In his most recent column, Barney Keller describes a grotesque statement that the University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill made about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 ("Protecting Free Speech, One Idiot at a Time," 2/10/05). Keller makes it clear that he "absolutely defend[s] [Churchill's] right to say these cutting and hurtful things" before bluntly suggesting that he be fired.
Apparently, Keller feels this way not because of what Churchill said but because the professor "created an environment both at his school and most likely in his classroom that prevented college students from thinking for themselves." That's foolish. For one thing, it may be true that Churchill was too aggressive, but where is Keller's evidence? He certainly doesn't refer elsewhere in his article to any attempt on Churchill's part to suppress his students' opinions. The idea comes out of nowhere. It is especially revealing that Keller has to resort to the phrase "most likely."
In any case, Keller's argument rests on the assumption that a professor who tries to force distasteful ideas on his students is "preventing" those students from reaching their own conclusions. The rather insulting implication, of course, is that young people can't think for themselves to begin with and will believe anything that an instructor tells them.
The strangest part of Keller's piece may be its final sentence. He states that the professor might soon be out of work and adds, "If Churchill likes, I know of a job that is open where the main requirement is political correctness and muzzling the minority: chairman of the Democratic Party." What bothers me the most, perhaps, is Keller's distorted understanding of "political correctness," in the negative sense of the term. A man who says what Churchill said about the victims of the New York attacks can be called many things. But I don't think that he can be called excessively politically correct.
John Robert Martin
First-year in the College
I completely agree with Moniva Groat's assessment of Bush's stance toward gay marriage ("Bush's Values Bring Great Consequences," 2/10/05). As a Catholic, I believe that if I were homosexual, it would be immoral for me to practice it (whether or not I'd continue to be Catholic; however, if I had that trait, is up for speculation). However, I also believe that I am not permitted to enforce my beliefs on anyone else. This is the only way I can ensure that my own beliefs are not in jeopardy. If certain people believe that marriage is valid between two individuals of the same sex, then let them get married all they want, and I'll respect that. However, I do wonder if Groat believes that there are any absolute morals that everyone should follow (such as, for example, the virtue of tolerance). Also, since in my mind it is very closely connected to gay marriage, I wonder what Groat thinks of polygamy? It too is a form of marriage which involves consenting adults, but it is currently banned in most places.
Second-year in the College