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Opinion & Discourse

thoughts Jun 5, 2023

I believe in people’s right to have opinions; even when they differ from mine. They should be allowed to express their views and ideas without getting labeled for them. We have killed civil discourse because we are unwilling to hear a perspective that does not align with our own. We claim it’s in the name of harmony but we are breeding discord. My interpretation of your opinion is NOT fact. Labeling other people's opinions as "racist" or "narrow-minded" or what have you, doesn’t make you means you are biased.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, between 2014 and 2022 there were 877 attempts to punish scholars for expression that is, or in public contexts would be, protected by the First Amendment. Sixty percent resulted in actual sanctions, including 114 incidents of censorship and 156 firings (44 of them tenured professors) — more than during the McCarthy era.

This is concerning because so much of our higher-level thinking is borne out when we can have a good debate. The focus should not be on changing anyone's mind or opinion but rather on clarifying and informing your own. Move the focus to yourself rather than the other person.

There are many reasons to think that the repression of academic freedom is systemic and must be actively resisted. To start with, the very concept of freedom of expression is anything but intuitively obvious. What is intuitively obvious is that the people who disagree with us are spreading dangerous falsehoods and must be silenced for the greater good. (Of course, the other people believe the same thing, with the sides switched.)

Again though, this is labeling and not something helpful in truly civil discourse. The respectful and constructive aspects are lacking when we do this and we shut down the conversation without achieving any potential for growth and understanding. We may recognize that opinions are typically not fixed and can evolve but that should not be OUR goal.

Ultimately, we need to acknowledge that civil discourse is not a zero-sum game. It is not about winning or losing but about gaining a deeper understanding of the complexities of the world around us. By listening to and engaging with diverse perspectives so we can cultivate empathy, broaden our horizons, and work towards a more inclusive society where mutual respect and understanding prevail.