Letters to the Editor: People should be willing to listen to others’ viewpoints

In colleges and universities today we often emphasize practical classes that lead to greater employment opportunities. Due to the cost of education, this approach is often justified. Yet having spent parts of the last four decades as a student in higher education and the last thirteen years actively working with students, one possible byproduct I have witnessed in higher education as it is administered today is that ideas have become less objects of analysis and more a trigger point for threatening and dangerous concepts. 
In taking in opinions, research and arguments that only support his or her hypothesis, the individual is not exposed to ideas that challenge his or her premise and presumptions, thus removing the critical part of critical thinking.  Attending lectures that only reinforce one’s assertions — no matter how well founded — doesn’t allow for the diversity the “marketplace of ideas” requires.
When we homogenize our debates what dictates which ideas will rise and which will fall becomes based not upon reason, research and logic but instead upon metrics based in familiarity, force, volume and exposure. How many likes you get on YouTube does not make an argument valid. 
Forceful ideas are not by necessity the ideas that move us. Intolerance is only as great as one’s willingness to deny an idea a place at the table. Invite ideas in and let the bad ones fail spectacularly on their own merit. Let bad ideas dine at the table and choke on their own implausibility. If you’re liberal, read Milton Friedman. Pull your hair out and scream at the pages but you will learn something you otherwise never would have. And you will be better for it.
If you’re conservative, read Gloria Steinem. Yell, nod your head in disgust…you will learn something by the end. And be better for it. 
Develop an agile and flexible mind so that you do not fear what you perceive to be inflexible and rigid. Acknowledge abhorrent ideas because acknowledgement is not acceptance. Entertain bad ideas because doing so is not the same as identifying with them. If we cannot learn this or teach this in college I fear we may be failing ourselves and endangering democracy. Yes. I said it. Actually it was Thomas Jefferson who said it. He felt a discursive democracy was the bedrock upon which liberty was secured. 
Liberty is freedom from tyranny. Freedom requires discipline. It starts with a disciplined mind. A mind that can recognize tyranny but not incite it. So, to students everywhere: protest, passionately disagree, work toward change but know that if you use force or violence you have chosen to not only jeopardize your rights and privileges, you are stealing them from others too. Giving away your rights or taking the rights of others…I’m not sure which is the greater injustice. That is for each one of us to think about. Critically, of course.
Colin McClung

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