Discussion-based class causes issues

Jeff Lombardi and Jeff Lombardi

Universities, it seems, are no longer welcoming the notion of the free exchange of ideas.

At least this is what it seems like to me, after reading about and seeing on the national cable networks the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Kevin Barrett.

Kevin Barrett, as you may know, is the professor of a class called Islam: Religion and Culture. During this class, he presented the idea that the 9/11 attacks were not necessarily perpetrated by anti-American, Islam terrorists but rather were orchestrated by inside government agencies.

At this point, I would like to make something of a disclaimer. In this column, my point is not to either convince you that this new idea about the 9/11 attacks is either true or false. What I am going to talk about, however, is the controversy that surrounds it.

During Barrett’s class, he states that, due to his extensive research on the 9/11 attacks, including the official statements of the 9/11 commission, he believes that United States government agencies pulled off the attacks. Subsequently, word got out of this, and he was deemed a conspiracy-theory nut. His position as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was in jeopardy.

People believed, and not actual students, but rather people who were not actually there, that Barrett was trying to force this seemingly anti-American opinion on his students. He was not.

In a statement to CNN, he said that his class is a critical thinking class, meaning that ideas are presented, discussed at great length, and each individual student must form his or her own opinion about the subject in question.

This does not seem to matter to a lot of people who want his head. They seem to forget that universities are meant to be a place where people can exchange their opinions and ideas freely without fear of being oppressed or forced into something.

As a matter of fact, I participate in this action every time you read my column.

By trying to punish Barrett for this, nay-sayers were attempting to limit the idea of freedom of expression.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – Barrett is in a position where people have to listen to him or risk getting a failing grade. And you’re partially right. Barrett is the professor meaning that students expect to have to sit in his class and listen to him talk.

But the distinction here is that Barrett is a university professor. If Barrett were explaining this opinion to a group of high school students, the topic would be a little more hot-tempered in terms of parental retribution.

But at age 18 and up, students are now free to believe what they want and are given the opportunity to express that.

This controversy over Barrett’s position is founded on belief that education should present what is already the status quo for America. While this is a natural position to take, the average high school Social Studies class uses text books that tell history’s stories from the point of view of Americans and feature, in many cases, inaccurate information.

This is a dated position to take. Education should be an ideal where critical thinking skills are passed on, and the ability to function in a society that displays hundreds of different beliefs is learned.

Barrett’s objectors are out-dated.

Finally, people do not realize that teachers naturally pass on their beliefs and opinions to their students. There is absolutely no way to present information in a 100 percent objective way. It is impossible, and anyone that tries removes any amount of humanity from their curriculum.

Whatever the teacher presents, the students will get that information through the filter of the teacher’s eyes. The student does not necessarily have to agree, but there is an opinion in there.

All Barrett has done is participate in the educational process by presenting information to his students the way he sees it, and nothing more. Is that so controversial?