Tag Archives: Philosophy Club

The Other DEI… Diversity in Examining Ideas

The Other DEI… Diversity in Examining Ideas

There is the need for civil dialogue on the complex and controversial issues of our time.  It should be one of the tasks of higher education to illuminate the path toward such a goal.  This quest, however, is fraught with danger in that there are some who would rather shut down dialogue and debate rather than engage in rational intellectual interchange.  The examination of ideas and perspectives different from one’s own can be disorienting.  I often remind students to embrace the cognitive dissonance they may at times experience as they learn new philosophical ideas, rather than simply run from it.  Even if one does not change their views on a given topic, the challenge of working through the intellectual discomfort of foreign ideas can lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the views which they hold.  I hope all would resonate with the words found in the Arizona Revised Statutes when they state:

“It is not the proper role of an institution of higher education to shield individuals from speech protected by the first amendment, including, without limitation, ideas and opinions that may be unwelcome, disagreeable or deeply offensive.”

Toward this end of promoting free exchange in the marketplace of ideas, the GCC Philosophy and Religious Studies Department along with the GCC Philosophy Club continues to sponsor its bi-annual panel discussions—God & Truth; Critical Dialogues.  These events allow a spectrum of speakers to engage significant and, sometimes, controversial topics in an atmosphere of mutual respect and reasoned engagement.  The issues discussed run the gamut from religious issues such as the meaning of life and God and morality to the political and cultural issues of transgenderism and religious rights and civil rights.

Our recent Critical Dialogues panel was titled “Religion and the Public Square: Scope and Limits of the First Amendment” and, as the title indicates, dealt with the extent of religious speech and expression in light of other recognized rights. 

We are already planning our next Critical Dialogues panel discussion set for October and we are planning to tackle one of the most contentious issues in our culture—Abortion.  Dealing with a topic which is prone to sloganeering and emotion is challenging and we are hopeful of examining the philosophical and legal aspects of this debate from different perspectives.  And, as always, we will be seeking to model to our students, staff, and community how to have a serious and substantive conversation in an engaging and civil manner. 

I wrote a piece for the 6×6 blog series back in February 2020 (before Covid!)—Celebrating the Value of Free Speech!—and I ended that piece with the following words which still seem apropos:

The Need for Vigilance

The culture of free expression and civil disagreement is healthy at Glendale Community College. This is partly a function of the laws enshrined in the Arizona statutes as well as the legal precedents handed down in defense of the Maricopa County Community College District.  For example, in a 2010 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit—Rodriquez v. Maricopa County Community College District—these powerful words are found:

“Without the right to stand against society’s most strongly-held convictions, the marketplace of ideas would decline into a boutique of the banal, as the urge to censor is greatest where debate is most disquieting and orthodoxy most entrenched.  The right to provoke, offend and shock lies at the core of the First Amendment. This is particularly so on college campuses.”  

Laws and legal precedent are necessary but not sufficient.  There is always the need for vigilance.  There must continue to be a firm commitment to freedom on the part of individuals who inhabit our institutions of higher learning.  As Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate remind us, “Freedom dies in the heart and will before it dies in the law.”  It is for this reason that institutions like Glendale Community College with their commitment to the free exchange of ideas ought to be celebrated and emulated.


Community… where everybody knows your name

Why is it I find myself humming the theme song from the 1980s sitcom “Cheers?”

 Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You want to be where you can see

Our troubles are all the same

You want to be where everybody knows your name

Ah… the hunger and quest for community.  To be known by name by those who are glad you came—finding such a place is a great human good!

Here at GCC, there are two communities that I am a part of that have allowed me to participate in this “great human good.”  The one is relatively new, and the other is a longer-term community that is producing deep and lasting relational effects.

The first, and newer, community is a Christian Professors Group.  As the name would imply, this group is a community of like-minded individuals that gather regularly for discussion on how our mutual faith-commitment can stimulate us in our role as educators.  This is a shared comradery that seeks to inculcate and sustain serious reflection on how the Christian knowledge tradition can influence us as participants in our various disciplines as well as move us to “love our neighbor” inside and outside the classroom.  It is exciting to be challenged to think about the intellectual virtues needed in the academic context and how these might be modeled in our GCC context.  One such intellectual virtue is that of being “fair-minded.”  In his book The Outrageous Idea of the Missional Professor, Paul Gould helpful notes:

“The virtue of intellectual fair-mindedness requires that we willingly listen in an even-handed way to those with whom we disagree.  It is to strive to understand another’s position and to resist erecting simplistic straw man arguments against our opponents which in turn are quickly (and often smugly) refuted.  Perhaps the worry is that being open to another’s viewpoint in a fair-minded way leads to relativism.  Alternatively, perhaps the worry is that such fair-mindedness is not possible given our psychological biases.  Neither worry is legitimate.  Being fair-minded is consistent with the belief that there is an objective truth to be found.  Further, one can be psychologically biased and maintain rational objectivity.  Our biases don’t stand as an insurmountable wall between our minds and the objective world.  Being fair-minded is one application of the golden rule: we would want others to treat us and the views we hold with fairness and charity, and we should do likewise in return.”

Engaging with fellow travelers in the Way as we seek to bring truth, value, and charity to our students and institution has been rewarding.

The second community is one which I have had a longer tenure with—six years—and in which I have found on-going friendship as well as intellectual challenge.  I’m speaking of the GCC Philosophy Club.  The wonderful community provided by this group of individuals is due, in large part, to the pioneering efforts and ongoing activity of the head of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department, Peter Lupu.  He is the community-builder behind the community we enjoy.

Peter and I on a panel discussion in 2019

Over the years the GCC Philosophy Club has had many students participate in its activities.  Every Friday at 1 pm we can be found outside the LA building under the “Tree of Knowledge” discussing, debating, laughing, and, just in general, having a good time.  We even have doughnuts occasionally.  There is an exciting energy in having 6-12 students and faculty engaged in topics of keen importance (and some which are frivolous but fun).  Our end of the semester meals at a local restaurant are memorable.  There’s nothing like experiencing a student committed to communism have to courageously defend his views over a plate of gyros and fries!

One measure of the power of this community is how many students who have graduated from GCC continue to come back and join our discussions.  During the peak time of Covid when we were meeting virtually, we sometimes had more former students joining us for our Zoom calls than current students.  Personally, I have made friendships with students that have continued beyond their time at GCC.  I know students pursuing degrees in philosophy who are now at ASU and U of A, and we continue to stay in contact, trading articles back-and-forth and catching a lunch together when we can.  In fact, last summer I met with a group of former GCC students every Friday for lunch at our favorite pizza place—well, it was my favorite.  We would discuss philosophy articles and current events.  And, of course, all of this was punctuated by tons of laughter, Pepsi and pizza.

Community… the word speaks of the safety and the goodness of friendship.  To find it is to find something precious.  I’m thankful of the places where everybody knows my name (and I theirs) and they are glad to include me in their number.