Who Needs Discussion When You Already Know The Answers?

And, before I go any further, I would like to express my personal thanks to all of you for not rescinding my invitation. I know that matters were dicey for a while, given that I have held and defended actual positions on politically contested issues. Now and then I’ve strayed from the party line. And if the demonstrators would quiet down for a moment, I’d like to offer an abject apology for any way in which I have offended against the increasingly narrow and often obscure values of the academy.

In my day, the college campus was a place that celebrated the diversity of ideas. Pure argument was our guide. Staking out an unpopular position was admired — and the admiration, in turn, provided excellent training in the virtues of tolerance on the one hand and, on the other, integrity.

Your generation, I am pleased to say, seems to be doing away with all that. There’s no need for the ritual give and take of serious argument when, in your early 20s, you already know the answers to all questions. How marvelous it must be to realize at so tender an age that you will never, ever change your mind, because you will never, ever encounter disagreement! How I wish I’d had your confidence and fortitude. I could have spared myself many hours of patient reflection and intellectual struggle over the great issues of the day.

—Stephen L. Carter, “Dear Class of 2014: Thanks For Not Disinviting Me” (HT: College Insurrection)

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5 comments

  1. I enjoyed this quotation so much that I read the original piece, which you linked to at the bottom…thank you. What I find even more disturbing is how the majority of the commenters to the original piece are woefully illiterate on satire. To me, that speaks more to our culture’s descent into pluralistic relativism and the inability to engage in the marketplace of ideas.

    Now, I don’t agree with a substantial portion of what John Stuart Mill advanced in his day with respect to Utilitarianism. That being said, I believe J. S. Mill is rolling over in his grave re: the engagement in the marketplace of ideas and what constitutes a place at the debate or discussion table.

  2. One university speaker (invited to a Christian college!) was disinvited because his words might offend the tender feelings of the student body. This is the ultimate entitlement – forget jobs, housing, health care, etc. This is the new right – the right to not be offended. That, of course, trumps free expression. If what you say might offend me I have the right to prevent you from speaking, that is if I am on the left and you are on the right. If the situations are reversed it is censorship.

  3. And the point of the Carter’s quote? “Do your work!” But wouldn’t that cut into TV time, sports, or just plain, “having fun?” Nevertheless, there are remnants of the work ethic as noted in this recent WSJ guest editorial: “What ‘Hard Work U’ Can Teach Elite Schools” Schoolshttp://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303701304579550340222538088

  4. Car bumper sticker:

    “Get yourself a teenager while they still know everything”

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