Two years ago, I delivered a lecture at the University of Colorado-Denver on “Lessons from Ancient Rome” with a sprinkling of observations about what we today might learn from it all.
From some radicalized students in the audience, I got an appalling glimpse of the smug, self-righteous, politically correct, campus insanity that you see on TV with increasing frequency these days. And it’s coming exclusively from the far-left “progressive” side of the political spectrum.
My lecture was interrupted repeatedly by lengthy diatribes. One ruffian held up a sign that read, “Bull----!” The hooligans were objecting to an offering of ideas they were unaware of, didn’t want to hear and thought it was their right to prevent others from hearing.
Their intent was to intimidate, to harass, to silence, to dominate. They were annoyed for no more reason than the speaker possessed viewpoints they knew little about, didn’t understand, couldn’t articulate and don’t like. I wasn’t about to let these troublemakers shut me up.
I doubt that their parents taught them intolerance. More likely, they got it from a handful of their professors.
They are besmirching the entire profession, which neither the serious students who want to learn or the good professors who want to teach deserve.
I stated that ancient Roman road-building was so massive that nothing would compare until the 20th Century.
“Not true! The Mayans built roads, too!” one of the disrupters rudely exclaimed.
“Yes, the Mayans built roads, too, but nothing on the scale of the Romans,” I responded.
“Not true!” he insisted. “We have professors who have researched this!”
Here are the cold, hard facts: Roman road mileage totaled 250,000. By contrast, the most extensive road system in pre-Columbian South America was constructed by the Incas, not the Mayans, and it amounted to a mere 25,000 miles. The student so sure of himself that he had to interrupt didn’t have a clue of what he was babbling about.
Why was he so indignant? Because Romans were white Europeans and to the far-Left, white Europeans are evil. Mayans, on the other hand, were “indigenous, native peoples” who must be elevated and celebrated.
Never mind that the state religion of the Mayan Empire incorporated idol worship, human sacrifice, hallucinogenic rituals and decapitations. Let’s not talk about the pandemic internecine warfare of the Mayan Empire or its severe environmental degradation and enslavement of subjugated peoples, either. That would not be politically correct.
Frequent interruptions, catcalls and occasional F-bombs continued, but I refused to allow them to stop my speech. The great majority of attendees wanted to hear what I had to say. The good news is that this time, the bad guys didn’t get away with it.
Cowardly school administrators are partly at fault for the sad state of affairs on many campuses, and not just because they coddle reprehensible student conduct. When they hire barbarians to teach in their classrooms and collaborate with them to blackball serious scholars of a different viewpoint, they are accomplices in the degradation of education.
I take freedom of speech seriously, and assaults on it even more seriously. Let’s stand up to these bullies. Civilization depends on it.
Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education. He writes about exceptional people, including many from his book, “Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .