All members of the Roundtable were students, yet our academic interests ranged from law and economics to social development to chemistry. We began by discussing the role of the academy - from teaching students to think critically and for themselves to how to interact with people around you. There are differences we recognized between high schools and universities and even between private and public universities.
An informal relationship can be identified between politics and academia. In university, many students are old enough to vote so interest in politics is natural. In both the US and France, the voting age is 18. In Pakistan, the relationship between politics and academia is formal. Political leaders identify with certain educational institutions; however, this can also be viewed as an informal relationship and more of a network. In the US, many politicians will go to certain schools, leading one to believe that certain schools are breeding grounds for future politicians based on the environment of the campus and the quality of academic programs. In the UK, this is similar with Oxford and Cambridge. Many students are unable to attend these schools due to barriers.
When politics enters the classroom, there’s often a clash of views. It seems as though politics is entering the classroom more and more nowadays. For instance, in the United States, in many discussions about Trump’s policies, all assume that everyone disagrees with all policies of the Trump administration. This leads to certain views not being represented in the classroom. It’s not always easy to achieve a balanced show of opinions in the classroom.
We then discussed if it is beneficial to have politics in the classroom. It can make students more tolerant of other views. In the US, we face criticism from our peers; in countries like Pakistan, students face violence from the government, leading to students being very careful about what they say in the classroom or even a public gathering. In France, expressing one’s opinions is more similar to the situation in the US and the UK. France continues to be in a state of emergency due to terrorist attacks; it is now more expensive and unlikely to organize a protest. In Mexico, journalists are often killed by sharing facts that differ from what the government says or does.
The right to freely express oneself is not always present in our societies. Does this create a groupthink in academia, where people only express the same views as those around them?
Is the freedom of expression directly related to education? Are less educated people more likely to disengage from such conversations?