How we are all failing our students
Ric Edelman: It's Wednesday, October 25th. We have all been shocked and horrified by the events that are going on in Israel in its war against Hamas, a war that Israel did not choose to fight, but which finds itself forced to engage in. And we have been shocked and horrified by some of the reactions here in the United States, particularly on college campuses. You know the stories as well as I do. I don't need to elaborate on what they all are, but we have seen student organizations, as well as student led protests at campuses across the country in support of Hamas, arguing that it is Israel's fault that this conflict is going on. It is shocking and appalling and horrifying. Downright scary.
Most of all, we're shocked, I think, at the fact that so many of these college students are unwittingly falling victim to the propaganda that Hamas is issuing. How can these students be so dumb? And more importantly, perhaps, how can the university faculty and university administration be permitting these protests and the intolerable comments and anti-Semitism that is being displayed?
And then we saw the response by some major law firms and Wall Street firms saying that they want lists of the names of the students who have signed these petitions and letters blaming Israel for this horrific situation so that they can avoid hiring these students. Yeah, they want to create a blacklist of these students.
And I've seen a lot of folks applauding this reaction from the Fortune 500 and major Wall Street and financial and legal firms. And it's got me to thinking, since this is a show about the future, what does this mean for the future of America?
Yeah, I'm solidly in the camp of supporting Israel 100%. I am solidly in the camp of opposing and being horrified the behavior of the students, and I kind of love it when I see the CEO of a law firm saying, I don't want to offer a job to any law student who is a participant in the pro-Hamas movement.
Okay, it's fun to react that way, but let's think about that for a minute. How does this help educate today's college students? Isn't that the whole point of going to college to get an education? This isn't supposed to be a platform for you to express solely your point of view, to the exclusion of considering others points of views.
Isn't education all about helping students realize where they've gone astray, where they're being misguided, how they're being manipulated in an effort to help them see an alternative, to help them learn the error of their ways, to help them improve their thought process, their thinking, their evaluation and analytic skills. Not to forcibly change their mind, I'm going to threaten you with a career blacklist so that you can never get a job as a lawyer. To get you to change your opinion, but rather to gently and convincingly persuade you to help you understand that you may be getting misled by others with an agenda you haven't fully appreciated or understood.
If we are moving so quickly to merely condemn. A 20-year old for being passionate about a cause without helping the 20-year old understand the implications of their viewpoint. I think we're doing those students a disservice and our own society a disservice in the long run.
But how do you go about persuading someone who is screaming at the top of their lungs, death to Israel, that they're wrong to have that viewpoint? How much time and effort would you have to devote to help explain to these students why they should consider a different set of facts, and how to recognize that the information they have is propaganda and not fact?
Who's going to engage the students in this exercise, and how long will it take? How much effort will it require? How much funding will be needed? How do we pull that off? Wouldn't it just be a lot faster and easier to segregate these people from our society, to push them off onto an island unto themselves and ostracize them and keep them at bay, away from the rest of mainstream America, where they can do no harm, cause no problem.
Yeah, it might be easier and faster to create a blacklist. Think back to World War Two, when there were fears of Communism and Hollywood, and we created a blacklist of so many Hollywood writers and producers and actors, fed by hearings on Capitol Hill by Senator Eugene McCarthy. We know that that didn't succeed in changing anybody's minds.
All it did was destroy the careers and lives of so many innocent people, and at the same time, failed to help many others realize that their anti-sentiments were misplaced, misguided, factually incorrect.
My concern is that we are moving more and more toward a comprehensive cancel culture that while in the beginning one political party accused the other of engaging in cancel culture, now it appears that both political parties are engaging in this behavior. And now it seems so as corporate America, corporate America quickly saying, if you said this on a college campus, I will never hire you.
Is this cancel culture, this divisiveness, truly what is in America's best interests for our long-term future? Is this truly representative of who we are as a nation? I'm not suggesting that we understand or tolerate the viewpoints of those who are rattling off vicious anti-Semitism and Pro-Hamas remarks. I'm arguing that we should talk together and learn together and understand each other better to prevent these kinds of conflicts from growing, because while it might simply be college students yelling and screaming at each other across campus.
We know that it is leading to isolated incidents of violence by individuals, such as the stabbing last week of a six-year old boy merely because he was Muslim, to where people now hold far more powerful weapons than knives, where they hold in their hands buttons to nuclear weapons.
My concern for our future is that we are not any longer the melting pot that America has for hundreds of years been. We are becoming a tossed salad. We are not living together. We are merely living side by side. And we are staying within our cocoons. We're staying selective within our environments... I'm not going to move to a state if most of those people don't agree with me politically; I'm not going to live in a community if most of those people aren't aligned with me religiously; I'm not going to go work for an employer if they aren't taking a stand politically.
This isn't who America has been. It does not match the ideals of who America wants to be, and we need to make a decision what our future will look like. It is my hope that we'll take the more challenging and difficult route and learn about each other, learn from each other better, understand each other, because the alternative will be much worse than any of us want.