The recent debate between Associate Professor and author Matthew Kroenig and Associate Professor and published writer Colin Kahl on the Iran nuclear deal is an exemplar for how academic and university discourse ought to be conducted. Campuses, due to the composition of their student bodies, often tend to favor a particular ideological bent, but crowd out viable opinions on the other side in the process.
Such practices sell students short. The university was designed as a forum for agreeable disagreement, where students can learn to appreciate nuance instead of polemic. The mission of a college education is to cultivate critical thinking. Pandering to the majority view and dismissing arguments purely out of ideological disagreement fosters intellectual laziness not only on the part of students, but in faculty as well.
Kroenig and Kahl displayed how there are salient viewpoints on both sides of the Iran deal. Both professors field undeniable expertise on Iran, so it can hardly be argued that one was more qualified than the other on the issue. And, despite their polar opposite approaches to the topic — preemptive military intervention against diplomacy — students walked out of the debate with a deeper understanding of the topic.
This exercise of debate on public issues should be conducted more frequently within the Georgetown community, especially as events usually lack nuance or are one-sided. Students are clearly invested in the content — approximately 200 attended the debate. Georgetown faculty wield considerable influence, thus influencing media discourse. As a whole, such events facilitate more effective civic engagement. Broadly speaking, Georgetown could also use this debate as a lesson on how to staff its faculty.
Too often in politics, candidates take extreme positions without justifying their stances. With presidential primary elections nearing, a better-informed student body would force candidates for public office to make more reasoned, detailed arguments.
People from every ideological persuasion should be welcome so that students can understand the spectrum of views associated with significant issues.
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