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The Case for Academic Pluralism in Higher Education

Photo by: Nico Kaz

Academic pluralism, what is it? According to Wikipedia, pluralism as a political philosophy “is the recognition and affirmation of diversity within a political body, which is seen to permit the peaceful coexistence of different interests, convictions and lifestyles.”

Thus, pluralism in the academic setting must mean all of those things, but on campus. Yes, I mean the true, radical coexistence of ideas in a single space.

You may have heard me preach these things, at least in some colloquial sort of way. I’ve challenged readers to have tough conversations with their friends or engage in discourse with those they may disagree with.

But I can’t stay quiet anymore. I can’t watch as the academic systems within our country degrade because controversy has no place among college students. I can’t stand aside and watch a school like Hope lose its pursuit of the truth when we can do something about it now.

You may think I am over-exaggerating, but sadly I am not. Institutions are unwilling to foster or facilitate open inquiry and constructive disagreement: it’s too much of a liability.

Universities would rather sweep any controversial topics, speakers or ideas under the rug than deal with the potential pushback, cancellation or negative press.

It’s understandable. Our society has not made it socially acceptable for schools to allow students or faculty to challenge more “mainstream” ideas.

For example, the modern movement for the transgender community only started in the early 1950s, as highlighted in a New York Times timeline of the American Transgender Movement. This is a relatively new concept. But any challenge to this movement, or questioning of these ideas, is unwelcomed. This is unacceptable. New ideas should be thoughtfully challenged. Old ideas should also be equally challenged. This topic is just one of many that could be discussed thoughtfully in an open dialogue setting on a college campus.

Why? Because college campuses and the college experience is about self-discovery, the exchange of ideas and high levels of growth. This includes us at Hope. Our four years on this campus are some of the few years where we have the greatest freedom and opportunity for exploration. Exploration of ourselves, our intellect, our relationships and our interests or passions.

So why me? Why do I continue to advocate for this? It’s because I have people who tell me that they like what I do and support what I think but ask for me to keep it a secret. It’s because I receive texts after graduation where they tell me they felt like there was no space for their voice.

This is unacceptable.

College campuses, especially Hope’s campus, must be made an environment of free inquiry or what’s the point of being here?


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