The Wisconsin Idea is one of the oldest and deepest traditions associated with the university — with a general message of influencing lives beyond the walls of the classroom. The vigorous challenge of ideals and thought-provoking intellectual conversation is just one aspect of the Wisconsin Idea. It parallels the fundamental principle that America is a melting pot of backgrounds, languages, ideas and individuals.
Differences are what make America special and allow the Wisconsin Idea to function.
In today’s political climate, the fundamental principle of the Wisconsin Idea seems to have become more challenging and maybe forgotten. Conservatives felt they have fallen into a spiral of silence, while liberals are fighting off the ideas of “hate and intolerance,” causing chaos in the marketplace of ideas and the public square. According to the Pew Research Center, liberals are more likely to unfriend someone on a social network or end a personal friendship because politics and conservatives are more likely to hear similar political opinions on Facebook or from personal friends. In fact, there is a lot more differences between the two, and society as a whole cannot benefit from toxic polarization.
The Wisconsin Idea was created to fight off the “polarization” chaos and yes, continues to thrive. In fact, next Thursday, Nov. 16 is no better example.
The University of Wisconsin’s Young Americans for Liberty will host Canadian professor of psychology and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson for an event entitled “Political Indoctrination on Campus.” Peterson, now a full-time professor at the University of Toronto, has published more than 100 published scientific papers, and has gained recognition for his contributions understanding personality the psychology of religion.
His claim to fame came in 2016 when he posted a couple of YouTube videos criticizing Canada’s C-16 Bill, which “add[s] gender identity and gender expression to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.” Peterson contested and argued an individual could be prosecuted for refusing to use an individual’s preferred pronouns. His name suddenly became very famous in academia as his YouTube videos and channel skyrocketed in popularity and views, and his online self program, The Self Authoring Suite, has been featured across many different platforms including NPR’s national website. An advocate against cultural Marxism and postmodern thought, Peterson has spoken on college campuses, appeared on Waking Up With Sam Harris, and recently sat down on the Rubin Report.
By inviting him to speak and by him coming, the Wisconsin Idea and classic liberal principle of higher education are being enacted. Regardless of your political background and beliefs, we should applaud the opportunity to interact and listen to an individual with the pedigree as Peterson. Our ideas will be challenged. Our eyes will be opened up to new perspectives. Our minds will be expanded. Everything the Wisconsin Idea is about.
The Wisconsin Idea of extending beyond the walls of the classrooms should be taken more seriously. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wisc., said on a Sunday morning political talk show, “We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of this unhealthy dynamic in our democracy.” He goes on to explain nothing gets done in the ugliness of the toxic environment we are in and he’s right — nothing gets done in a toxic polarized political climate.
And where does it start? Right here at the University of Wisconsin.
Whether or not you go listen to Dr. Peterson speak, the Wisconsin Idea can continue thriving — and it must. Go make new friends who might disagree — hell, go out for a beer. Go visit a church, or a mosque or a temple. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Go explore new ideas. Read a book. Just challenge your mind. After all, that’s what you or your parents are paying thousands of dollars for — the Wisconsin Idea.
Steven Jotterand ([email protected]) is a junior studying journalism.