As a professor, I was shocked to read the article detailing how a mob prevented free speech at Middlebury College and injured a professor there (“Middlebury College professors stand up for free speech after Charles Murray debacle,” Web, March 8). The essence of democracy is the free exchange and expression of ideas. Democracies require educated citizens to thrive and a significant portion of that education entails being exposed to differing points of view.
Civilized debate is the proper mechanism for flushing out bad ideas so that we can agree on and adopt good ideas and our society can move forward. Without debate, we encourage polarization around controversial ideas, which is dangerous for our future.
In that spirit, I was deeply disappointed in the students at Middlebury College who prevented different ideas from being presented. This is exactly what happened during the Yugoslav civil wars in the 1990s, when many college campuses censored any pro-Serbian or otherwise alternative points of view from what the U.S. State Department wanted us to hear. The end result was that Serbia was illegally and viciously bombed in 1999 and international law was destroyed, precipitating the current collapse in global security.
The immature students who disrupted Charles Murray’s talk at Middlebury College should be reprimanded by college authorities. If students are not willing to listen to ideas (whether “correct” or “incorrect”) and civilly participate in the debate/discussion of these ideas, they have no business being in an academic environment, as they will learn nothing over the long run.
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