A Reflection on Chomsky

Dr. Noam Chomsky gave his speech, "Public Education and the Common Good," at ESU. Photo Credit / Dana Reese
Dr. Noam Chomsky gave his speech, “Public Education and the Common Good,” at ESU.
Photo Credit / Dana Reese

SC Staff Writer

The ESU community was honored to host the distinguished intellectual, Dr. Noam Chomsky, on Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at the packed beyond capacity Abeloff Center for the Performing Arts, where he delivered a lecture on “Public Education and the Common Good.”

Dr. Chomsky spoke for over an hour before answering questions from the audience read by Dr. Peter Pruim of ESU’s Philosophy department.

When introducing Dr. Chomsky, ESU’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Peter Hawkes, called Dr. Chomsky “the most distinguished speaker we have ever welcomed on campus.”

And we–the students and faculty of ESU–gave him the welcome he deserved.

Abeloff Center for the Performing Arts, which has 880 seats, according to Christina Tatu of the Pocono Record, was filled beyond capacity by the time Dr. Chomsky arrived.  Unfortunately, just after 1 PM, those who did not have seats were asked to leave, in order to be in compliance with fire codes.

Well over 100 people had to miss this momentous event.

Dr. Mark Kilker, Dean of ESU’s College of Health Sciences, was one of the people that had to leave the lecture, and spoke briefly about his experience and surprise at the turnout.

“I’ve been affiliated with ESU since 1970, and I’ve been to many events in Abeloff, including Isaac Asimov and G.E. Smith,” said Kilker.  “I’ve never seen so many students and such a big crowd trying to cram into Abeloff–and students backed out the front door– it’s just wonderful to see.”

When deciding on the location to hold Dr. Chomsky’s lecture, Dr. Prium thought that Abeloff was quite large and debated about holding the event in one of the other smaller theaters on campus.  His considerations were based on the fact that Dr. Chomsky, though famous, is a figure from decades past.

Dr. Pruim expressed that his plan was to promote the event as best he could and hope to fill the venue.

“I thought that I’d work hard and get the word out, and maybe we could get it half full,” said Pruim, continuing, “and when all those people showed up, I was just astounded.”

Dr. Pruim went on to express how much he enjoyed seeing the campus come together because of Dr. Chomsky’s appearance on campus.

“That was another thing that I thought was just great,” said Pruim, “To see all of us just focused on one thing for a while.”

For those students and faculty who were not able to attend the live lecture, a recording of Dr. Chomsky’s lecture and discussion was played in Beer’s Lecture Hall on Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 7 PM.

Dr. Pruim is continuing in his efforts to make the lecture available to the ESU community for those that want to have access, with the possibilities of playing the recording on campus cable or posting it online.

“I don’t know if we’re going to have parts or all of it available online, but we’re certainly going to look into that,” said Pruim.  He continued by saying, “I hope so – I would expect so.”

Leading up to Chomsky’s appearance, Pruim expressed that Dr. Chomsky was to the English, philosophy and communications departments what  the Beatles would be to the music department, and he was treated as so.

The audience’s applause began as soon as Dr. Chomsky walked onto the stage, and he then received three standing ovations from the audience as the afternoon progressed.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Dr. Chomsky graciously accepted one-on-one time with a long line of students seeking autographs and photo opportunities.  Dr. Chomsky remained at Abeloff until 4 PM.

Dr. Pruim, who was able to spend the day with Dr. Chomsky, spoke of his true character being reflected by his interactions with the ESU community.

“One thing I really noticed about him, I think, more than any other sort of famous person I’ve been around, is that he’s completely without any pretentiousness. He is simply the same person he always was,” said Pruim.  “What he cares about most is honesty and integrity and knowledge.”

Student Stephanie Saragusa had few, yet powerful words in her reaction to the presence of Dr. Chomsky on campus.

“Noam Chomsky, in general, was inspirational,” said Saragusa. “It was a great experience to have seen him speak, and one that I will carry with me.”

Dr. Chomsky’s Lecture, “Public Education and the Common Good,” focused on the growing privatization of education, which makes a college education virtually unattainable to the common man.  Chomsky warned against this practice.  His lecture called for a return of public focuse to political ideals that view the higher education of one man as a benefit to the nation, not just to the individual.

The lecture also covered the responsibility of the common man within society, and related the information to every field or major in some way.

Student and Biology Major Emily Fox was excited to speak after finding that Dr. Chomsky’s lecture could also be related to her own field, and she was so impressed by Dr. Chomsky that she found herself, at times, at a loss for words.

“I was thoroughly impressed in the breadth of issues that he discussed,” said Fox.  “The way he talked about climate change was really interesting, and I never really thought about the majority opinion versus the policy.  Just the way he presented it was understandable to everyone, and… fantastic!”

Student Larry Clouse enjoyed Dr. Chomsky’s simple academic speaking style most of all, citing the eloquence of Dr. Chomsky’s words.

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