President Obama spoke at an Iowa high school this week and was asked about proposals to cut off federal funds to "politically biased" colleges. The president didn't think such a plan was workable or desirable, but he gave a strong statement about the value of being exposed in college to new ideas, including those that are different from one's own and even appear offensive. "The purpose of higher education is not just, as I said before, to transmit skills. It's also to widen your horizons … to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world," Obama said. "The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide and people are having arguments and people are testing each other's theories, and over time people learn from each other. … They are getting out of their own narrow point of view."
Obama said that when he was in college, he met "folks who didn't think at all like me," and that, as a result, "sometimes I changed my mind." He said some students -- liberal as well as conservative -- "aren't listening to the other side." And he added of some on campus: "They don't want a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don't want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or sends a demeaning signal to women …. I don't agree with that …. I don't believe you, when you become students at colleges, need to be coddled and protected." Obama added that there is nothing wrong with students challenging ideas with which they disagree, but urged students not to say, "I'm too sensitive to hear what you have to say."
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