Saturday, December 2, 2006

Freedom of Screech

Ah, college. Four to six of the best years of your life. College is where young men and women learn important life lessons, like how to survive on Ramen noodles and mac and cheese while taking the money you save on food to buy cheap beer.

College is also where young men and women are supposed to expose themselves to new ideas. Unless, of course, you're one one of those "Girls Gone Wild" DVDs, then you're just exposing yourself.

These days, though, college is becoming less and less of a marketplace of ideas. Take a recent situation at Michigan State recently involving Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. Tancredo was giving a speech about immigration policy when protestors tried to disrupt it by pulling a fire alarm and by holding up signs reading "Ignorant Racist" implying Tancredo was one.

This is a common tactic among faux liberals on college. If they can't complain enough for the college or university to withdraw the invitation, they'll shout over the speaker, try to disrupt events, or commit acts ranging from throwing pies at the speaker to threatening violence. And, oddly enough, they justify it all under the big tent speech.

Well, let me point out a tiny detail these young men and women seem to have overlooked. Using your speech to stifle someone else's speech doesn't make you a defender of free speech; it makes you a jackass. When you shout down someone you disagree with or do things to disrupt that person when he or she speaks, you become a censor and your rob others of the opportunity to consider that person's point of view. Sure, that tends to mean that your speech is the only one out there, but that doesn't enrich anyone's lives.

Especially not yours.

I've spent the better part of my adult life challenging ideas I've picked up, whether they be from my time in college or from a time more recent. That can't happen when there's only one point of view being expressed. All it's doing is robbing you of an opportunity to expand your horizons. I can appreciate the passionate rhetoric of Malcolm X without agreeing with what he said. I can enjoy the intellectual qualities of Bill Bradley, but still think he's wrong. I can read Al Gore's books...and fall dead asleep because he's just that boring.

But you get the point. Just because you think Tom Tancredo is a racist jerk doesn't mean he is one. But you'll never find out if your mind is closed while your mouth is open shouting inane slogans. And, hey, you might even learn something in the process. Isn't that what college is all about?

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