Encouraging boycotts misses point of a higher education
Last week Jesse Jackson and about 5,00 t-sips protested a University of Texas Law Professor. The instructor, Lino Graglia, made remarks about the academic abilities of minority students.
While Graglia's defenders and opponents argue over his statements (and cannot even agree on exactly what he said), no one has criticized the protesters for the way they are voicing their complaints.
Everyone has opinions, and most people have a few views that do not make much sense. As people grow and develop, they should be allowed to hear other opinions, defend their own and, as the need arises, change an opinion or two. Most people grow up harboring a few biases, but as they mature they should shed them. By applying rational thought and gaining a better understanding of the world, false stereotypes should be eliminated from at least the well-educated.
The university environment is a wonderful place to students to come into contact with conflicting views and gain confidence in their own beliefs. When students are exposed to foreign viewpoints, they broaden their minds and begin to understand their own beliefs better.
Students should be trained that an unpopular opinion is not necessarily wrong.
When Galileo announced his theory that the earth revolved around the sun, it was hardly politically correct. His opponents insisted that he recant, but they refused to examine his scientific evidence.
If a law professor insists that minority students are academically inferior, his opponents should demand an analysis of the facts. His statements should be held to scientific scrutiny, and they will fall or stand on their own. Instead, protesters complain because Graglia's remarks are socially unacceptable.
Many notions are socially unacceptable, but an idea isn't wrong just because it's outside of the social norm. Hopefully many of the students currently winding through college will one day present challenging ideas that are unconventional.
When these students watch displays like Jesse Jackson's in Austin, they will be too intimidated to espouse their out-of-the-mainstream notions. Tomorrow's Galileo will be afraid of Jesse Jackson and thousands of chanting students.
Students should witness as scholars evaluate a statement's value on its merit -- not on its acceptability.
In the case of Graglia's remarks, instead of merely labeling them politically incorrect, he should be presented with scientific studies that soundly refute his claims.
Protesting an unpopular opinion is a poor precedent, and it sets a bad example for our future leaders.
After Jackson condemned Graglia, he urged students to boycott the instructor's classes. This presents even more problems.
Students should never be encouraged to boycott Graglia's class. These are mature students who are not likely to be warped by the opinions of a professor. Instead, class members should be warned to be alert, and encouraged to evaluate Graglia's views on their merit or their basis in fact.
Boycotting a lecturer has several drawbacks. Once the monitors have left, there is no telling what he might begin to say. The few students who stay behind might hear awful fallacies, but no one else would ever hear about it.
A class boycott also sends a message to students that they don't have to listen to objectionable views. While many rights are guaranteed in our constitution, freedom from offense is not one of them. Everyone will work with disagreeable people from time to time. Bosses, coworkers and family members will eventually do something irritating. Maybe they can't get along with other people, maybe they harbor stereotypes or maybe they can't match their socks. Life is full of offenses -- from racism to being cut off it traffic. Each should be handled appropriately.
The university setting is a place where students should learn how to think. They should be taught how to develop their own views and how to evaluate the views of others. Jackson is teaching students to judge people's opinions by how well they tickle their ears, not by whether the facts are correct.
College campuses have traditionally been a place for new ideas and critical, rational thought. Jackson is trying to turn it into a place full of closed-minded critics.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.