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Teaching Conservatives

Posted by Rick · January 7th, 2005 · No Comments

Used to be the day when I’d say, “There are times you read about something and you just have to say, ‘huh?’ and shake your head.” Then there was a period of time when it happened almost daily.

Nowadays, the hardest part is that nothing really surprises me anymore. If I woke up tomorrow and found that the United States of America had become
According to a story published on the Common Dreams Newscenter, “students are invoking academic freedom” in order to silence their professors. Irony…eh, not so much. They just don’t want to be taught anything with which they disagree. Anything. They’re tired of having their beliefs challenged.

The ironic part is that, although it’s being cast this way, these aren’t even actually challenges. At the University of North Carolina, incoming students were given a required reading list that included the Koran. There are no reports that the list said, “You must adopt the beliefs of the Koran.” Nor was there any indication that the neo-Pharisees who opposed this assignment were asked to defend their beliefs against the Koran. The idea was to expose them to views they likely had not previously known, to stimulate thinking. I don’t — not for one minute — think the non-Muslim professor who assigned that reading wished them all to become Muslims.

Encountering things that challenge your views is a necessary component on the path to understanding. In fact, it’s a necessary component of developing your own point of view.

It’s probably no secret to anyone who reads my articles that I would be considered a liberal. Conservative readers class me as a “Flaming Liberal,” but I can assure you not a few of my liberal friends rightfully believe they are more liberal than me.

Yet I actively seek out conservative writings and ideas — and not just to mock them. For one thing, increasingly, that would be too easy. My primary goal is more difficult: to understand them. A secondary goal is to consider, first, if I actually oppose them and, second, if so, why. In this way, I come to a greater understanding not only of what other people believe — which I personally think is a good in itself — but I develop a greater understanding of what (and why) I believe.

So committed to this ideal am I that I remember being in a relationship with someone who was bothered that I — a Jew — should have so many copies of the Christian Bible in my home (and read them). Seeing that a particular copy had sat on my coffee table for many days, she asked, “How long is that going to stay there?” Sensing what I thought was distaste in her voice, I replied, “Until it doesn’t bother you anymore.”

Some years ago, a family member — who shall remain unnamed because, well, I wouldn’t enjoy the subsequent joke as much as the Governator — was, oh, riled, to catch me watching the Smarmy Bloviator’s show, the Factor, on Fox. Proving once again that you can learn something from people who disagree with you, I was taught that calling one’s life-partner “a liberal bigot” is not the world’s smartest move.

Point is, I see nothing wrong with being exposed to ideas I don’t already hold. After all, if I’m never exposed, I’ll never either hold or reject them. And I’ll never grow. If, like these students, I try to shut — or, increasingly, shout — down views that challenge me, I’ll never have an opportunity to encounter something I don’t already know. That’s stagnation.

Worse yet — and here’s the real irony — those who oppose being exposed to new ideas because they fear “indoctrination” have clearly already been indoctrinated.

After all, they got their beliefs from somewhere. And to hold them so tightly that they cannot even tolerate hearing something they feel is in conflict with those beliefs is the epitome of indoctrination.

Special thanks to Steve Malm for pointing me to the Common Dreams article.

Categories: Culture Wars


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