In Praise of Diversity

July 20, 2012

I’ve written often on this blog about issues of academic freedom, a value the academy seems both to cherish and to misunderstand.

Thus, I was particularly pleased to see this recent opinion piece on “Valuing Diversity of Opinions” by Kent Chabotar, President of Guilford College, another fine Quaker College.  “Many believe that Guilford is a left-wing echo chamber where it is easier to be accepted if you are a social activist who abhors capitalism, sports and the American flag,” says Chabotar.  I had the same concern about Earlham even though I knew there was more diversity of perspective on campus than it often appeared.

Chabotar urges,

Think it possible you might be mistaken. To paraphrase Churchill, truth is like an elusive butterfly — gleaming, fluttering, settling for an instant with wings fully spread to the sun, then vanishing in the shades of the forest. What you believe depends on the slanting glimpses you had of the color of its wings.

And wryly skeptical that you ever can know the whole truth, actively seek out the opinions of those who see things another way.  You don’t have to let go of what you have come to know or believe, you just have to be open to the possibility that you haven’t yet got it completely right.  You may surprise yourself.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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