Analysis & Opinions - Wall Street Journal

Students Aren’t the Obstacle to Open Debate at Harvard

| Feb. 22, 2024

They want to hear a range of challenging views, but faculty and administrators are afraid to stand up to outside critics and disruptive radicals

Professors hear a great deal these days about how hard it is to get our students to listen to, much less to engage with, opinions they dislike. The problem, we are told, is that students are either “snowflakes” with fragile psyches or “authoritarians” who care more about their pet causes than about democratic values such as tolerance, compromise and respect for opposing points of view. Students at Harvard, where I teach, returned from winter break in January to an institution that appeared determined to tackle this problem head-on. An email from the undergraduate dean reminded them that “The purpose of a Harvard education is not to shield you from ideas you dislike or to silence people you disagree with; it is to enable you to confront challenging ideas, interrogate your own beliefs, make up your mind and learn to think for yourself.”

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Masoud, Tarek.“Students Aren’t the Obstacle to Open Debate at Harvard.” Wall Street Journal, February 22, 2024.

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