Sunday, February 18, 2007

News: Q&A With Bob Kerrey: Listen Up, Lazy Intellectuals

Numerous controversial speakers, including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and the radical academic Ward Churchill, have spoken at The New School. Inprint recently asked New School President Bob Kerrey about his desire to invite more conservative speakers to the university.

Inprint: The New School has hosted a lot of controversial speakers, including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and the latest, radical academic Ward Churchill.

Bob Kerrey: The New School should have controversial speakers. It needs more conservative controversial speakers. They are more willing to invite people with radical views on the left than to the ones on the right, and we need to invite both. I’m not talking about national socialism, but just ordinary conservatives like John McCain or Newt Gingrich. They’re hardly what I call “extreme conservatives.” You can’t engage in a political debate until you’ve heard from both sides.

I: Do you think some faculty, students and staff may have been embarrassed that students attempted to protest Newt Gingrich’s arrival last semester?

BK: It was embarrassing…there is a limited amount of stuff that I can administer to. It does begin to send an unhealthy message out that it’s okay if you have radical ideas but not if you’ve got radical ideas on the right.

I: Is there anyone you’d like to see come to The New School?

BK: Yeah, I’d like to see Antonin Scalia come to speak at The New School. We had Bill Kristol [founder and editor of the conservative magazine *The Weekly Standard* here. I’d like to see people genuinely concerned with the movement here. Part of the problem with denying conservatives the opportunity to speak is that you don’t know what their views are. It’s a slippery slope when you form a prejudice about someone and they’re reluctant to come and speak based upon your prejudice. It really changes what you can hear. And I find that I can read Bill Kristol, but it’s not as important as having him here speaking. I’d like to see and hear the world views of the US Military. Anything you get that’s an alternative experience to the one you’ve got is healthy. The one thing that graduates at a university need to have in the 21st century is the capacity to think critical and boy, that’s not easy.

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