Letter to the Editor: Internet is key to scholarly debate

Reading the discussions in The Rider News about the recent visit of former Gov. Huckabee prompted my thinking. A major goal of a university is the development of students’ abilities for critical thinking based upon fundamental principles and correct information. Proper logical analysis of a problem or issue is often lengthy, unsuitable for time-limited verbal communication or brief-written newspaper articles. Restricting discussions to fit into such limited formats may lead to wrong conclusions.

The solution is to have a Web page with the proper complete discussion, with a committee of professors and students editing responses for logical and factual accuracy and to remove duplication. Unedited blogs are not useful for this purpose. The invitation of a speaker should include the expectation that the speaker will receive these edited comments and submit a reply. The objection that students were in another room unable to ask questions at Huckabee’s speech is not valid, for it is impossible for a large body of people to ask verbal questions under any reasonable time constraint. The only solution is written communication, with the speaker taking time to carefully respond in writing. Today we cannot have speeches hours long, as was the case for the Lincoln-Douglass debates, but we can have long articles in print and on the Internet.

Is it right to discuss in The Rider News gay marriage and not mention the recent student discussions in the news on this topic? Professors need to mention previous student comments when discussing with students, but there was no space in the newspaper. Can we speak about the right of a woman to her body and not mention the government prohibition of using one’s body and fist to punch someone? It is not different and opposing views that we want. Instead, we want clear, logical, consistent analysis. My classroom experience is that students may make mistakes doing problems by ignoring statements given in the problem. This may be caused by today’s attitude of thinking in sound bites, television debates that must fit in between commercial breaks and limited newspaper space. Restrictions due to time or space on expressions or questions may lead to errors. Fortunately,  the Internet gives us all the opportunity to remove these restrictions.

Professors write serious, lengthy articles and books that are peer reviewed. We professors can encourage the next generation to be like us, and to write serious articles that are peer-reviewed. We can do this with the help of the Internet. This will help Rider University become great, and the students more capable of dealing with the difficult challenges they will face in life.

Dr. Sanford Aranoff
Adjunct Associate Professor of Mathematics

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