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ISSUE 117 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/27/2004

A classroom for all views

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, February 27, 2004

Intellectual diversity and liberalism in the classroom are hotly debated issues at St. Olaf. This clash became newsworthy when St. Olaf hosted this years Nobel Peace Prize Forum with Jimmy Carter as headliner. Students from the new student organization Counterpoint made front-page news in the Star Tribune when they held an alternative forum with Scott Johnson, a Minneapolis attorney and adjunct professor of law at the University of St. Thomas, who was denied entrance as a speaker for his lecture proposal Facts are Better Than Dreams: The Statesmanship of Winston Churchill in the 1930s.

While the conjecture of St. Olaf as a liberal college may seem laughable from those outside the bubble that associate it as a Norwegian-Lutheran college that doesnt allow drinking or boys and girls on the same dorm floors after midnight. Upon closer examination, though, the student body of St. Olaf is politically diverse. We have one of the most active College Democrats program and the College Republicans two years ago were heralded as the best chapter in the state of Minnesota. Not only are the left and right present, but the Independent and Green parties are also extremely active, as are Peace and Justice and Feminists for Change.

Faculty liberalism has recently become a voiced concern by the Students for Intellectual Diversity, a subsidiary of Counterpoint. Faculty political beliefs shouldnt be relevant as long as professors foster open-minded and respectful discussion. Just because a professor announces their political affiliation in class doesnt mean that they discount what one has to say on the other side of the coin. However when politics do arise in the classroom professors should keep an open mind and respect all points of view. Whether or not professors divulge their political persuasions isnt the issue. Rather in and outside of class students should feel empowered to discuss in a civil manner what they believe and to feel comfortable expressing opposing points of view. Professors should be leading the discussion, not providing a one-way mandated ideology.

Professors who make blatant statements against one politician, especially when it isnt relevant to the classroom discussion, are doing their profession and students a disservice. Trying to indoctrinate students by railing on a political official or American foreign policy does not only reduce the student participation of those who hold differing values, it makes all students less respectful of the professor in general. Students come here to open their minds, see things from different points of view and ultimately make up their own minds with the critical thinking skills they have acquired. And only by doing so can we escape the bubble stereotype that is so often labels us.

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