The Corner

Education

We Need to Restore Debate on College Campuses

These days, you seldom find real debates over important public issues on our college campuses. That is the finding of political-science professor George La Noue in his book Silenced Stages. In today’s Martin Center article, I review it.

Intimidation from leftist bullies has succeeded in making many school officials wary of hosting non-leftist speakers both individually and as debaters. That’s a serious intellectual loss. Students don’t get to see how the exchange of arguments and counter-arguments works to advance understanding and sharpen the mind.

La Noue writes, “Opening up spaces for different ideas can be pursued by sponsoring on-campus debates and forums about important policy issues. That action will send a message to groups that when offended they do not have the right to suppress speech they do not like. Moreover, debates can create recognition and a space for dissenting ideas that will enrich classroom discussions, research agendas, and hiring decisions Policy debates can function like tilling exhausted soil so that new life can grow.”

Exhausted soil — that’s a good description of many college campuses. School officials should forget about their fixation over “diversity” and focus on something that’s really lacking, namely respectful intellectual combat. At least some of our students who are utterly certain of their correctness might one of those, “Wait — I never thought about that” moments if they listened to a good debate.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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