In my house we are *obsessed* with the soundtrack to Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical. Especially “School Song,” a clever track that follows the alphabet as young prefects tell an even younger Matilda how to survive at a school ruled by a tyrannical headmistress.
And after learning about two big events in higher ed — the disruptions of a conservative judge’s talk at Stanford Law School and a bill that would ban DEI programs and any major or minor “associated with Critical Theory" in Florida’s public universities — these lyrics have a whole new meaning: Like you I was Q-rious So innocent I R-sked a thousand questions But unl-S you want to suffer listen up and I will T-ch you a thing or two U listen here, my dear You’ll be punished so se-V-rely if you step out of line And if you cry it will be W should stay out of trouble And remember to be X-tremely careful I spoke to a class at Stanford Law School last fall and am headed to the University of Florida and the University of Southern Florida this weekend. Things are extra tense at all three schools right now, and I can’t help but think of Matilda, a budding genius who just wants to learn while everyone around her plays offense, defense, or hides. The events at Stanford and Florida universities are wildly different in scope and scale but share one thing in common: incuriosity. At Stanford, students scared for the rights of LGBTQ people believed the way to challenge a judge they disagree with was to use their voices to shut him down. And in Florida, politicians scared for the integrity of education believe the way to challenge curriculums they disagree with is to use legislation to shut them down. I think both groups are wrong — not about their concerns, which everyone can learn from, but about their methods. In an incurious climate, force appears to win. But in reality, everyone loses. How does curiosity start? By turning our assumptions into questions — a thousand questions, if necessary. Here’s hoping that students, politicians, and everyone else can ask them… and soon.