Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Bill Felkner, 41, is a husband, a father and a student of social work. He is also a political libertarian who says he has liberal views on social issues and conversative views on economics. Felkner, of Hopkinton, says his political beliefs have put him in conflict with the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, where he is pursuing a master's degree. The department, he says, has a liberal bias with little tolerance for ideas that deviate from the progressive "norm." Further, Felkner sees himself in the middle of a much larger debate over free expression at college campuses across the country.

Last fall, the president of Roger Williams University temporarily froze funds for a student newsletter after a group of conservative students published several antigay articles and images that the college deemed offensive. Three years ago, Brown University made national headlines when a band of students stole 4,000 copies of the student newspaper after it ran an ad by conservative author David Horowitz opposing slavery reparations. At Rhode Island College, the controversy began with a movie, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary deeply critical of the Bush administration. A professor in the School of Social Work showed the film to his students. Felkner, who was not in a class where the movie was showed, rented it. Afterward, Felkner asked one of his professors, Jim Ryczek, to show a movie called FahrenHYPE 9/11, which challenges Moore's point of view.

Ryczek, in an e-mail to Felkner, declined to show the movie in his class, but said Felkner was welcome to show it on campus. (FahrenHYPE 9/11 was later shown in several classes taught by another professor.) Then Ryczek sent an e-mail to Felkner telling him: "I will be the first to admit a bias toward a certain point of view. . . . In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases. So I think anyone who consistently holds antithetical views to those espoused by the profession might ask themselves whether social work is the profession for them. . . . " Ryczek concluded by saying, "I don't want you to think that I am suggesting that you are such a person. But then again, you may be. Only you can make that determination."

Felkner says the e-mail made him very angry: "Knowing Jim, I doubt he meant it as a threat. I think he was saying, 'This is a world of liberals. You won't feel comfortable here.' "

Ryczek says he never meant to imply that Felkner wouldn't make a good social worker. "My message was, 'Let's talk about your point of view.' I wasn't saying he should leave the profession," he says. According to Ryczek, social workers are committed to helping poor and oppressed communities become empowered to make positive changes. That theory, he says, "is not consistent with the most conservative views." Ryczek believes, for example, that a comprehensive welfare state is the optimal form of government. "I talk about my views," he says. "The students need to decide whether they agree with them and whether they belong in social work."

Meanwhile, Felkner e-mailed the chairs of the graduate and undergraduate schools of social work and contacted the president of the college, John Nazarian. Late last month, he met with the two chairs, Lenore Olsen and Mildred Bates, to discuss what he called the "liberal agenda exhibited by the faculty and how these implicit pressures from authority figures can be oppressive.".......

"I would say that the department has a liberal core of values," says Olsen, who chairs the master's of social work program. "It comes down to whether someone is able to balance their beliefs with the values of the profession." According to the National Association of Social Workers code of ethics, social workers should "pursue social change, particularly on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people."

Bates, who chairs the bachelor's program, says, for example, that the profession supports abortion rights because it believes that every person has the right to make choices about his or her life. A student could feel differently as long as she didn't impose her personal values on her clients. Dan Weisman, the professor who showed Fahrenheit 9/11, says most social workers believe that government plays an important role in securing the well-being of all its citizens -- a position that conservatives might oppose.

Marc Genest, a political science professor at the University of Rhode Island, says liberal orthodoxy is the standard at most colleges and universities in the Northeast. "I am the only conservative in my department," he says. "And I can only name three or four moderate to conservative faculty in the liberal arts." A colleague once asked Genest to speak to her graduate class because none of her students could understand why anyone would be a conservative. Whenever a student presents a conservative view, Genest says, "the labels come out," and he or she is called a racist or a sexist......

More here

The amusing thing is that social workers are great supporters of welfare programs and claim that conservatives cannot be social workers because they do not support welfare programs. The fact that the first big government welfare programs in history were introduced by Prince Otto von Bismarck, the arch-conservative "Iron Chancellor" of Prussia (See his pic on the Social Security Administration website) and that the biggest welfare expansion in recent American history was largely the work of George W. Bush entirely escape them. Just because conservatives oppose the huge and mindless handouts of the Left takes nothing away from the fact that conservatives have long supported intelligently targeted welfare programs


"Britain's Conservatives have got themselves into a right stew over higher education. Not content with making university places free, now they propose to actually pay students to take unpopular courses like chemistry, physics, and modern languages. Barmy.

Going to university should be a market choice, just like any other. The state doesn't run a chain of supermarkets offering free food to all comers. And it certainly doesn't pay people to walk out with the kinds of food that most people don't care for. Food is no less essential than education - so why the difference in policy?

The answer is that we are distorting, disastrously, the entire education sector in the name of access. The fear is that students from less wealthy backgrounds would not be able to pay university fees: that would be unfair, and the country would lose good talent.

But instead, we should be subsidizing the people who need help, not ruining the market. Universities should charge whatever they like for academic courses. Some universities and some courses would be in worldwide demand, and would be expensive. Others may be less in demand, and would be cheaper. But students could make a rational decision - perhaps they believe they would have more fun, derive more intellectual value, or improve their work prospects more, by choosing an expensive course. It's really up to them. And not much different from the same young people taking out a mortgage on a more expensive home because it is nearer where the jobs are than some cheaper place out in the sticks.

That will give us a competitive world-class university system. If the state has a role, it is to give help to deserving students who can't afford to buy access. But ideally, the universities themselves should build up scholarship funds for that purpose. So that's ideal: a solid higher-education sector, students making rational decisions about investing in themselves, nobody left behind. The Tories know they are wrong. Why can't they admit it?"

(Post lifted from the Adam Smith Blog)


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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