I'm for debating anything

"In all my years, I never seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn't be talked about.  Hell, yes.  I'm for debating anything," declared Delegate Stephen Hopkins in a scene from 1776, the lively film about the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  To that, I say amen!

Here in America, we are blessed with the First Amendment, which guarantees us freedom of speech.  Freedom of speech is a rare thing in this world, and it deserves much credit for the success of the American experiment.  Extremists on the left and the right here and overseas hate our First Amendment and freedom of speech because they hunger to control our thoughts and impose their beliefs on our society.

In many of the subversive, America-hating colleges and universities across our land that preach the glories of diversity, all kinds of diversity are promoted except intellectual diversity.  Only leftist views are welcome.  Conservative ideas are reviled as hate speech, racism, and even treason.

In fairness, there are exceptions.  The University of Chicago recently affirmed freedom of speech and drafted what is now called the Chicago Principles.  Eighty-four other colleges and universities have adopted this eloquent defense of freedom of speech.  The Chicago Principles convey the conviction of former University of Chicago President Robert M. Hutchins, who said, "Without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university."

Image: Debate from Pixabay.

I taught English in government high schools for 23 years.  The class I enjoyed teaching most was Speech and Debate.  I chose the Lincoln-Douglas debate format, which calls for a 32-minute discussion.  The two debaters are responsible for 16 minutes each as they spar.  I always offered a wide range of topics to my students.  The subjects had to be debatable, timely, and researchable.  While some of the debates I witnessed in my classes were unremarkable, there were wonderful and sparkling exceptions that warmed my heart.

As I reached the final phase of my teaching, my school system abandoned teaching Speech and Debate in favor of catchalls like English 9, English 10, English 11, and English 12.  Considering the "cancel culture" environment in which we now live, I wonder if that decision was part of a more significant effort to discourage lively debate in favor of groupthink.

Knowing how to think on our feet is essential.  Hearing our debate opponent raise interesting arguments that must be rebutted challenges us intellectually.  I applaud Delegate Hopkins and President Hutchins, both of whom relished the give-and-take of competing views.  We are better when debate is welcomed, but cancel culture diminishes us.

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