"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Can We Handle Information?

Constitution day just passed on the 17th of September. I suppose not many people noticed the day, just as I suppose not many people notice the Constitution itself. One student at a Modesto, California Junior College attempted to pass out copies of the Constitution, but he was quickly stopped by campus officials, according to news reports and the video above. (1) And so life goes on in our safe and insulated little world.

What is disturbing about the incident at an institution of higher learning is what it tells us about our society. When an administrator such as the one in the video has an entire binder full of regulations regarding speech and the dissemination of information, we should scratch our heads and wonder why. Is it because we are not capable of handling opinions that differ from ours? Is it because we cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood on our own? Is it because we cannot say “no thank you” when someone tries to hand us a pamphlet? Such nanny laws sound like a concerned parent telling a young child: “don't talk to strangers!” But are adults on a college campus children? (Ok, ok, maybe they do seem like it much of the time.) The anonymous creators of the binder full of rules apparently think so. Apparently they are trying to protect us from ideas that come from unofficial sources. “Trust your professors and trust your textbooks, but flee the intellectual snares of all others,” they seem to say. And it doesn't matter how historically, politically, and philosophically relevant something may be. Nay, even if it is one of the most important political documents in human history, it should not reach your ears if it does not come from an officially approved source.

No doubt lots of garbage is kept out of circulation this way, but I can't help thinking that I would rather be the one to decide if it is garbage or not. It is not just that I think copies of the Constitution should be passed out: if someone were passing out copies of the Communist Manifesto I would certainly take one, even though I profoundly disagree with it. A college campus, not to mention our society in general, is a place where we should be allowed to hear other people's ideas. Treat adults like children for long enough and they just might become children, or worse, imbeciles.

No comments: