Any education that might have transpired had Mr. Gilchrist been allowed to give his talk would have been incidental to the shock value of his appearance before an audience known in advance to be hostile to his message. That was why he was invited, not to impart instruction but to provoke a response (and it is the response rather than the content that is always focused on in media reports), although in this instance those who brought him to campus got more than they bargained for. The spirit presiding over this occasion from the beginning was more Jerry Springer than Socrates. Jeers, catcalls, insults and (verbal) brickbats were not intrusions on the performance, but predictable ingredients of it; had they been absent, organizers and audience alike would have gone away disappointed because they would not have gotten their student-fees worth. It’s just that things got a little out of hand....Fish calls attention to "the distinction between curricular and extracurricular activities." The norms of the classroom do not apply -- even on campus -- outside the classroom. This is a message I'd like the perpetrators of the UW's "Think. Respect." program to take very seriously. (Too bad you have to subscribe to the NYT to read the whole thing!) When it comes to the extracurricular:
At most, the students are guilty of being impolite, bumptious and rowdy, but again, this is the kind of behavior that the event – more akin to a keg party than to a reasoned discussion – was designed to elicit.
The question to be asked is not did it further free speech or contribute to a robust democratic culture or provide a genuine educational experience? Rather the questions to be asked are: Did it rock? Was it a blast? Was a good time had by all?It's not going to rock if everyone's supposed to be classroom-polite. Worried about the First Amendment? Which way are you worried? The students aren't the government, Fish notes. They can't violate Free Speech rights. And they were speaking too, in a vigorous marketplace of ideas. Sure, they went too far. But not all that far.