Friday, May 23, 2014

Commencement Speakers and The Giver


Much has been written about the protests at various schools over proposed commencement speakers.  I am not sure I have much original to add to the many thoughts that have been shared on the issue (See, e.g., Jonathan Adler (Case Western), The Volokh Conspiracy; Stephen Carter (Yale), Bloomberg; Glenn Harlan Reynolds (Tennessee), USA Today; Editorial Board, Washington Post), but the controversy did make me think of the dystopian society in The Giver where “Sameness” rules.

One of my younger sisters recently accepted a job with Walden Media, which is producing the upcoming film version of The Giver with The Weinstein Company (shameless plug - in theatres August 15, 2014).  My sister was amazed that I hadn’t read The Giver, as it is supposedly regular middle school reading, but it looks like the book (published in 1993) was not in the curriculum in time for me.  Yes, I feel older every day. 

Anyway, in a single day a few weeks ago, I read a borrowed copy of The Giver, which was a nice break from legal treatises and law review articles.  While I understand the “Elders” in The Giver were trying to protect people by ridding the community of differences, pain, conflict, and ridicule, it made for a shallow existence. 

Some of my most valuable moments in school occurred when I faced views I disagreed with and had to grapple with them.  As a professor, the most valuable conversations are often those with knowledgeable people with opposing opinions and ideas.  Going forward, I hope we will encourage engagement with those who see things differently than we do and continue the search for a more nuanced understanding of complex issues.

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As one who believes in more speech rather than less (as distinguished from trying to drown out another), let me laud the conclusory paragraph. I engage others whose perspectives are different in order to "test and weigh" my own. I abhor political correctness so long as the dialogue is not demeaning.

It seems we are promulgating a society of "the offended." If often seems we have created a society of "egg shells."

Posted by: Tom N | May 24, 2014 5:40:38 AM

Great post, and I completely agree. When I see news of the commencement protests, I can't help but think of the from the Life of Brian, where Brian says, "You are all individuals!" and the crowd responds in unison, "Yes! We are all individuals!"

Posted by: Joshua Fershee | May 27, 2014 10:33:00 AM

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