A professor who stresses learning, ideas, not liberal politics


Reading through a recent issue of Forbes, I came across a wonderful quote from inventor R. Buckminster Fuller. He observed: “You cannot change things by fighting existing reality: To change things you must build a new model to make the existing model obsolete.”

I saw that truth during a recent speaking engagement at the University of California, Berkeley.

I have been speaking on university campuses for more than 20 years, and over this time, I have seen the palpable cultural changes: more dominance by the political left, and less tolerance for a broad spectrum of viewpoints.

But lecturer Alan Ross, who is on the faculty at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, has built a new model that, in contrast to the illiberalism and intolerance dominating university campuses these days, promotes dialogue and respect,

Ross teaches political science and, at each meeting, he invites speakers from across the political spectrum.

When I received an invitation to address Ross’s class, my first inclination was to decline.

Last February, violent protests at Berkeley forced the cancellation of a scheduled appearance by conservative then-Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. He was there to address the college Republicans.

The following month, American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray encountered violence and protests interrupting his guest lecture at Middlebury College in Vermont, resulting in one of the college’s professors receiving a concussion.

I thought, no thanks, Berkeley. However, I was offered private security protection. And five colleagues from the Frederick Douglass Foundation agreed to accompany me, as did a pastor from my organization, CURE.

So I went.

To my very pleasant surprise, I discovered that professor Ross has developed a sane, civil and educational model for presenting a broad spectrum of viewpoints to students, which he has now been doing for 32 years.

I spoke to about 600 attentive students in a large hall about my proposals for conservative reforms to fight ingrained poverty, including ending the use of taxpayer funds for abortion providers, housing and school vouchers, business tax-free zones, retirement savings accounts for low-income earners and tax credits for charitable contributions in targeted ZIP codes.

Students asked questions, and then I departed without incident.

What is Alan Ross’s secret? His “new” model restores the university to what it is supposed to be and once was: about learning, not politics.

When did universities transform from being places for learning to platforms for politics? I would attribute it to part of our overall cultural decline, where we have lost a sense that there is truth in the world to discover and live by. When relativism takes over and we lose a sense that there is any absolute truth, everything becomes politics rather than learning. Students come to university to express their opinion rather than to learn what they don’t know.

The seal of the University of California displays the motto “Let There Be Light.” When did this noble aspiration get lost?



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