Too many campuses choose to wall themselves off from differing ideas through anti-bullying or speech codes that attempt to provide an ipso facto restraint on speech. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has put it, too often “speech I don’t like” is translated into “speech that should be outlawed.”
Recently, my alma mater, Williams College, conducted a celebration of one of its most distinguished political science professors, Robert Gaudino, who died at the age of 46 in 1974. The distinguishing characteristic of Gaudino’s teaching style was the Socratic method — his uncanny and disciplined style of teaching through asking questions. Another student and I who were both exposed to Gaudino’s teaching methods discussed recently whether Gaudino was a liberal or a conservative. The truth is, neither of us knew. The reason is because Mr. Gaudino believed that his calling was to teach and help us to think, not reach certain predetermined conclusions. This singular commitment made him a celebrated teacher — the kind we find all too rare today.
My niece was fifteen years old. She had been home-schooled until the time she entered a nearby New England prep school as a day student. Her parents had taught her how to think. Soon after she entered the school, my niece was asked to join a group to plan student activities on campus, including the task of deciding guidelines of how debate was to be framed on campus. Someone put a motion on the table that read as follows: “All points of view are to be respected.” My niece proposed a change. “All people are to be respected.” “Not all points of view are worthy of respect,” she asserted. Her motion passed unanimously. Her fellow students immediately appreciated the difference between people and views, and they were right to do so.