The recent push for safe spaces on college campuses and the need to insulate academic environments from dissenting viewpoints are debates dominating the current news cycle. However, a 2009 United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision (Rodriguez v. Maricopa County Community College) has much to inform this ongoing discussion. The decision written by Chief Justice Alex Kozinski has a number of quotes that directly reflects the mission of Heterodox Academy:
“Without the right to stand against society’s most strongly-held convictions, the marketplace of ideas would decline into a boutique of the banal, as the urge to censor is greatest where debate is most disquieting and orthodoxy most entrenched.
Intellectual advancement has traditionally progressed through discord and dissent, as a diversity of views ensures that ideas survive because they are correct, not because they are popular. Colleges and universities—sheltered from the currents of popular opinion by tradition, geography, tenure and monetary endowments—have historically fostered that exchange. But that role in our society will not survive if certain points of view may be declared beyond the pale.
[T]he desire to maintain a sedate academic environment . . . [does not] justify limitations on a teacher’s freedom to express himself on political issues in vigorous, argumentative, unmeasured, and even distinctly unpleasant terms.”
With the push from campus groups to bar speakers, or disrupt and shut down speech that some students dislike, this decision shows that the result of silencing (i.e. censoring) opposing voices is a campus devoid of critical opportunities to learn and grow. A vast echo chamber does nothing to equip students with analytical thinking skills.
To avoid becoming a “boutique of the banal,” students must encourage, and accept, instances where their cherished ideas are questioned. Opportunities for discussion are not openings to push an agenda, they are the very reason higher education holds so much promise to elevate individuals and society together.