Apr 7, 2014

Censorship Will Kill Our Colleges

College was a great time.

Like most college graduates, I didn't just walk away from university with an education, I left with an unbelievably deep and meaningful view of the world, influenced greatly by my schoolmates and educators, that I would never have received otherwise.

Which is why I found disturbing the recent news that state legislators withdrew much-needed funding from two South Carolina public universities for assigning "gay-themed" texts to freshman.  Read about it here.

While I understand the point of view that "public" institutions, such as state-funded universities, should consider the opinions of the tax-payers who fund it, I am miffed by the lack of courage demonstrated by our legislators.  Clearly, this move is a power grab by zealots numbering in the minority, and allowing the few to have such influence over the many begs the more frightening question ... what's next?

Let me start by saying that I feel strongly in the market economy.  If potential students (or parents) are dissatisfied with the educational content provided by a university, simply attend another school.  Use the freedom and power of choice to make your voice heard by simply moving your tuition dollars to different institution.  If a university sees a significant drop in attendance, you can be sure that the university will act.

On a much smaller scale, just don't take the classes that are in question.

Also, I am fervent in the belief that we need to prepare our youth for dealing with life tomorrow, not today.  I understand that groups of individuals wish to levy their religious beliefs on the many for the greater good of a few, but the fact is that we live in a hyper-connected and social world, with every culture, language, belief system and bias from every corner of the globe brought to our finger tips through the wonders of smart phones.

We can no more run and hide from this fact than we can avoid the setting of the sun.

If we don't expose our young adults to the good and the bad, the beautiful and the horrific, the wrong and the different, in a setting that is conducive to learning and creative thinking, then they will in time learn it from other more unsavory resources.  Personally, I don't want my children learning about the world and its profound array of cultures and lifestyles from a morally-depleted reality show or a hyper-biased news network.  I want them to be exposed to it in an environment that allows for constructive discourse with an educated and experienced mediator at the front of the classroom.

We are naive to think that our children can't think and manage their own preferences.

What I cherish about universities is that each is its own ecosystem, saturated with school pride and its own sense of localized nationalism.  This leads to the general acceptance of all individuals, by default of being a schoolmate, and allows students from different races, cultures, languages and religious denominations to share in an educational experience from which they will grow both professionally and personally.  It's remarkably profound.  We should no more try to legislate the organic growth of our youth in this environment than we should hold them back from what they are capable of achieving.

Most frightening of all:  If we allow our legislators to dictate what is morally "proper" to study in school now, how much more power and influence will they attempt to seize in the future?   Where does this censorship end?

Let us not deprive our children of the freedoms of choice in their education.

Let students choose.