A Future of Growing Intolerance?
If we do not graduate individuals capable and willing to listen to one another within our own society what hope is there that any of us — particularly our “best educated” — can become global citizens?
Last year there were a number of incidents along these lines, albeit nothing quite so potentially violent. I had read with dismay that students at Brown University had succeeded in shouting down a talk by NYC police commissioner, Raymond Kelly. For me this is right up there with the shocking realization that Ted Cruz graduated with honors from Princeton with his intolerance of differences in tact. Confronting these realities sends me into “Woe is me” mode because I want to believe that higher education not only introduces us to new information but also prepares us to be members of complex societies. Certainly our best universities should be committed to cultivating the kind of the intellectual capacity that allows us to listen respectfully to different points of view, even when we disagree passionately.
Much of my work focuses on internationalization and within that scope, the hope that my students will learn to listen to people from other cultures whose experiences, values, and perspectives are different from their own—not to judge them but to try to better understand why people come to different conclusions. Part of this process is to reflect on why we hold the ideas that we do. If we are going to have a prayer of a future where we collaborate across national boundaries to address common concerns and problems we will have to accept the differences between us and learn to work together despite sometimes holding opposing views on sensitive issues.
I hesitate to join the chorus of politicians finding fault with American higher education but I see this lack of tolerance, lack of openness to different ideas as a serious failing of higher education. If we do not graduate individuals capable and willing to listen to one another within our own society what hope is there that any of us—particularly our “best educated”— can become global citizens?
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