Why I invited Charles Murray to speak at Notre Dame

I have no desire to inflict unwanted stress or anxiety on any member of the Notre Dame community, especially our minority students. I appreciate the concern for student wellbeing that motivates some of the opposition to Murray’s visit. But I believe what is most harmful to students—and, to speak candidly, most patronizing—is to “protect” our students from hearing arguments and ideas they supposedly cannot handle.

To study politics today requires handling controversial, difficult, and divisive topics. After discussing Princeton professor Peter Singer’s defense of abortion, one of my students told me she left class “deeply disturbed.” If you are genuinely pro-life, you probably should be disturbed by Singer’s arguments. But should I, therefore, not teach them?

The price of a real education is hearing powerful arguments that make us realize our opinions are based on untested assumptions. Only then, when we realize that we do not know as much as we think we know, can genuine learning occur.

I invited Dr. Murray to Notre Dame months ago; the reasons for his invitation still stand.