When I went off to school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I was sent off with the idea that the American university system, like all university systems, was a place to explore and challenge ideas and theories. It was a place to debate and argue.
I went in with a foundational framework for my beliefs and my personality, and it was there I would refine who I was. By challenging others and having my own ideology challenged, I would see where my ideas held up and where they fell short.
Like many, I suspect, I left college with some beliefs altered but all more solidified, as they’d been tested by professors and students, alike. I can remember many times where it was me against a room full of my peers – both in the classroom and in apartments and bars. Taking on a large group of peers who all thought one way also taught me a lot about groupthink and how people come to believe what they do.
But now, it seems universities, with their free speech zones and attempts to prevent students from saying things that may hurt the feelings of others, have become the opposite. They appear to be more of a place where students go to learn the party line and not challenge ideas.
As with much of the country, we seem to have invented the right to not be offended. Fortunately, that right doesn’t exist here and hopefully never will. We become better, as a society, when people speak fearlessly and challenge ideas.
In the workplace, we do better work and create better products when people have the courage to challenge processes, departments, executives and the products or services we provide. If we all sit quietly, mediocrity prevails.
All of this is why this video, called Modern Educayshun, resonated with me. While it uses a common tactic of being absurd to make a point, it has certainly resonated with the college-going friends and relatives to whom I have shown it.
I’ve managed many people who were uncomfortable sharing their ideas directly – preferring either silence or passive aggressive means. But all of them, by the end of their tenure with me, saw how much better our work was and how much happier the team could be when we were all honest with each other.
I hope this strikes a positive chord: