It was disappointing to see some students tear a page from the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh playbook both prior to and throughout the Oct. 20 visit by [former] Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. Rather than trying to shut down debate and live in a political echo chamber, these concerned students should have embraced the opportunity to hear a message they disagreed with and used the information presented to either reflect upon or better comprehend their presently held views. Instead, the disrespectful behavior of a slim minority of those in attendance caused the event to end early and give Temple a terrible black eye in the public sphere.
Nobody expects one to change their views to accommodate a visiting speaker or dignitary. However, it is simply in good taste to respect the opinions of others and allow their views to be heard. The purpose of the university is to enhance the free marketplace of ideas by allowing competing thoughts and opinions to be discussed, debated and analyzed openly. Shouting down visiting speakers because of theoretical or policy-oriented disagreements isn’t simply juvenile behavior; it also runs counter to the rules of civility that maintain a functional, courteous society.
The late Allan Bloom, a University of Chicago professor and author of The Closing of the American Mind, wrote that “given the increasing and menacing pressures for conformity growing up within the university, it seems reasonable to ask whether it will not be necessary for thinking men to return to the isolation of private life in order to think freely.” Let us hope that we can all agree that the free marketplace of ideas and the freedom to think for oneself are worthy of preservation at this great institution.