To the Editor:

History provides another "other side" to the debate over Senate Bill 24, the misleadingly titled "academic bill of rights for higher education".  Consider... 

There was a time when most people thought Earth was flat...  Until the 1500s, most people believed that Earth was the center of the universe, and Copernicus was excommunicated for arguing that Earth revolved around the Sun... 

I'd like to think that Senator Mumper will continue to support teachers persistently teaching that the Earth is round and goes around the Sun, even though his intellectual forebears would challenge HIS right to challenge THEIR values by doing so.  I'd also like to think that Senator Mumper would support discriminating against flat-earthers in hiring airline pilots, air traffic controllers, bombardiers, astronauts, and astronomers. 

And it's not just physics, either.  For eighty years the US Constitution valued "Negroes" as 3/5 of a person for census purposes, and not even a person for all other purposes...  It took decades of persistent discussion of this "controversial issue"--and a war--to get the country headed toward unseating Jim Crow and his successors.  (Regrettably, much apparently controversial work remains to be done.)  I'd like to think that Senator Mumper sees thinly disguised racist practices as being far more troublesome than persistent efforts by teachers to challenge such practices for being un-American.

Likewise for women.  For one-hundred fifty years, women weren't allowed to vote.  Until recently, they weren't allowed to work "real" jobs.  They were of course free to be barefoot and pregnant.  It took persistent discussion of these "controversial issues" for our society to even get started toward giving women full and equal citizenship.  And I must confess that such discussions were unsettling to me when I first heard them.  I'd like to think that Senator Mumper would reject going back to barefoot and pregnant for being un-American.

These history lessons remind us that learning entails the challenging of personal beliefs.  Indeed, they suggest that the most important learning sometimes arises precisely from challenges to the most fundamental personal beliefs.  Taking such challenges openly--which is to say, opening up to learning--is what higher education is for.

Robert A. Letcher, PhD
Columbus, Ohio