Perspectives on Civil Discourse from two Hobart Alumni

Editors Note: The opinions shared in this article do not reflect the overall position of The Herald, but rather offer insight from the authors.

By Jim Anderton ’65 & Nick Hurd ‘64

Please allow us to use this forum to explore some of our concerns about education today and how our undergraduate years at HWS prepared us to deal with them.

We are all familiar with the seemingly overworked terms “woke” and “critical race theory.”  But, what do these terms mean and how might they affect education in today’s classrooms?

“Woke” primarily relates to discrimination and racial prejudice.  To help ameliorate these troubling wrongs, “political correctness” is (too often?) employed.  This alleviative, at its core, seeks to eliminate untoward sensibilities relating to race, LBGT, sex, and gender.  Unfortunately, various perspectives seek to expand this basic definition to support their other biases – frequently political biases.

“Critical race theory” deals with institutional discrimination.  Some examples are red-lining with respect to housing, tax policies that favor the rich, college admission criteria that favor legacies or the rich, gerrymandered voting districts, and school districts that place poorly regarded teachers in low income neighborhoods.

So, how might the above affect today’s education in the classrooms of HWS?  Are they used to educate our students through open discussions or are they employed to indoctrinate students to become polarized ideologues that are not open to listening and free speech?  Are students penalized when they disagree with their professor’s perspectives?  These are primary concerns of ourselves and many alums of our era about liberal arts education today.

Using Churchill’s language, the above is, “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”  Are students free to speak; are professors open to listening; can a thoughtful, rational classroom dialogue occur in which all perspectives are given the opportunity to speak and all perspectives are heard and respected?  Listening skills are just as important as speaking skills.  No one ever learns by speaking – learning occurs by listening.  The entrenched position of a woke or non-woke ideologue, or a critical race theorist or non-critical race theorist ideologue usually precludes listening and learning and all involved – students and professors – become victims of entrenched philosophies.

Because students and professors come from a multitude of different backgrounds and experiences, there is no singular, non-nuanced position relating to woke or critical race theory.  Singular positions are usually found in dictator-type countries and institutions and from extremist groups who refuse to consider alternatives to their narrow point of view.  Freedom is the hallmark of American society and, gratefully, one of the values revered by an education during our undergraduate years.  We hope this open perspective continues today at HWS.  We have learned that we can have prioritized passions, but we try not let them impinge on the rights and freedoms of others.  Hopefully this openness with respect is worth perpetuating.

                                                        Jim Anderton ‘65

                                                        Nick Hurd ‘64

Anderton has a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy, was a community college President (16,000 students at that time), and served as Chairman of the Teacher Education Accreditation Council, now CAEP, that accredits college and university programs that graduate certified teachers.

Hurd served as a Managing Director of Russell Reynolds Associates (an executive search and consulting firm) for more than 20 years.  He led and collaborated in its engagements for a broad range of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations including searches for college and university executives.

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