In a world dominated by conformity, it’s refreshing to hear of people who defy the status quo, challenge convention, and stand up for their principles, no matter how unpopular. While it is refreshing to hear of those who defy the status quo, individuals who do so are too often dubbed “controversial” with all of it glorious negative connotation. We hope to show a more positive side of controversial-ness.
Nonconformists are not always liberals in the modern political sense (progressive, left-wing) but they are all liberals in the classic sense of expanding one’s horizons, defying popular expectations, and fostering the free exchange of ideas.
Many colleges bear the name “liberal arts” in that they were meant to cultivate mature and well-rounded people through a broad range of studies birthed from a free-market of ideas. That free-market of thought usually meant serious interaction with diverse and conflicting ideas. Liberal arts is but one example of free speech, and without universities grounded in free speech we would struggle to flourish in our universities, and perhaps as a nation.
In a sense, we can hope that our academic institutions can retain a healthy dose of controversial-ness. Without it, too much is at stake. Many educators have pointed out the deficit of creativity and courage to be creative. And, you wouldn’t have to go far in a search of college educators to find one that will tell you that students do not think for themselves; they expect “the right information” to be handed to them. We need controversial professors to keep ideas moving and to keep students on their toes.
Some wisdom can be garnered only from dissention. This article pays homage to those individuals who exemplify this liberal arts ideal; who have the courage of independent thinking, no matter the backlash that may come from the mainstream. As George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”