The entire reason for my attending a class as a grad student was to argue with the professor. She was on one side politically, I was on the other. I respected the woman immensely, but daggum, did she know how to push my buttons every week! It was like she was TRYING to make me angry!
Realizing that I was monopolizing each class by pointing out how she was wrong and debating with her for the next hour, I shut up after the third meeting. Someone else needed to take her on, but strangely no one did.
She pulled me aside after that class and said, “What are you doing to me?! Look at the other students–they’re terrified and complacent. None of them will ever make a peep. Don’t you realize that I pick subjects I know will rile you up? Come on! Show the rest of the class how it’s done! It’s you and me carrying this class!” Once I realized she was intentionally setting me up, the class was VERY entertaining. I remember thinking, “This is what universities are supposed to be about: an informed debate of ideas.” We rarely came to a consensus, but always realized just how close we were on so many issues.
That was 25 years ago. Ancient history. The world’s not like that anymore, sadly. Debate is stifled and opposing ideas are quashed in the name of “safety” for our fragile feelings. (
I told my college experience to my high school students this week. We’ve been talking about propaganda and logical fallacies, and I presented the quote from the most famous propagandist, Joseph Goebbels:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it . . . It thus becomes vitally important . . . to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie.”
I was pleased to see that my students were intrigued that people could debate issues and still be friends without agreeing. My professor years ago wrote me glowing letters of recommendation when I graduated, even though we disagreed on nearly everything. We respected each other and I am still grateful to her for making me analyze everything I believed.
But today there’s no more debate, no more respect for different ideas, no more desire to discover knowledge for ourselves. If someone disagrees with us, we cut off all discourse and cry “oppression!”
We’ve stopped thinking and asking and debating, which makes us very vulnerable to those who want to do the thinking for us. In the end, the elite will repress us. It’s happened too many times before.
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