Monday, while speaking at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, IA President Obama came out in favor of free expression and the marketplace of ideas. Everyone was surprised because, sad to say, it seemed out of character. When asked about whether the government should cut funding to colleges on the basis of ideology, he responded:
The purpose of college is not just to transmit skills. It’s also to widen your horizons; to make you a better citizen; to help you to evaluate information, to help you make your way through the world; to help you be more creative.
The way to do that is to create a space where a lot of ideas are presented and collide — where people are having arguments and people are testing each other’s theories, and over time people learn from each other because they’re getting out of their own narrow point of view and having a broader point of view.
The idea that you’d have somebody in government making a decision about what you should think ahead of time or what you should be taught — and if it’s not the right thought, or idea, or perspective, or philosophy, that that person wouldn’t get funding — runs contrary to everything we believe about education.
You might be thinking: where has this guy been for the last several years? Or, you might be thinking: better late than never. Or, you might be thinking that this is the guy who said: If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.
We applaud Obama’s embrace of free and open discussion. And yet, we must ask whether his administration has followed these principles.
Has it reached out to Republicans in order to draft legislation that would contain some of the good ideas offered up by the opposition? Or, has it pushed through whatever legislation it could, by whatever means it could? Has it tried to craft an Iran arms deal that would pass Congressional muster, that would contain some of the ideas and suggestions that have been offered by the opposition and the principal actors in the region? Or has it made the deal it wanted to make, without consulting with anyone? Has it insisted that the deal’s supporters have a chance to vote for it or even to debate it in the Senate?
So, before cheering for Obama’s “liberal” views on free expression, keep in mind that the campus crackdown on free expression occurred during his administration and that much of it is consistent with his own governing style.
Be that as it may, Obama did come out against the current mania over trigger warnings:
I’ve heard of some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who, you know, is too conservative. Or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans, or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women.
I don’t agree with that, either. I don’t agree that you — when you become students at colleges — have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.
Anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with them. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because, you know, my — I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.”
That’s not the way we learn, either.
Of course, this is correct. And yet, how many of Obama’s supporters in the media shout racism every time that anyone criticizes anything that he has said or done? How much of the” black lives matter” movement and the hostility toward white police officers were instigated by him and his attorney general? How many times did Obama run to the microphone when someone black had been injured or killed by someone white and how often did he run away from it whenever someone white had been killed by someone black?