Don’t stop thinking

The ideal professor opens students’ minds.

As part of starting a dialogue on campus, professors are typically responsible for introducing ideas that may at first be uncomfortable or complex. But the intent is healthy. The greater purpose of their teaching is to stimulate students and perhaps influence new thought.

Even if students disagree with a professor’s proposed ideology, a university climate encourages dialogue. Universities serve to open minds. If not at an institution of “Higher Learning, Richer Experience,” then where are we to have this open forum of thought?

That’s why it’s a disappointment when professors like Dr. M. Shahid Alam are blacklisted for proposing alternative viewpoints. Although the economics professor shrugs off such criticism, it is undeniably detrimental to the progress of a university.

Blacklisting professors, as David Horowitz does with his list of the “101 Most Dangerous College Professors,” can halt the flow of new ideas, thus stagnating students’ intellectual growth. It proposes to be content in accepting matters as they exist rather than search for a new and possibly better course. At the university level, this is a crucial road block considering these are the minds of young America. They are the future.

Alam makes references to Socrates and how the philosopher “was accused of corrupting the youth in Athens,” when Socrates’ ideas are generally not regarded as radical, but rather logical, in today’s society. In the same vein of teaching, while a certain professor’s thoughts are currently controversial, the mere fact that they “question the mainstream,” as Alam told The News, indicates they may end up being viewed as sensible in a future society. In the meantime, the thoughts fulfill the mission of introducing fresh concepts to students.

The social cost for the professor of this radical form of lecture may be that the professor, like Alam, will be labeled “un-American,” or accused of “brainwashing.” But who or what does this method of teaching really endanger, anyway? To label Alam one of the “101 Most Dangerous College Professors” is to suggest that he’s putting fragile young minds at risk, rather than helping them develop their own ideas. The only people this instruction endangers are those with narrow minds – those who believe making lists of their ideological enemies counts for discourse.

Students who disagree can change the channel – or, in no uncertain terms, they can leave the university. This is, after all, a private institution and professors here are encouraged by administrators to speak their minds and share thoughtful analysis of the current state of affairs with their students. If students choose to leave on this basis, they are also limiting their personal intellectual growth.

At the same measure, are we to be taught as if we’re still in elementary school, a straight-from-the-book approach in which we accept the printed word as fact and fail to question the status quo?

This is a university, and we pay thousands of dollars to expand our minds, to hear new ideas – and to hear thoughts we may not always agree with. But at least these controversial subjects are out there, being talked about, debated over and dealt with.

We are indeed here to question the status quo. It is the professor’s duty to lead us into this new path of thought.

Besides, if professors don’t do it, who will? Hopefully we won’t let the list-makers speak for the majority.

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