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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

Intellectual Diversity Debate Still Relevant

By Melanie Meinzer
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

In the conversations immediately following the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, the question of intellectual diversity was widely discussed and hotly debated. This is an important issue that was necessary to bring to light and critical to take into account. Although raised by students who were more likely to take a conservative stance on the approach to peace, the principle of intellectual diversity should speak to every one at St. Olaf College.

The St. Olaf Mission Statement highlights the desire to stimulate students critical thinking, encourage them to be seekers of the truth, and challenge them to be responsible and knowledgeable citizens of the world. These are noble and essential aims. In order for them to be carried out, students must be exposed to multiple points-of-view on major social, political, and economic issues. A commitment to intellectual diversity consists of an appreciation and examination of minority, as well as majority, perspectives. It upholds scholarship as the principal academic enterprise, not ideology.

A commitment to intellectual diversity is the recognition that truth can be carried by a variety of viewpoints. It is also the conviction that no one intellectual faction holds a monopoly on wisdom. As John Stuart Mill wrote in Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion, since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.

Thoughtful people of every political persuasion have embraced the principle of intellectual diversity at St. Olaf. However, intellectual diversity is much broader than politics. Intellectual diversity refers to freedom of opinion and beliefs regardless of whether or not they're political.

A significant number of St. Olaf students and faculty have expressed both support and concern regarding the issue of intellectual diversity. Our current focus on this issue is a golden opportunity to firmly secure our commitment to it. Now is the time to discuss and determine the most effective way of ensuring that intellectual diversity is integral to a St. Olaf education.

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