UConn should adopt Chicago’s principles, not its pizza 

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We’ve grown up in the age of Barstool, helicopter parents and impossible expectations. We’re taught that making a mistake, an ignorant answer or awkward flirting is not just crude but heinous.  Photo by     rawpixel.com     from     Pexels

We’ve grown up in the age of Barstool, helicopter parents and impossible expectations. We’re taught that making a mistake, an ignorant answer or awkward flirting is not just crude but heinous. Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Author David Foster Wallace had a point that “the liberal arts cliché about teaching you to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”  

The ability to choose what one pays attention to is crucial in a world filled with distractions. In developing well-adjusted and free-thinking individuals, being exposed to the quirky, weird, awkward and obscene are imperative parts of growing up. However, as a generation we call for the exodus for the thing disturbing us rather than calming the troubled waters of our minds. 

At the same time, I understand my generation. We’ve grown up in the age of Barstool, helicopter parents and impossible expectations. We’re taught that making a mistake, an ignorant answer or awkward flirting is not just crude but heinous. Unfortunately college, rather than liberating ourselves from the mentality of helplessness, instead has confirmed it by disinviting the offender rather than inquiring why it offends.  

However, growth comes not from comfort but rather from adversity. It’s challenging to be introspective. One should not view being insensitive or having crude unreasoned opinions as the source of shame and instead should see remaining static in those beliefs as shameful. Professor Stone, a law professor from the University of Chicago writes that “about half of American college students now say that it is unsafe for them to express unpopular views. Many faculty members clearly share that sentiment. In this climate, it is especially important for universities to stand up for free expression.” This is the rub. How is one supposed to grow if it becomes increasingly unsafe to learn? People learn from challenge; learn by having their intellectual roots ripped from under them and sacrificed at the altar of truth; learn from having their perspective eviscerated. Unfortunately, when the person rather than the opinion is the one being skewered, growth becomes impossible. If the inner is seen as profane and offensive, why would it reveal itself to the world and risk being crushed?  

With the rise of the crypto-fascists and communism, now more than ever it becomes crucial for the University of Connecticut to stand up for educational principles. Hatred, bigotry, and racism thrive in worlds where people feel unable to express themselves. As the former president of the University of Chicago Robert Hutchins expresses, “the ‘cure’ for ideas we oppose ‘lies through open discussion rather than through inhibition’.” If institutions shirk their duty to challenge our ideas – to disallow meaningful dissent without threat of punishment – we all suffer at the hands of bad ideas. We all suffer from living the unexamined life. If we do not challenge our minds, we shall remain stuck. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to support open inquiry and engagement. Today, we remain at an important institutional crossroad, and I, a Robert Frost imposter, see the value of the road less taken. There’s value to trading complacency for growth. There’s value in teaching students to meaningfully engage with others with different viewpoints. In order to thrive in what seems like a cruel and unforgiving world rather than coddle us with trigger warnings and safe spaces, we ought to be taught the value of resistance and adversity. 

I understand that my cave has air conditioning, beautiful climbing walls, delicious food, and endless amenities. But alas, it remains a cave.  


Isadore Johnson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at isadore.johnson@uconn.edu 

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