Editorial: Don’t use ‘balance’ to justify ignorance

Twice recently NBA guard Kyrie Irving has publicly insisted that the earth is flat. The fact that he’s a better ball player than scientist is no justification — in the name of diversity — for an institution of higher learning to offer him a platform to espouse his falsehoods. submitted photo

Last week, publisher Tim Lyke took to task (gently) Ripon College professor emeritus Marty Farrell for saying at a recent panel discussion that speakers such as conservative commentator Ann Coulter or white supremacists Milo Yiannopoulos or Richard Spencer “have nothing of educational value to bring” to a college campus and therefore shouldn’t be invited to speak. (“PC efforts to silence speech are dangerous,” Oct. 26, 2017).

Tim correctly stated that “robust speech should be celebrated, not silenced,” but how can you have a “robust” debate around a topic where the main speaker is, at best, willfully ignorant and, at worst, actively advocating a position that is entirely false?

The problem isn’t whether they should be invited. The real question to ask is this: Why precisely are they being invited, and whom are they being invited instead of?

Let’s put aside the inane and pernicious practice of treating as worthwhile voices on education these public figures who’ve accomplished little beyond exploiting their personal, celebrity-status brand through intentionally inciting derision and anger, if not outright hatred.

Both in the media and in academic ideology, the contemporary goal too often has become to present “balance,” treating “both sides” equally, which has led to disingenuous and mismatched conversations over numerous topics.

Instead, the goal for anyone interested in advancing knowledge and truth should be to present fact-based, evidence-supported views. Propaganda and utterly false statements about race and science, for example, really don’t have any educational value. It’s nothing more than sensationalist entertainment for our culture-warring factions that we are drawn to because we hunger for conflict and adversaries. ...

Why have the voices of women, minorities and non-Christians been so limited in our history? Where are these voices today? What are they saying?

How is it different from what the familiar voices are saying? How is it the same?

So let’s tackle the big problems, the thorny questions, the complex puzzles, the labyrinths of the mind.

Just make sure you’ve got your facts straight first. — Maic D’Agostino

To read the entire editorial, see the Nov. 9, 2017 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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