|Photo by Donald Lee Pardue
Gitlin used this example of just how far our institutes of higher education are moving from their original role as institutions that expose and build ideas and critical thinking to something... well... less.
He notes the Brooklyn College department chair told disgruntled students that "You and like-minded colleagues should attend the event, voice your views and use this event as an opportunity to generate more dialogue and discussion among students. Perhaps you and your colleagues could even organize a panel discussion of your own."
Gitlin goes on to explain:
With these words, Currah was channeling John Stuart Mill, to the effect that education and enlightenment benefit when minority views are heard, partly because these views may, in the end, turn out to be right to some degree, and partly because the majority, when forced to confront objections, may well find its understanding sharpened and its previously stale views refreshed.He sums up the problem with keen insight later in the article when he writes:
Mill is evidently not so much in vogue now, as Israel-right-or-wrong advocates seem to believe that their case is a delicate hothouse flower that will wither under any adverse exposure.
There is a sinister pattern at work. Misunderstandings of the purposes of universities run rampant today in an America driven by fear that somebody, somewhere, may be thinking incorrect or unprofitable thoughts. Fundraising is paramount. Established universities expand by raising hundreds of millions of dollars, hoping that the research they cultivate will eventually profit the school financially. This can lead to remarkable new academic ventures, but also to timidity.
Christians have seen this same concept played out in their science classes, their ethics classes, and anywhere else groupthink is only to be allowed. I think Gitlin has nailed some of the problem.