Letter to the Editor: Free speech not an excuse for unsupported arguments

To the Editor:

Matt Esposito claims that conservative voices are suppressed in America’s schools. The irony is too much – a guy who writes a regular newpaper column claims that his ideas are being stifled? I too value free speech, but quality of speech also matters. Esposito’s rage doesn’t excuse his sloppy argument.

Esposito cites two examples. In the first, a teacher placed pictures of President Bush alongside the Founding Fathers on his wall, parents objected, and the teacher was criticized – a valid attempt to prevent a teacher from imposing political beliefs on students. But unless other teachers were allowed to keep pictures only of Sen. John Kerry on their walls, then there’s no evidence of bias. That’s the one crucial piece of evidence for evaluating even this single example, and Esposito doesn’t get it.

In the second example, a white Republican disrupted some African-American students’ Bible study by posting a flyer they found racially offensive during their Campus Crusade meeting. It was probably a misunderstanding, but the school told him to seek counseling. It’s not clear how this is left-wing suppression, unless Esposito considers the Campus Crusade to be left-wing. Esposito gives no evidence that this strange anecdote represents a larger pattern.

These days we are bombarded with diverse ideas, rants, claims and opinions. To wade through all this muck without being led astray, we must acquire the ability to think critically. The worst thing schools can do is fail to teach people how to discern logical arguments from spurious allegations by evaluating evidence that supports them.

If one party says pi = 3.14 and one says pi = 4.13, it is not the responsibility of schools to teach both. It is the responsibility of schools to teach students how to figure out which is correct, and why one of the parties is lying.