THE CALL TO DEBATE
Josh Hunter | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I may be wrong and you may be right and, by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.”
Since the election of Donald Trump there has been an uproar on colleges and universities nationwide. There have been numerous walk-outs, teach ins, strikes and safe spaces. All done with the purpose of giving a middle finger to the current administration. These actions are the height of group thought and as Nietzsche and Kierkegaard would describe “the herd mentality.” However, It should be known that they all share common shortcoming. They all fail to provide the thing that given our current state of partisan politics is needed most, genuine debate.
The current antics of those on the left are how ESPN analyst Will Cain describes “those who have never had to win an argument in eight plus years.” Rather than using this election as wakeup call that there are many who do not accept the current liberal agenda, many on the left have viewed this election as a “whitelash” or further proof of systemic racism and white supremacy. And have amplified their old tactics. Whether it be making a new year’s resolutions video for white guys, or stopping prominent conservative speakers from lecturing on college campuses one thing becomes clear: the left is not ready to come to the debate table and make a legitimate case.
As I attended the opening rally for the “Bucknell Day of Action,” on February, 17 one question came to mind. What is the point of all of this? Throughout the day I often heard the word “change” being used. But as I looked around the rally of people with very similar political views I had to stop and wonder, who were they hoping to change? Does the person with the microphone honesty believe that things have changed simply by preaching to the choir?
The point of these rallies, walkouts, teach ins, and safe spaces are not to make a change, but, they are so that people can have their views validated. If these events were advertised as spaces to have dialogue with those who share similar thoughts, I would have no complaint. As a conservative who attends conservative lectures regularly, I must say I have no problem with this. Spending time with those with similar views can often be a worthwhile experience. However, I believe that none of these forms of action should be mistaken for any sort of platform of honest debate or discussion.
Often times at these rallies the viewpoints that are brought up are talked about as if they should simply be accepted by everyone. You can make claims backed by no facts and receive applause and snaps from your peers around you, even if the statement made is a complete oxymoron. For example, during the day of action, the following statement was made, “there is a gender pay gap, men earn more than women.” There was no correction by the professor by the end of this statement. There was just a room full of smiles and nods. There was no statement of how we gender discriminate. Or who specifically gender discriminates. There was simply an acceptance of false presumption that continues to be disproven daily.
Similar behavior was seen on February, 9th when Christina Hoff Sommers came to Bucknell. Ms. Sommers considers herself an equity feminist, however she does not believe in what she calls feminist “myths.” The point of her lecture was to provide insight into her beliefs on the origins of some of these myths, as well as debunk them. After Ms. Sommers had completed her lecture she opened up a question and answer session. During this event she was asked very pointed questions intent to prove that she must have a lack of compassion; for those who have personally experienced sexism in their lives. I recall only one student reciting any sort of facts to dispute the claims made by Ms. Sommers. Other than that most of the arguments contained statements such as “I know a person who…,” or “In my life…”. The basic argument turns out being “ I have seen/experienced something; therefore you rejecting that this happens on a large scale makes you ignorant or insensitive.”
First off, this is ironic because this is an example of attacking the person and not the idea. It is a violation of the “safe space” many of these students claim they adhere to. Secondly, these statements suggest a lack of ability to debate on the points they wished to convey. If the gender pay gap is so real one person rejecting its existence should not result in shock. Instead, it should be easy to prove that person wrong.
This lack of willingness to engage in honest debate is something that needs to change. If you believe in white privilege, prove it. Explain how a young white male living in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania enjoys certain privileges over all blacks. If you believe in the gender pay gap prove it. Show graphically why something that was outlawed over forty years ago still occurs today.
Those are just two of the many controversial topics that need to be discussed. However, often times these conversations are difficult to have in the first place because of the PC culture in college life. Which makes it so that you have to constantly worry about not marginalizing or offending anyone. By constantly policing the way in which the other person phrases his statements, we shift the purpose of the debate from the original topic to the morality or “wokeness” of the other person. This is why PC should be disregarded during open debates. While respect is needed during debates, moral policing is a bully/stall tactic that has no other purpose than to hurt the credibility of the other person. It would be far more effective to discredit the other person through use of factual evidence.
Throughout human history, debate was needed to convince people of things we now consider common knowledge. Concepts like gravity and even notions that earth is not flat were not ideas that were easily accepted. It took evidence and debate to persuade people that these ideas were correct. No political idea or concept is so flawless that it should be accepted by everyone immediately. So I challenge all students who want to make a difference to engage those who disagree with you in debate.
Don’t shout, slander or shame. Engage, convince and change.