Monday, March 14, 2011

Special 4-Part Series on the Temple University Purpose Group – Part 1, Free Speech & Critical Thinking

Political opinions have increasingly become polarizing in the last few years. Differing political agendas have filled American government buildings and public gathering places with swirling tension.

From the Tea Party movement protesting out of control government deficit spending to Unions protesting changes to collective bargaining power, even friends and family are often split on where they stand on America’s public issues and political direction.

How are your political opinions formed? What do you consider “free speech”? What do you believe makes up “critical thinking”?

Do you avoid political conversations all together not wanting to offend anyone? Or, do you research, engage, and enjoy a good debate? Do you attend political speeches or meetings?

Do you watch political programs? If naturally Conservative leaning, do you only watch Fox News? If naturally Liberal leaning, do you only watch network news or NPR? Do you call Fox News “Faux News” or say NBC is the National Barack Channel?

Do you want to hear from all sides on an issue? Do you purposefully consider all views in the debate? Are you a critical thinker, or do you go along to get along? Or, do you just not want to think about it at all?

Do you value free speech only as long as everyone agrees with you? Be honest, are you guilty of only wanting your opinion mirrored back to you in a political conversation whether in person or online? Have you personally attacked someone, or stopped talking to someone, or defriended or blocked someone because of a differing political opinion?

If this is how you react to an opposing view, are you honoring the 1st Amendment in spirit? Are you being critical in your thinking and forming of social and political opinions?

In reality, most Americans know, even if some still dare not say it out loud, political correctness has Americans in a vice and America at a tipping point socially and politically.

According to conventional wisdom, nowhere is this more evident than on the majority of American college campuses. Once thought of as an environment to allow young adults to “learn critical thinking”, many now believe campuses have for years been the epicenter of liberal indoctrination and agenda. Faith based or military foundational colleges may provide some exception to this rule, but political correctness is still an unwavering internal force there too.

Alvaro E. Watson is a graduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia. He received his Bachelor’s in Social Work this past May. He has continued his same social work field at TU in his graduate school and will graduate with his first Master Degree in 2012. He has plans to then continue his education with a Master of Arts in Diplomacy, concentrating on Terrorism Studies, at Norwich University in Vermont.

At the TU School of Social Work, Alvaro “had grown dissatisfied and felt unfulfilled with the one-sidedness of what was being taught regarding social and political issues. I asked myself how we could possibly be expected to be adequate—much less good—social work students if we are not exposed to real life, real world issues and challenges that only exist outside the Utopian Social Justice doctrine that is hammered into students. I understood that not only was the School of Social Work lacking an important component of what it takes to help mold well balanced, well informed students, but so was Temple University altogether.”

Alvaro’s answer was to form the Temple University Purpose student group (Purpose) in March, 2009. His concept was to promote and foster free speech and critical thinking by seeking alternative views of the Utopian Social Justice indoctrination for student consideration.

He felt this would result in a stronger and better political and social knowledge base for students. His goal was to allow broader real world social realities into the discussion as students formed their own working social and political opinion. The motto of Purpose is “Socially Driven. Politically Aware.”

Temple University has over 300 student groups. Alvaro notes, “I am not aware of a single other student organization that resembles Purpose. This continues to be validated when I speak with numerous friends from various other states around the country. All of them tell me they would very much like their schools to have an organization like Purpose.”

Alvaro continues, “Upon hearing this, it pushes me to advance to the next stage to establish Purpose as a national organization, so that Purpose Chapters can be established on all universities where it may be desired. It seems an enthusiastic desire is there. It is challenging to go about this, mainly because it is difficult to find information about how to establish organizations at such a level.”

The membership of TU Purpose fluctuates, as most student groups do, but Alvaro offers, “To play it safe, let me say, there is a solid 70 membership. Our members range from freshmen to PhD and students with an age range of 17-60s. Females definitively outnumber males. We welcome all students at Purpose.”

Alvaro explains there are many reasons students join Purpose, “While there are persons who seek Purpose for specific reasons such as having an interest in political matters in the Middle East, or social matters regarding human rights in North Korea, or human rights under Islamic Sharia Law; the main reason is that they have found an organization that is actually willing to engage in discussion and debate on issues that no other organization will, because they have already fallen into the politically correct mindset and etiquette advocated on the majority of college campuses.”

He reasons, “The agenda is driven by the suggestions of students. Whatever is on the agenda each semester, it is not something that only I or the other officers comes up with. I think this is one of the other components of Purpose that adds to our uniqueness. It is the voice of our fellow Temple Owls that drives our agenda each semester. Students are more engaged in world issues than some might think. As an example, many students believe the most urgent topics related to Islam are so important that Islam will always remain a constant in the content of every semester's agenda.”

The reaction to the formation of Purpose has been both praise and ridicule. Alvaro summarizes the experience, “Throughout the process of founding Purpose, students and professors had become aware of our concept, and they were excited and thrilled. However, over the first few weeks and months as Purpose began to take form, hints of character assassination began to emerge.”

He notes, “The fact alone that Purpose extended its platform and forum to discussions and points of view outside of the Liberal agenda, many Leftist student organizations—International Socialists, Democratic Socialists, Feminist Majority, Muslim Student Association, Students for Justice in Palestine, All Sides—began a subtle, and sometimes very aggressive, joint effort to label us as a right-wing group. This is in spite of our mission clearly stating we are neither politically nor religiously affiliated.”

“Labeling us as a right-wing group was an accusation also made by some professors, some whom I knew and still more whom I did not. As a student that had been praised for founding an organization, and whose academic and extra-curricular achievements had been used by the School of Social Work to raise money from donors all over the state, I suddenly found myself being shunned. The steady stream of praise I had once experienced became severed.”

Alvaro stands by his initial concept for Purpose, “In its purest form, the mission of TU Purpose is to create a dialogue where discussion needs to be had. Past this, our purpose is to continue this dialogue to strengthen the knowledge gained.”

He details, “In doing this, our aim is to eradicate obstacles like political correctness and embraced ignorance, to name a few, which deprive us all of information that is both essential and critical to our analytical and social development as a student, moral human, self-determined free thinker, and American citizen.”

Alvaro’s vision includes, “Purpose honors, encourages, and defends diversity, which, conversely, is dedicated to confronting both politically and religiously charged issues present in America today. We provide an open forum in which conventional and unconventional views are exchanged and challenged to enhance understanding of and appreciation for others’ strife, values, devotions, and passions. The voice of every member is most valued, shall always be heard, and genuinely considered, as it is the foundation of our purpose.”

He acknowledges Purpose has become controversial and inviting speakers with experiences and opinions outside of the standard college Liberal Progressive agenda means it will remain controversial.

It’s tough to be personally attacked and smeared, but Alvaro is not backing down. His courage and commitment comes from his belief in a bigger purpose. He believes Purpose is standing up for free speech and critical thinking, especially in an environment where base knowledge for life is acquired.

Alvaro concludes, “In essence, TU Purpose simply presents ideas and leaves it to free thinkers to decide for themselves how to apply such information to their world.”

Our special 4-part series on the Temple University Purpose Group will include:
Part 2 – Being Labeled Racist
Part 3 – Socialist & Muslim Student Outrage
Part 4 – Upholding Intent & Moving Forward

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