Published on March 12, 2021
Written by stanfordreview.org
It is always a great pleasure, and an important part of my job, to speak to students. It is essential for students to hear ideas from many sources, especially ideas they may not agree with. That is a key part of learning how to think critically – and critical thinking is the most important lesson to learn in college, in my opinion.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a great tragedy, there can be no doubt about that. But it has also exposed profound issues in America that now threaten the very principles of freedom and order that we Americans often take for granted.
First, I have been shocked at the enormous power of the government, to unilaterally decree, to simply close businesses and schools by edict, restrict personal movement, mandate behavior, and eliminate our most basic freedoms, without any end and little accountability.
Second, I remain surprised at the acceptance by the American people of draconian rules, restrictions, and unprecedented mandates, even those that are arbitrary, destructive, and wholly unscientific.
This crisis has also exposed what we all have known existed, but we have tolerated for years: the overt bias of the media, the lack of diverse viewpoints on campuses, the absence of neutrality in big tech controlling social media, and now more visibly than ever, the intrusion of politics into science. Ultimately, the freedom to seek and state the truth is at risk here in the United States.
First, we all acknowledge that the consequences of the SARS2 coronavirus pandemic and its management have been enormous. Over half million American deaths have been attributed to the virus; more will certainly follow. Even after almost a year, the pandemic still paralyzes much of our country. And despite all efforts, there was an undeniable failure to stop cases from rapidly escalating and prevent hospitalizations and death.
Here’s the unacknowledged reality: almost all states and major cities, with a handful of exceptions, have implemented severe restrictions for many months, including closures of businesses and in-person school, mobility restrictions and curfews, quarantines, limits on group gatherings, and mask mandates dating back to at least the summer.