‘The Threat From Within’ – Why We Need To Pay Attention To What Our Schools/Universities Are Advocating

In February 2017, in a speech before the Stanford Board of Trustees, Former Provost John Etchemendy discussed the challenges universities (and honestly, all schools) face in the coming years. He called this problem the ‘threat from within.’

“The university is not a megaphone to amplify this or that political view, and when it does it violates a core mission. Universities must remain open forums for contentious debate, and they cannot do so while officially espousing one side of that debate.

But we must do more. We need to encourage real diversity of thought in the professoriate, and that will be even harder to achieve. It is hard for anyone to acknowledge high-quality work when that work is at odds, perhaps opposed, to one’s own deeply held beliefs. But we all need worthy opponents to challenge us in our search for truth. It is absolutely essential to the quality of our enterprise.”

This is a profound problem, and one that we, as teachers, cannot ignore. Etchemendy speaks specifically to universities and professors, but the problem is more deep-rooted than that. It starts with children, with elementary and middle school students, with high school students. It starts with educators laying a foundation of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. It starts with us.

As educators, it is our job to teach, to inform, to instruct, but when it comes to issues such as politics, for example, we must do so with intent to be honest, fair, and unbiased.

This is our only hope to build a tolerant world. We must make sure that the information we’re presenting to our students is the truth, without clouding it with our own personal opinions or beliefs. We must promise, even when we do not agree, to reflect information without emotion getting in the way.

When Etchemendy speaks about the ‘threat from within,’ he’s speaking to the problem of students being educated/growing/graduating with preconceived notions about the world, based on their university’s education. And we need to pay attention to this, and put a stop to it.

We need to build students/children/young adults/adults into well-rounded, open-minded, and unprejudiced beings.

And we can start this right here, right now, in our classrooms.

Do you agree? Feel free to comment your thoughts below.



Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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