Marxist Harvard Professor Cornel West and conservative Princeton Professor Robert George have introduced a statement that defends the rights of professors and students to express themselves on college campuses.
Hundreds of people from around the country have signed a new statement put out by Professors Cornel West and Robert George in an effort to support intellectual freedom on college campuses.
West and George, longtime friends and ideological opposites, introduced the statement on March 14.
— Samuel Conn, Ph.D. (@Dr_Samuel_Conn) March 16, 2017
The statement challenges individuals to engage with those who don’t share their political beliefs:
The pursuit of knowledge and the maintenance of a free and democratic society require the cultivation and practice of the virtues of intellectual humility, openness of mind, and, above all, love of truth. These virtues will manifest themselves and be strengthened by one’s willingness to listen attentively and respectfully to intelligent people who challenge one’s beliefs and who represent causes one disagrees with and points of view one does not share.
West and George claim that people of nearly all political persuasions are seeking the best for society at-large:
Whether you are a person of the left, the right, or the center, there are reasonable people of goodwill who do not share your fundamental convictions… So someone who has not fallen into the idolatry of worshiping his or her own opinions and loving them above truth itself will want to listen to people who see things differently in order to learn what considerations — evidence, reasons, arguments — led them to a place different from where one happens, at least for now, to find oneself.
Ultimately, the “ideological odd couple” argue that the ability to listen thoughtfully to those with whom one disagrees is perhaps the primary determinant of whether or not others feel comfortable expressing themselves:
Our willingness to listen to and respectfully engage those with whom we disagree (especially about matters of profound importance) contributes vitally to the maintenance of a milieu in which people feel free to speak their minds, consider unpopular positions, and explore lines of argument that may undercut established ways of thinking. Such an ethos protects us against dogmatism and groupthink, both of which are toxic to the health of academic communities and to the functioning of democracies.
Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about education and social justice for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org