Monday, February 07, 2011

When Bested by Reasoning, Roar!

The recent uproar against Chick-fil-A on campuses illustrates well what has come of reasoned response, of thoughtful engagement, and of logical and dispassionate argument on America's college and university campuses. Peter Wood aptly portrays the typical response in Is Chick-fil-A Anti-Gay?

Protests like the one aimed at Chick-fil-A are partly or even mostly attempts to exhibit the power of the protesters. That aim has nothing to do with winning the argument—is gay marriage a good social policy or a mistaken one?—and everything to do with controlling the narrative. Only those who agree with the protesters are granted a legitimate voice hereafter. Roar loud enough and you may intimidate the target, but that’s of less importance than pumping up excitement among followers and creating a secondary wave of self-censorship among others who correctly surmise that it is dangerous to disagree.

The ideal of the campus as a place where people debate their differences by means of rational arguments and well-vetted evidence has been on a downward trajectory for decades. Kicking Chick-fil-A off campus is a reductio ad absurdum of the now-common tactic of roaring at your supposed opponents. . . .

Higher education, however, is ill-served by this spirit of censorship. If we want students to learn the principles and arts of governing our republic, for starters they will need to learn the importance of living alongside those who hold views that clash with their own.
Read Wood's whole brief essay.

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