There’s a growing perception among the general public that education and indoctrination are becoming synonymous with one another. In response, I designed a course entitled Freedom of Thought that is taught as part of Boise State University’s general education ethics and diversity sequence. This course addresses public perception by employing the point-counterpoint teaching philosophy to explore the ethics related to the inclusion of ideological diversity. This approach encourages students to consider counterpoints to their points of view, focused not on agreement, but understanding. The expectation isn’t that students change who they are, but get to know who they are at a deeper level, for deeper learning. Actively practicing our freedom of thought, we’ll cover a myriad of topics from a variety of opposing and conflicting perspectives. Students are cautioned before registering for the course that choosing to enroll means understanding that the classroom environment may not always be an emotionally safe space, but an intellectually brave space.
Freedom of Thought covers seven (7) distinct topic areas (health, wealth, race, love, gender, sexuality, ideology) over 15 sessions. Each of these topic areas are taught with the underlying assumption that there is no “prevailing argument”. The context of these topics are taught within the point-counterpoint framework, assuming the concept that there is no “right answer”. This approach is theorized to prepare students for industry and life in general as they will likely encounter ideas and ideologies that differ from their own in their professional and personal lives. By analyzing ideas and ideologies different from their own in this course, applying the analysis to articulate several sides of an argument, the hope is that they will grow into reflective, self-motivated, learners-for-life.
Freedom of Thought is designed to teach students that the point-counterpoint practice skills are just as applicable to opinion-based topics as they are to more academic, fact-based topics. In fact, we’re living in a society today where the line between objectivity and subjectivity is becoming blurred. Persuasive skills are a core tenet of the point-counterpoint philosophy because we have to persuade ourselves to believe our opposition has as credible a point as we do, otherwise we are not truly counterpointing.
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