To Invite or Not Invite — That is the Question

We have the opportunity to have a scientist – a scientist who doesn’t believe in global warming theory – in to talk to the Upper School students. Because his is a controversial perspective, I’ve asked a variety of folks for their thoughts on this issue, and those in favour of our hosting him tend to believe:

  • We should be free to look at this issue from multiple perspectives.
  • “Settled” and “science” is an oxymoron. It was “settled” that bacterium caused ulcers.
  • The peer reviews have been manipulated. We now know there’s been a conspiracy to discredit dissenters.
  • We can trust our students to handle this and challenge falsehoods.
  • Isn’t this what a liberal arts education is all about?
  • Free speech should outweigh other concerns in this case.
  • Even though I disagree, it will spark a healthy debate.
  • The ToK side of me says let’s hear more sides on this argument!
  • We should give the boys the opportunity to read all the arguments before the mtg, and we need to have Q and A after he speaks.
  • Isn’t this what “inquiry” looks like?

Those who are strongly opposed to our inviting the scientists say things like:

  • This guy is a paid consultant to oil and gas companies.
  • The speaker might confuse our students.
  • This issue has been settled already! Why debate it?
  • What’s next –  Evangelical Republicans?
  • This will be bad science.
  • Assembly time is too precious for this individual.
  • By putting him in front of the students, we are legitimizing his point of view.
  • He’s inflated his own credentials.
  • We have an optics issue. We are a Green School and it will look bad to bring him here. We need to take a stand.
  • I’m not sure our students understand the nuances and the science behind all of this.

I’ve asked our Green School and Theory of Knowledge students to discuss the issue and will ask others if they are interested in holding a debate on this issue. The real question is where do we draw the line, when it comes to inviting outsiders to address our students? After all, we’d never invite people who promote racism, for example.

A personal aside: I remember being opposed to Columbia University’s decision to invite Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus two years ago. But I later  had seconds thoughts when I read that, after he had confidently stated that there were no gay people in Iran, Ahmadinejad was visibly stunned by the loud hooting and laughter that greeted his remark. (I don’t think Mahmoud gets laughed at all that often in Tehran.) I also remember the protesting students’ waving the banner, “Ahmadinejad is not a baller.”

But I digress. I tend to lean libertarian on issues such as this, but I wonder what you’d recommend?


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