Critical Citizens Vital to a Republic

By Alex Emslie
The Guardsman

City College is a public institution, one offering a liberal education that should challenge students and faculty alike to be cynical and active citizens.

The higher education offered at City College should not embrace a certain political ideology, but should teach students how to learn. This personal learning process must be apolitical, diverse, secular and skeptical or it will be corrupted.

So why does the college plan to celebrate the election of President Barack Obama on Dec. 2? Would there be a similar celebration to commemorate the election of John McCain had he won the presidency?

There probably wouldn’t, nor should there be. But there shouldn’t be a celebration for Obama either, not in a public school. Private institutions are entirely within their rights to weave bias into their curriculum, molding the morality and politics of their students, but City College should instill objectivity and the civic duty to question those in power.

When U.S. citizens elected Barack Obama, they elected a career politician — an unavoidable circumstance of this nation’s presidential election system. Even if it was right for City College to endorse governance from the left — and it’s not — that is not Obama’s platform. The issues show little difference between the two parties.

Does City College espouse sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan or bombing Pakistan? How about abandoning a public option for health-care reform in favor of conciliation to the right, despite a “super majority” in the senate? Or back-room concessions to giant pharmaceutical lobbies? Or Obama’s watered-down stance on torture prosecution? The list goes on.

Obama could turn out to be one of the best presidents this nation has ever had, but to positively affect the daunting issues the U.S. faces, he needs informed and critical citizens, not yes men.

“No president should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary,” President John Kennedy said in a 1961 address to the American Newspaper Publisher’s Association. “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive.”

A democracy weakens with apathy and dies with hero worship. The U.S. government cannot function if its population fails to question and criticize those in power. No political platform should be endorsed by this school. Celebrating the election of a sitting president is an affront to the idea of a diverse, liberal education.

City College should never elevate one set of rational ideas above another. Is it the intention of this college to squelch conservative thought? Diversity of opinion is the strength of this nation, not dismissive politics. Too often, we allow ourselves to divide over issues and forget that adversarial checks form the foundation upon which our government functions.

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