Consider this exchange on WSO about the “Largest Teach-in in History.”

Morgan Goodwin: Focus the Nation is happening on 1750 campuses, high schools, churches and businesses in all 50 states, TODAY.


We decided the first day of spring semester wasn’t the best day to hold this thing, so we’re doing the Williams event on Tuesday. The same day as super tuesday (when over 20 states hold primary elections).

Rahul: Wait, what’s a teach-in?

Good question!

A “teach-in” is when one side of a complex debate is presented as the The Truth. Alternate viewpoints are suppressed or ignored. Real teachers rarely participate in “teach-ins.” Ideologues rule. Recent teach-ins at Williams covered the Iraq War and the Jena Six. Although I was present for neither, dollars to grilled honeybuns that both exercises were embarrassments. You think that faculty like Shanti Singham or Alex Willingham presented all sides of these important debates? You think that they sought to present alternate points of view? Hah! Although I am sure (read: hope) that these professors are more professional within a Williams classroom, there is little doubt that their teach-ins have nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with preaching to the faithful.

Think that, the Iraq War was, on balance, a good idea or that the Jena Six were thugs who got, more or less, what they deserved? You are not welcome to “teach” at these events. Disagree with those views but want to see them presented by intelligent proponents? Williams is not the place for you.

Will the teach-in on global warming on Tuesday be any different? I doubt it, but I respect Morgan Goodwin a great deal. If any of the presenters argue that a) global warming isn’t that serious a concern or that, b) however serious, there isn’t much that we can do about carbon emissions via government fiat or c) that the most important human value is freedom and that you have no more right to control my carbon emissions than my speech or d) that Williams, as an institution, should have no more involvement with the political issues surrounding global warming than it does with those involved with fighting malaria, then I will be proved wrong. Perhaps TNG will surprise me with their open-mindedness and commitment to free-wheeling debate.

Breath-holding is not recommended.

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