The Fear of Education

  1. In the article “Willful Ignorance on Campus” by Lee McIntrye, he discusses the uprising issue of offensive speech and if students should be protected from it. A few colleges have had incidents where a person’s right to free speech has been challenged. At Yale University, a student tried to force a professor to apologize for a supposedly offensive e-mail written by his wife. Also, at Williams College a speaker was disinvited to give a speech, even when the name of the speaker series was ironically called ‘Uncomfortable Learning’. McIntrye argues that students on campus have become a form “willful ignorance, which is when we know that there are other ideas out there, but we refuse to consider them” (McIntrye). McIntrye believes that willful ignorance should not be happening for the reason that “certainty is dangerous, especially on a college campus, where ideas are supposed to be questioned” (McIntrye). In other words, McIntrye believes that college is the best atmosphere to have everyone’s ideas challenged. This allows us to listen to other people; we can either agree or disagree with someone, but sharing why we think that way is important to other people and our own development. Do you agree with McIntrye? Is it beneficial for students to be uncomfortable in their learning environment? If students become accustomed to “willful ignorance” in college, will this hinder their ability to solve issues and disputes later in their life? If so, how are we able to help this situation?


  1. In the article “A Plague of Hyper Sensitivity” by Todd Gitlin discusses the debate that people want protection or a warning from visual or verbal disturbances. Gitlin ties the idea of uncomfortable learning with the rising numbers of rapes, sexual assaults, and murders and then goes on to say “discomfort is the crucible of learning” (Gitlin). In other words, he says that these brutalities happen in real life, and often times on college campuses. College should be preparing us for the real world, not protecting us from it. Most people can agree that rapes, sexual assaults, murders, etc. are disturbing to hear, but doesn’t that mean we should learn about them so we are more aware and able to protect ourselves better? Later in his article, he discusses that people are becoming more cautious when they speak. “We’d rather say, ‘I’m uncomfortable with what you say’ than ‘I disagree with you’” (Gitlin). People are almost afraid to really share their opinions and ideas. Does being conscious when speaking and debating hinder our learning and understanding? In Fredrik DeBoer’s article, “Watch What You Say”, he discusses that professors especially have become fearful of losing their job as a result of challenging their students and making classes “uncomfortable” for the purpose of learning and discussing. He argues there is a “pervasive culture of fear at Universities” (Deboer). Students are scared of being uncomfortable, disturbed, and challenged; professors have a fear of losing their jobs to students who are fearful. If professors don’t teach uncomfortable issues, will students be deprived? And if professors are too scared to teach certain lessons, will we be accustomed to always having a comfortable mind? Is that a bad thing?

Big Words:

Bipartisan- of, relating to, or involving members of two parties

Silo- isolate (one system, process, department, etc) from others

Fervor- intense and passionate feeling