Editorial: Silence is not the answer on campuses


Silence is not always golden.

When it is forced on a person or a group, it is anything but.

That’s what is happening with greater frequency and more intensity on some college campuses these days.

Students who refuse to listen to or consider viewpoints that differ from their own are stealing one of the fundamental rights — that of freedom of speech — and too many administrators are acquiescing to those demands.

College should be a time when people are exposed to a world of ideas. Some of those ideas run counter to their own thinking and some are downright repugnant.

Only through the free exchange of ideas and opinions can society truly function, however.

If opposing ideology is rejected, shouted down or pushed aside to some postage stamp-sized parcel of grass, a free society is not being served.

There has been an amazing transformation on college campuses these days that has turned some into overly protective bubbles.

There are “content warnings” required before professors can teach about topics that might offend someone. One school went so far as to allow archaeology students to walk out of class if they were disturbed by having to examine real human bones. By the way, “content warning” is the new name given to what once was called “trigger warning” because the word “trigger” was considered too violent a term.

The protests, petitions and screaming have reached a fevered pitch. At the University of California Berkeley — where the free speech movement was largely launched in the 1960s and 1970s — harassment and threats of violence forced the university to cancel an appearance by former Brietbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos.

DePaul University officials canceled and even threatened to arrest speaker Ben Shapiro over what they called inflammatory speech. Three students passing out copies of the Constitution for the group Young Americans for Liberty were arrested at Kellogg Community College in Michigan. One university has told students they cannot use words such as “crazy” or “ugly” on campus because they are offensive.

Instead of discussion and debate, students are becoming so sensitized that they cannot deal with the outside world once leaving the ivory towers. It is no longer acceptable for them to simply walk away and tune out messages with which they disagree.

True acceptance of the rights of others comes from being able to acknowledge there are others who don’t share the same views and visions. True knowledge comes from the willingness to hear those views and visions — including those that might be most vile to personal beliefs — and even discuss and challenge them.

— Jacksonville Journal-Courier

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