thought, is simply not acceptable.

It would be nice if we could look to our colleges and universities as the bearers of progress, but at this rate it seems an unlikely prospect. If we are to truly promote an atmosphere of intellectual openness, respectful political debate and the free flow of ideas on campus, then we must stem the tide of thuggery, bullying and intolerance that threatens to subsume future generations.

A hat tip to The Kept-Up Librarian.

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