It is no secret that Colorado College is a predominantly liberal campus and that most students and faculty members possess political views very much on the left end of the political spectrum. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as many of us chose this school in part due to the progressive culture that is symptomatic of the school’s intellectual leanings, but it does begin to lay seeds of doubt in regards to the intellectual integrity of the debates and discussions that occur on campus. As an institution for higher learning, a large part of Colorado College’s value is the quality of ideas it produces and bestows to its students. However, diversity is just as important in the intellectual sphere as it is in the socioeconomic one, and it would seem on the surface that Colorado College possesses an imbalance in this regard.
I’d be willing to wager that most Colorado College students have experienced at least one instance of a professor going on a left wing political tangent unrelated or pseudo-related to the subject material of a class, and that’s indicative of how intellectually saturated the campus is with more liberal leanings. This is less of a problem in academic settings, such as political science or history, where professors are very aware of intellectual bias and often conduct discussions in a way to temper such an imbalance, but rather a problem in the baseline beliefs of the community in general. If Colorado College’s value lies in the ideas it produces and teaches to its students, then its value is also the ideas the Colorado College community propagates, as they have a pronounced influence on the campus as well.
The dangers of an intellectually unified community are easy to succumb to. In an intellectual echo chamber it becomes increasingly hard to personally perceive that you are in such a context. When you agree with all the ideas you hear, you begin to challenge them less and less and it may very well appear that everyone is being represented at the table because you might be unaware of the perspectives that might need to be there.
Great ideas come from rigorous debate that allows intellectual opponents to test each other’s ideas and introduce alternate perspectives to the discussion at hand. A debate of people who agree is not a debate at all, but rather a group session of self-affirmation where everyone can come to the same conclusions and skip all that inconvenient stuff like disagreements, difficult debate, and having to defend your ideas. Without tempering ideas with a diversity of opinion everyone gets the validation of being assured that they are correct and they get to sleep soundly at night. The problem surfaces when they distance themselves from what makes an idea intellectually sound and tested. Without conflicting opinions and ideas, things can get truly dangerous. If thinkers are constantly assured they are correct without opposing views, they can become increasingly radicalized (just watch the news), and if by chance those thinkers develop a sense of arrogance, things can get dicey fast.
As Nietzsche wrote, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” Although I’d like to think Colorado College as a community is far away from the corruption that Nietzsche is describing, it’s hard to ignore where the origins of such a corruption would stem, and it is truly concerning to see the student body’s opinion be so uniform.
As a community and possibly even an administration, an effort to introduce more opposing voices—even just unpopular opinions—into the community dialogue would be a boon for the intellectual strength of the community. Ideas should be judged on their merit and not merely on the size of the crowd that possesses them. That being said, introducing opposing voices and viewpoints should not be pedestals for hate speech or prejudices to be pedaled to the community, rather vehicles for ideas that may be unpopular to the community to stimulate academic discussions and then appropriate conclusions. The more opinions we can bring to the table, the stronger and more informed we will become as a community. The ideas that survive the constant debates, discussions, and arguments will be much stronger and better representative of our potential than the ones that are merely affirmed by consensus. If we can make this effort to be uncomfortable, we will reap the rewards of the insights and thoughts those ideas afford us. We will become a group that thinks rather than group-thinkers.