Are Higher Education Institutions Still Places of Open Discussion?

Ideally, higher education presents opportunities for gathering and sharing of ideas and theories in polite debate and honest discussion, a mind-bending, knowledge-increasing pool of views and resources that builds a stronger, better informed student who will contribute positively to his country and world.

But what happens when theories are treated as absolute facts, and education is no longer a place of open discussion? A current example of this is the promotion of the theory of global warming and climate change in revered institutions of higher education.

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In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Paul Tice writes that the green energy, global warming, climate change agenda is increasingly prevalent on modern campuses, most of which are home to think tank institutes like Yale Climate & Energy Institute, Princeton Center for Energy and the Environment, MIT Energy Initiative, and the Penn Center for Energy Innovation. When discussing energy and the future of the word’s climate, only one side is being discussed. Fossil fuels are now only treated as a problem to be solved, rather than an area of study of a fast growing industry.

This subtle type of preferential treatment forces a retreat of dissenting opinion that can be healthy for a truly engaging, robust discussion.  In a broader context, the move of higher education towards a one-track mindset could be dangerous for dissenters of all issues. Beware of disagreeing: lawsuits may ensue. Eventually, this could lead to a breach of Freedom of Speech.

For example, self-identified and left-leaning climate scientist Michael Mann, is suing conservative columnist Mark Steyn and The National Review, among others, for criticizing his view on global warming and climate change. Steyn, who has dropped his lawyers and is now fighting pro se, is arguing his case as an infringement on his rights to free speech.

Whether the government actually remains tied to the idea of global warming remains to be seen, but both sides—right and left—bemoan that the government pays too many favors to the other.  A Rolling Stone Politics article in early January criticized President Obama for inaction, saying he brushed aside activists and threatened to dress down former Energy Secretary Steven Chu for describing certain island nations in severe danger from rising sea levels.  On the other hand, conservative outlets have consistently questioned the validity of government accepted research, like that of recent UN reports, and our governments’ hasty will to act on it.

Despite whoever is responsible and whatever you call it—agenda, indoctrination, science—something is afoot. Places of higher education were once places of open discussion; perhaps they can become that way again. If Americans can do not have the freedom to discuss, disagree, and voice opinions, American liberties are in peril.


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