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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Eagle

The Echo Chamber at AU

The Right Campus

Columnist and pop sociologist David Brooks has written recently about blue versus red America-the notion that Americans increasingly segregate themselves by partisan identification and ideology. Blue Americans reside in the urban centers of the West Coast and Northeast, are unanimously pro-choice, largely secular and harbor an intense hatred of President Bush. Red America hails from America's heartland, is religious and maintains traditional American values. Brooks argues that Americans are increasingly polarized by politics and simply don't socialize with each other. In other words, Democrats are from Mars and Republicans are from Venus.

At a campus as liberal as AU, it can be a challenge to successfully present the Venusian perspective to the Martians. Too often, students want to hear a reaffirmation of their own political views and not challenge themselves to think critically.

Before feminist and AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers spoke at AU, College Democrats president Greg Wasserstrom sent out a mass e-mail, inaccurately referring to Sommers as an "anti-feminist" and encouraging his members to ask her "tough questions." Many of the challenging questions amounted to cheap shots and did not address the substance of her speech at all. Wasserstrom himself snidely suggested at event's end that Sommers was comparable to the anti-suffragists of the early 20th century. He clearly did not contemplate her thoughtful speech, which emphasized her belief in equity feminism and her lamentation that modern feminism too often invoked a victim mentality. There is plenty of room for disagreement and discussion, but the majority of College Democrats who showed up weren't there to listen, and their line of questioning tended to be aggressive.

This mentality presented itself last week in a panel I organized on academic freedom in the classroom. Four professors from across the ideological spectrum gave thoughtful answers and comments about the issue of ideological diversity in the classroom and academic freedom. One self-identified liberal audience member accused me of "sour grapes" for raising awareness and promoting discussion and debate of an important issue. The mere notion that some courses could be biased was not a consideration in this student's mind. And instead of adding to the dialogue, he wanted to reject it completely.

A cross-ideological dialogue is essential for not just a good education, but also for a well-informed student body. At the academic freedom panel, professor Peter Kuznick suggested Kenneth Lay as representative of a conservative (or pro-free market) thinker who would counter-balance the liberal guest speakers in his "Social Forces that Shaped America" class. I discussed the issue with him after the panel's conclusion, and we mutually agreed that a class would benefit from hearing thoughtful, conservative speakers from local think-tanks along with the regularly scheduled visits by NAACP president Julian Bond and National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy.

The mere mention of President Bush's name often generates sneers in the classroom. Criticizing the president and his proposals are entirely legitimate. But much of the criticism centers not on his policies but on who he is: a Republican, Southern, straight-talking cowboy. His mere presence raises an instinctive dislike among many of my liberal friends. Conservative speakers often receive the same ire among the liberal-minded student body. While liberals and conservatives will continue to disagree for time immemorial, let's raise the discourse and debate over substance rather than style.

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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