Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Politics in Universities

From people's I'v spoken too of my political persuasion my personal relatively easy ride through undergrad was something of an abberation. This is not to say that I've never gotten some strange looks and people inquiring about "how I could possibly believe that". On the other hand I've had some people state they thought the same thing but were afraid to say as much. I do tend to be rather forthcoming with my opinions. I spoke with someone in a medical faculty today who stated his sociology classes often venture into Bush and American bashing and he doesn't feel comfortable saying anything about it while there, nor can he understand how its even remotely related to what they're suposed to be doing.

To a certain degree I believe universities are isolated from reality. Places where people sit around and deal with abstractions and data without the need to deal with the harsh reality of deadlines, competition, and client. They simply have a steady diet of government dollars and inexperienced youth to deal with which allows them to continue to believe whatever they wish.

It might be deemed patronizing to say many people coming to university are inexperienced, however, I don't think they get as much exposure to differing view points in courses with political content. As I pointed out earlier, even when I thought the professor wasn't being an ideological lackey there is a disporporate amount of time spent promoting socialism and communism.

However, minds can be changed if you simply present people with a different way of looking at things. I recall a philosophy course I took in my last year of university, it was a critical thinking course. We were examining a problem where the situation was that a train was hurtling down the tracks a group of twenty people were in its path and would all be run over and killed if you did not pull the switch to sent the train onto an alternate track where only one person was walking. If you pulled the lever that person would die.

The professor then asked who would pull the lever and who would not. Most people pulled the lever, perhaps half a dozen did not. When asked to explain why should you pull the lever the response was "20 people were more important than one" so the one fellow just had to be sacrificed for the greater good. A few minutes later I explained why you should not pull the lever, and stated that in no way were you responsible for the position of the people on the train track nor that of the train. The events in action were not of your doing, nor your responsibility. However, if you acted to redirect the train you had the death of an innocent man on your hands. Furthermore, what justified sacrificing the individual for the others? There is no plausible way to judge to worth of their respective lives, but I knew for certain that if I were the one standing on the railway tracks that were deserted by myself I would most certainly object to having a train sent hurtling towards me.

The professor then polled the class again and perhaps a quater to a third of the class had changed their minds on the proper course of action. Remembering this always gives me hope.


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