Thursday, March 08, 2007

Land of the Free Thinkers

Teaching people to think is hard endeavor, especially when you have politicians who would rather have unthinking followers.

Case in point: there are bills in the state house of Arizona and Virgina in which a college professor's freedom of speech and academic freedom are to be curtailed.

I am an American, and very proud of what principles our country was built on. Freedom of speech is to allow the mix of ideas into the public square. Academic freedom is to allow even unpopular ideas and theories to be discussed and studied.

In an high school in Westchester young women used the word "Vagina" appropriately--not as an epithet--in a reading of Eve Ensler's play"the Vagina Monologues."The school administration is censoring them.

An awarding winning children's book is being banned in libraries because it uses the word "scrotum." again, the word is being used appropriately to describe anatomy.

What happens when ideas and words are censored?
For anatomical words they become "dirty," prohibited speech, we revert back to a time when we referred to our genitals as "down there" a place unseen and untouched. We revert to ignorance.

For ideas that are censored, we become ignorant, compliant citizens. Citizens who consume but do not question. Citizens who follow,but do not lead.

I think the purpose of teaching is to make thinking citizens. John Dewey among others believe the only way a democracy will survive is with educated citizens. I tell my students that I do not care which side of the political spectrum they fall on, just that they can substantiate their arguments with facts (not other people's opinions), they interview people with other view points and try to substantiate those view points.

Thinking is critical.

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