Every once in a while at Forster-Thomas, our blog takes a break from tips, tricks and shortcuts to a better admissions future to comment on something we consider to be of great importance to the future of education in our country. A recent article in the New York Times, derived from a speech given in Australia, raises just such a topic.

The article, called the Dying Art of Disagreement, raises some incredibly disturbing findings. One that jumps out is that over twenty percent of liberal arts students think it is acceptable to silence a speaker with violence, if that speaker is saying something with which they disagree. That's one in five students fully prepared to become a fascist, as long as they're marching behind the 'right sort' of Dear Leader. And this is the most educated subset of our society. I promise you that in the swamps, plains and plateaus, the same and worse is espoused.

The facts of the situation are grim. Liberals (and intellectual conservatives) are in the process of 'normalizing' the worst habits of their worst enemies, including fear, oppression and blind hatred. Morality, the act of making another's opinion 'immoral' or 'ethically wrong', does as much damage to you as to your opponent. Morality binds and blinds, and hate is anti-scientific, anti-rational, and thoroughly tribal. If you think your feelings are leading you to a more just world, you're deluding yourself, and more importantly, helping preserve the delusion of those around you who value your opinion.

Our higher education system, the envy of and the model for much of the developing world, should be designed to combat that kind of thinking. Education, as the Lowy Institute speech makes clear, is not a fixed lesson, but rather a process of self-interrogation. To treat no proposition as sacred, and no objection as impious, used to be the cornerstone of a liberal education. And any intellectual not currently competing for a social media popularity prize would probably allow that it still is.

Many people today justify intellectual laziness by proudly labeling themselves partisans. It's too oppressive, they claim, too triggering, to be forced to consider anybody else's point of view. Besides, they're activists -- living in what has also been referred to as soldier mindset -- 24/7. How can it be wrong when it feels so right?

Because the root of activism is action. No change in the world can take place without action. A tweetstorm is not an action, it's a reaction, and a poorly reasoned one at that. Action occurs in the real world, with other people. Meaningful action takes place when we are forced to justify our beliefs before those who hold the opposite view -- we disagree well, because we understand well.

As educational consultants, we here at Forster-Thomas try to play this Socratic role to our future scholars. We challenge their preconceptions, push them to explore their own flaws and failures, and remind them how important it is to deeply evaluate difficult questions about their own futures, and the role Universities play in that future. Their choice of college or graduate school, after all, will help define them. Not every idea our clients hold dear is currently trending. On the contrary, many would get you shouted down on Twitter, or worse. But they're a necessary part of a balanced intellectual breakfast, and as long as the client can make a rational case for his perspective, we say, go for it!

IECs speak to an important audience. Our charges will one day, relatively soon, rule the world. When they do, they will face entrenched societal problems, including issues of climate, massive transfers of wealth, and a worldwide assault on free speech. We should not stand by and encourage those who disagree with us to remain silent. A silent mind never changes.

If you agree with what we're saying here -- if you want our future leaders to be well-versed and prepared to refute the specious arguments of nativists, fearmongers and opportunists -- then take action. Make sure you tell each and every one of your students that they are in college to learn, not to inform the faculty of what they already 'know' to be true. Tell them to reject any and all ideas that hold them back from gaining a better understanding of the world as it is. Tell them to stop demanding, and start understanding. Remind them that no idea is sacred, not even their favorite one. And thank them for the service they are doing for us, themselves and future generations.

Or, in the words of Badass Historical Lady Evelyn Beatrice Hall (sometimes misattributed to Voltaire) --
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.