Everyone Knows Better Than You Do

Earlier this week I read an article about a university professor who was attacked for things they said on their private Facebook page.

The commentary in question was almost two years old and was only discovered because someone went digging through the offenders Facebook updates.

I can’t tell you what prompted the research.

Can’t say whether they did so because they were looking for dirt or if they had found previous posts to be entertaining and were in search of more.

What I  know is they decided these posts were so offensive it merited contacting the university to ask for public censure of the professor because they considered the words to be hate speech.

During a conversation about the story some acquaintances of mine said they would never want to be a college professor because the atmosphere on campuses has moved from an interest in discussing multiple points-of-view to intolerance for a narrative others don’t share.

When I asked one of the people I was speaking with how they knew college campuses had become so intolerant they told me I should be quiet because Everyone Knows Better Than You Do.


The person who suggested this doesn’t know me well enough to know you won’t intimidate me into silence by assuming an aggressive stance and authoritative tone.

So ignored their response and politely asked again what they based their comment upon. It wasn’t supposed to be  adversarial, I was just curious to learn more about where they got their information from.

I have friends and family who work at different universities across the country and wondered if this intolerance was regional or national.

Was it based solely upon a particular topic or topics or was it broader in scope?

After I asked him again if he could give some insight into the question he repeated his assertion that I should be quiet so I asked him if enjoyed irony.

He told me he didn’t follow what I was saying so I asked him if he thought it was hypocritical to say university students should be tolerant of multiple views when he clearly was unwilling to extend the same courtesy.

This is where the story grows interesting.

He told me he deserved an apology for insulting his integrity and said if I didn’t give him one we would have to go outside so that he could defend his honor.

I said if he was anxious to go outside I would be happy to defenestrate him.

When he asked me what that meant I threw him out the window and said there was no better education than to learn by doing.

My Confession

I did not throw him out the window nor did I threaten to.

All I am guilty of is thinking he was unnecessarily churlish and a boor to boot.

That is a fancy way of saying he was a jerk and if experience has taught me anything a well timed smile is often a more effective tool for dealing with a jerk than anything else.

The question about whether universities are hotbeds of intolerance or places where higher learning takes place is of some interest to me but it is not pressing.

I have a few years before my oldest goes off to school and frankly I have other challenges that require my immediate attention.

What this moment did remind me of is how insecure some people can be.

Sterile Writing

The story that prompted the discussion also made me think about the thoughts and ideas I share here.

Some friends and family have suggested that I make a conscious effort to not write about anything controversial because someone might review my writing and decide not to hire me based upon an opinion I have voiced.

Part of me sees that as practical advice and another part screams about the damage sterile writing can do to engagement.

Vanilla may be safe in ice cream but it is not nearly as effective for bloggers. If you want to encourage your readers to hang around and visit you need to give them a little bit more.

What do you think?

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  1. Larry April 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I think there are some Unis that can be very handed. The shove a certain ideology down the student’s throats.

  2. Julie April 11, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    My two cents. What makes you unique and hirable is your voice. Your voice comes out when you are engaged and in the flow, which sometimes comes with controversial topics. But not always. If something feels like it needs to be written, it does. Where you place it is up to you. Use your judgment. Sterility results in no creation or babies birthed.

    • Joshua April 12, 2015 at 9:36 am

      Sterile offers the same value as watching paint dry. If we don’t insert something more into our content we ask our readers to click away, turn the page or change the dial.

      Just not effective.

  3. Jens-Petter Berget April 11, 2015 at 3:08 am

    Hi Josh,

    This is a very interesting topic. One part of us need to do what our clients like (this way they will like us), the other part should do things that make us stand out and be different from the rest. If we just keep doing what the rest are doing, it’ll be harder than ever to get clients and to make a living.

    • Joshua April 12, 2015 at 9:38 am

      Hi Jens,

      I agree. We have to find a place where we distinguish ourselves and our work from everyone else because doing as everyone else does makes it harder to present compelling reasons for our clients to work with us.

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