Victor Gonyea

It is not only a sad, but even worse, a dangerous state of affairs when minds are being slammed shut by a refusal to even hear opposing views. Being free to speak your mind is important to the proper functioning of a democracy. Hearing extreme views can be very difficult, but free speech is for everyone or for no one. Currently in our universities – at least in the vast majority of them – mainstream liberal thinking is the only thing tolerated. Other thoughts and beliefs are shunned, pushed aside and shouted down. This intolerance diminishes and, in extreme cases, destroys the value of the academic experience, providing a totally inaccurate view of our society to the student. A world they will have to live in.

A mind bound up by being force-fed one-sided opinions can only mindlessly lash out at any opposing thought. Nothing except mindless, hateful obstruction is accomplished by refusal to discuss all viewpoints. Obstruction contributes only a lack of action. It doesn’t help move anything forward.

The normal late adolescent mind is not equipped to see the whole picture. It is not fully physiologically developed and lacks experience in the world. Given these natural limitations, young minds are particularly vulnerable to manipulation. An academic environment is a place for where this manipulation of thinking can and does take place. Of course, universities are not the only places this happens, but it is a common place for it to start. Once convinced of the correctness of the views they have been taught, they are likely to cover their ears and chant loudly so as to not hear opposing views.

Once out in the "real" world, the student learns why graduation is called commencement. It is the beginning, not an end. The academic world is just that: academic. Experience is the true education in life. Being technically right is often not the correct or functional stance in daily living. Much of the time, groups of people have to define a common truth just to survive in a society which requires cooperation among its members. Cooperation never has only one side.

Except in the loftiest towers of power, getting along is the only way that people can survive. Everyday existence needs the ability to see another person's point of view. That doesn’t stop you from having your own beliefs and values and having the right to defend them. It means that you attempt to understand and are open to discussing civilly opposing views.

If you close your mind to other views, you close down processes necessary to the health and natural functioning of the brain: observing and evaluating courses of action. Limiting informational input clogs up thought due to insufficient information. Under these conditions, the mind doesn’t work well, all but stopping. Mental constipation has happened and well-thought-out decisions are just about impossible.

Given this mental stoppage, little or no thought is given to what is said. Pre-programmed litanies are all that exist. This causes watered-down verbal waste to spew forth. But instead of relieving the blockage it only intensifies it. These toxic conditions can and do become chronic and unfortunately can be a lifelong way of living, rendering the individual involved an ineffective and even a counterproductive member of society.

Don’t let this happen to you. Listen to opposing points of view, think about your positions, defend or amend them as you must, but always be civil. If you attempt to be civil and it is not returned, move on. Mental constipation is catching.

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