Ivy League Professors Issue Rallying Cry to Students – ‘Think for Yourself’


by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

There are plenty of unconscious humans, many of whom happen to inhabit positions of great wealth and power, committing all sorts of horrible deeds to their fellow humans on a daily basis. I’ve spent much of the past five years highlighting such behavior, but we’ve arrived at a point where it’s time to give increased attention to the multitude of conscious, deeply caring people trying to make a positive difference within our current very challenging and hostile environment.

As I was pondering what to write about today, a recent comment posted to last Thursday’s post, Why Am I Doing This?, really connected with me. I have reposted it in full below.

The perspective outlined above fits in perfectly with my recent thinking on how decent, conscious people can change the world for the better over time. Calling the current paradigm we live under the corrupt, parasitic fraud it is, is certainly important. You can’t move beyond something negative unless you recognize and admit what’s broken in the first place. That said, it is absolutely crucial to offer something better. Knowing what we are against is simply not good enough, it’s imperative that we know what we stand for (whenever possible), and that we express such desires and vision as clearly and courageously as we can.

In that regard, I want to commend and highlight a message published yesterday to college students signed by 15 professors from Harvard, Princeton and Yale. It’s short, to the point and powerful.

I have republished it in full below:

Some Thoughts and Advice for Our Students and All Students

August 28, 2017

We are scholars and teachers at Princeton, Harvard, and Yale who have some thoughts to share and advice to offer students who are headed off to colleges around the country. Our advice can be distilled to three words:

Think for yourself.

Now, that might sound easy. But you will find—as you may have discovered already in high school—that thinking for yourself can be a challenge. It always demands self-discipline and these days can require courage.

In today’s climate, it’s all-too-easy to allow your views and outlook to be shaped by dominant opinion on your campus or in the broader academic culture. The danger any student—or faculty member—faces today is falling into the vice of conformism, yielding to groupthink.

At many colleges and universities what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of public opinion” does more than merely discourage students from dissenting from prevailing views on moral, political, and other types of questions. It leads them to suppose that dominant views are so obviously correct that only a bigot or a crank could question them.

Since no one wants to be, or be thought of, as a bigot or a crank, the easy, lazy way to proceed is simply by falling into line with campus orthodoxies.

Don’t do that. Think for yourself.

Thinking for yourself means questioning dominant ideas even when others insist on their being treated as unquestionable. It means deciding what one believes not by conforming to fashionable opinions, but by taking the trouble to learn and honestly consider the strongest arguments to be advanced on both or all sides of questions—including arguments for positions that others revile and want to stigmatize and against positions others seek to immunize from critical scrutiny.

The love of truth and the desire to attain it should motivate you to think for yourself. The central point of a college education is to seek truth and to learn the skills and acquire the virtues necessary to be a lifelong truth-seeker. Open-mindedness, critical thinking, and debate are essential to discovering the truth. Moreover, they are our best antidotes to bigotry. 

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of the word “bigot” is a person “who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.” The only people who need fear open-minded inquiry and robust debate are the actual bigots, including those on campuses or in the broader society who seek to protect the hegemony of their opinions by claiming that to question those opinions is itself bigotry.

So don’t be tyrannized by public opinion. Don’t get trapped in an echo chamber. Whether you in the end reject or embrace a view, make sure you decide where you stand by critically assessing the arguments for the competing positions.

Think for yourself.

Good luck to you in college!

Rather than complaining about the behavior of students or college administrators, these professors went down the inspiring route of boldly putting forth a rallying cry rooted in wisdom and intellectualism. We need a lot more of this sort of thing across society. There are so many decent people out there, and it’s time for us to step up in whatever way we can to add positivity and put forth an alternative message that can someday hopefully replace the very unconscious and destructive one that currently dominates our culture.

The good news is that no one has the power to stop you. Your life circumstances may limit your options to engage, but each and every one of us is presented with many opportunities on a daily basis to be a little more kind, a little more decent and a little more courageous in our timeless pursuit of a better world. Small things matter and will add up in unimaginable ways. The best day to behave more consciously was yesterday, the second best day is today.

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