Are Some Ideas Too Dangerous to Teach?

Expert Panel to discuss the issue of Free Speech on Campus

Join the Discussion, Wednesday, November 21st at 7p.m at the St Catharines Public Library on James Street in the City’s downtown.

An Invite to All from Brock University
Posted November 19th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Are some ideas too dangerous to teach? That question is at the heart of a panel discussion taking place Wednesday, Nov. 21 at St. Catharines Public Library.

Brock University Political Science Professor Leah Bradshaw and Labour Studies Assistant Professor Paul Gray are part of a panel discussion on free speech being held at St. Catharines Library Nov. 21.

Titled “Dangerous Ideas, Dangerous Times: What, if any, are the limits to free speech on campus?” the event brings together a panel of Canadian experts, including Brock University Political Science Professor Leah Bradshaw and two professors from the University of Toronto. Brock Labour Studies Assistant Professor Paul Gray will moderate the discussion.

Bradshaw says the global rise of fascist movements and an eruption of freedom of speech issues on campuses and in the media make this discussion relevant.

 “We teach ideas,” she says. “Does academic freedom mean we have completely unbridled license to teach whatever we want without thinking about the political consequences? How should we teach the ideas of somebody who was politically implicated in something we find reprehensible?”

The Ontario government recently brought the issue directly to campuses when it enacted legislation requiring all universities to develop policies that guarantee free speech. Gray says some people think there was no threat to free speech and see the legislation as a suppression of protest, while others think it doesn’t go far enough.

University of Toronto panelist Clifford Orwin, a defender of free speech who supports the government’s initiative, advocates that, for the sake of intellectual and social progress, universities must expose students to different points of view.

Gray says that panelist Ronald Beiner, also from the University of Toronto, argues for “the connection between what we teach in the university and our obligation to defend the liberal democracy that we live in.”

Gray acknowledges that some groups feel such debates can do harm to students from marginalized groups, but others argue that even hate speech should be protected as free speech.

  “Hearing from both perspectives is the point of having this discussion,” he says. “We want to engage with the strongest arguments from every perspective.”

Bradshaw says the event is not meant as an endorsement of any particular school of thought.

 “This is a panel to consider all perspectives on the issue,” she said. “The panel will present three different perspectives and we hope to get more perspectives from the audience.”

The discussion is to start at 7 p.m., but Gray anticipates a strong turnout and advises anyone planning to attend to arrive early. A similar public event that Bradshaw participated in was organized in wake of the 2016 U.S. election and drew a capacity crowd from the University and wider Niagara community.

  • What: Panel discussion: “Dangerous Ideas, Dangerous Times: What, if any, are the limits to free speech on campus?”
  • When: Wednesday Nov. 21, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Mills Room, St. Catharines Public Library Central Branch
  • Who: Panelists Leah Bradshaw, Brock University; Clifford Orwin, University of Toronto; Ronald Beiner, University of Toronto; Moderator Paul Gray, Brock University.

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 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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