Set up your Free Think University account to access free courses, unlock scholarships, and experience other community benefits.


Forgot your password? Click here.

Not a member? Click here.

Need help logging in? Click here.


Enter your email address below and we'll send you an email to reset your password.


We could not find your email address in our system. Please contact for additional help.


Your password has been sent to your email address on file.


Please contact the River Foundation for more information on your scholarship requirements.


By Various (Source) 

We wish to offer some thoughts and advice to students who are or will soon be attending colleges and universities in these times of strife and polarization. We particularly address those whose beliefs are out of step with the dominant opinion on campus, while noting that sooner or later, if you think for yourself, you will contravene the reigning orthodoxy. 

When you deviate from socially prescribed opinion, it is likely that some highly ideologically motivated people who are outraged by your refusal to conform will try to discredit you by the simple expedient of calling you nasty names. The labels have changed repeatedly since the days of Cotton Mather, but the intolerance motivating the labeling has altered little from what it was in Salem at the time of the witch trials. Keep your dignity; stand your ground; don’t let a postmodern puritan bully you by threatening to paste a bar code onto your forehead. 

You are also likely, in just about any contemporary college or university, to encounter some ideologically tinged double standards. Do not be quiet about them. Be civil, always, and assertive and persistent as circumstances require. Find out who is in charge of the relevant aspect of campus life; point out the double standard and respectfully ask for it to be eliminated. Hold your college or university to its own professed commitments to fairness, inclusion, and non-indoctrination. You have powerful tools at hand: the force of argument and the power of reason. Neither produces results instantaneously in all cases, but both will work provided you maintain your composure, remain persistently polite, and never stop pushing back. 

It is possible that you yourself might be subjected to discriminatory grading or a biased administrative decision. Again, do not be quiet about it. Stand up for your rights, knowing that in doing so you are securing the rights of your peers as well. You will need to learn your college or university’s procedures for appealing grading decisions or, if it becomes necessary, filing grievances for discriminatory treatment. You should also look for sympathetic faculty members who may be willing to advise and support you. 

In standing strong for your rights and the rights of others to think for yourselves and make up your own minds, it is important to avoid becoming an ideologue, or seeing ideological conflict in every encounter or conversation. You came to college to be challenged, and the critical exchange of ideas is not victimization, it is a privilege.  Insist on your right to free speech, but remember that other people have that right too. They do you no wrong in challenging and criticizing your beliefs—even your deepest, most cherished, identity-forming beliefs—just as you do them no harm in challenging their beliefs. Quite the contrary. We do one another a service by intelligently challenging one another’s convictions. 

Remember, as an American college or university student you are one of the luckiest—most privileged—people on planet earth. Do not fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as a victim or building an identity for yourself around that idea. You can avoid the trap while strongly standing up for your right to fair and equal treatment and boldly working for reform where there are double standards needing to be rectified. 

Remember this, too: Thinking is not something that can be outsourced. You have to do it for yourself. Do not let your professors tell you what to think. Do not let popular opinion on campus dictate your convictions. When you encounter groupthink on campus, probe and question. What is to be said on the other side? Are there thinkers and writers who doubt or deny the “consensus”? If so, read and carefully consider what they have to say. Make up your own mind. 

Oh, and lest we forget, thinking for yourself and making up your own mind almost always entails a huge amount of fun. People rarely mention this, but it is a fundamental truth. It may cost you friends—but only false friends. True friends will want you to think for yourself, and will not mind you disagreeing with them. You are likely to find that in thinking for yourself and speaking your mind, you make some genuine friends for life, including some with whom you will permanently—and fruitfully—disagree. 

See the original article for the long list of professors who helped compile the advice given above. 


If you found this blog post of interest, you might want to explore these Thinker Education courses: 

For this third party post in its full context, please go to: 

Advice for Students in a Time of Strife 

© 2020First Things.