‘Intellectual repression’ causes concern

Dear Editor,

I am responding to Shannon Brown’s article “Students, make your voice heard” (10/14 STAR). As Brown pointed out, some teachers are not interested in hearing the opinions and ideas of their students, or having open discussions of real issues in their classes. Some respond irrationally to any contrary idea or questioning.

I call that response intellectual repression. I have experienced several examples in the psychology department, and have discussed the subject with social sciences interim dean, John Wingard. He said teachers have the right to determine the content of their class, and I should expect more of what I had characterized as intellectual repression in the future.

This right of teachers is sometimes referred to as “academic freedom,” but there are no freedoms involved for students. Wingard characterized remaining silent as “going along to get along.” I call it the mush-brain syndrome, because it retards the positive development of the brain.

There is merit to his statement if your only goal is to get a degree. Perhaps you simply enjoy having someone else think for you. Tyrants and crooks love people who do not think for themselves.

The university system is not designed to further the intellectual aspirations of its students, and certainly not to accommodate, in an efficient manner, the learning they need to meet their personal goals.

Primarily, the system is designed to extract the maximum number of dollars from each student, without committing the mistake of educating them adequately to have premature market value. It is designed to extract a nominal amount of work from recalcitrant students, through coercion, as a way to legitimize the grades that are given, and the degrees that are awarded.

It is designed to weed out students that are creative, independent or critical thinkers, by treating them abusively in various ways such as marginalization. Within my major the atmosphere is intellectually stifling and emotionally damaging, with only snake oil as a cure.

The blather I hear about critical thinking being taught is just that. My dictionary says of the word critical: “expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments,” or, an “analysis discussing pros and cons.”

Thinking is the use of “rational judgment.” It is preposterous to contend that students are learning critical thinking when they are not allowed to speak; when critical expression is punished, and only going along is rewarded.

Students are too busy memorizing trivia for tests, or regurgitating someone else’s ideas, to critically think or speak out even when it is tolerated. There are no lessons in “critical thinking.” Critical thinking is learned through practice and critical interaction and discussion. When critical thinking is repressed, a very important part of the brain simply does not develop.

- John Laraway, Student, Sonoma State University