Sunday, December 25, 2005


Paid hecklers!

It shouldn’t have taken a threatened law suit and being held up to nationwide public scorn but Washington State University officials have stopped paying student hecklers who shout down speakers with whom they disagree. Unfortunately, the stench remains strong at Washington State University of a Stalinist suppression of political views that deviate from the politically correct academic liberal orthodoxy.

Regular readers of this space will recall from this July column that the controversy began when it was learned university administrators were paying students to heckle the production of a controversial play by a student author. Student playwright Chris Lee warned attendees before his production was staged on campus that it would likely “offend everybody” and indeed some Mormon students who paid their own way to see the play silently protested its content.

But 40 other students repeatedly shouted “I am offended” and did everything in their power to shut down the production, including threatening performers on stage with physical harm. These protesting students were all Black, as is Lee. It was not merely that the Black students insisted on disrupting the production that set them apart from others like the Mormons in the audience who found Lee’s play disturbing. Guess who paid for the hecklers’ tickets? Washington State University’s very own Office of Campus Involvement, headed by Raul Sanchez. The same office helped organize the heckling. Lane Rawlins, the school’s president, even praised and defended the hecklers.

When university administrators not only refused to stop funding and otherwise aiding the hecklers, but also tried to censor Lee’s future productions, he appealed for help to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that defends the First Amendment rights of students and others on campus. FIRE wasted no time in reminding school officials that the First Amendment guarantees every person’s right to speak their mind, but it gives no one the right to shout down those with whom they disagree. Using a public university’s tax dollars to support hecklers and the school’s campus cops to protect them is state-sponsored mob censorship.

Unfortunately, mob censorship by groups of hecklers shouting down a speaker is not an uncommon occurrence on many American university campuses these days, as conservatives like Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin can readily attest. David French, FIRE’s president, explains why there was no question about the importance of stopping Washington State University. The school’s “defense of this vigilante censorship will encourage students to unlawfully silence others whenever they feel offended,” he said.

There ensued months of tense negotiations between university officials, student playwright Lee and FIRE’s First Amendment experts, as well as extensive coverage in the national media, much of it critical of the school. As a result, when Lee produced a second controversial play a few weeks ago, university officials warned the audience before each performance: “Please be aware that disruption to this performance, or any program will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly, up to and including participants being escorted from the venue.” No disruptions have been reported since the notice was posted.

Future teachers subjected to brainwashing

But elsewhere at WSU the bitter scent of official suppression remains strong, especially in the Education Department where 42-year-old student Ed Swan was recently threatened with failure after allegedly violating two vague “disposition” standards. He was also forced to undergo “diversity training” after expressing his conservative political beliefs.

Not familiar with “disposition standards” on campus? Essentially, that’s a purposely vague name for grading standards used by a growing number of university education departments across America to make liberal definitions of diversity and social justice the norms against which aspiring primary and secondary school teachers are graded. Students who don’t measure up are failed or re-educated. “By using such vague and politically charged criteria for evaluating future teachers, colleges all but guarantee that students will be punished for their opinions rather than evaluated on the basis of their abilities,” said French.

It’s like the old Soviet trick of declaring as mentally ill anybody who dissented from official communist ideology and putting them in psychiatric hospitals for diversity training, er, excuse me, “treatment.” Often those treatments involved electric shocks and mind-altering drugs.

After FIRE protested on Swan’s behalf, WSU’s College of Education Dean Judy Mitchell pledged not to judge his political beliefs, but added ominously “he may not display prejudice in the classroom setting and expect to successfully complete this program.” How much you want to bet Mitchell finds a way to define professing conservative values such as respect for proper grammar and spelling to be a display of prejudice in the classroom?


Perils of multicultural education

If there is one positive thing to come out of the violence in Cronulla, it will be a long hard look at how schoolchildren are educated about Australian culture and what they are taught about their responsibilities as members of a civil society. Judged by the age of many of those involved in abusing women, the mob violence at Cronulla beach and the subsequent destruction of personal property, many would have been of school age during the 1980s and '90s. While Al Grassby and Gough Whitlam sowed the seeds, this was a time when governments under the leadership of Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating spent millions on the multicultural industry. With the support of left-liberal academics, teacher unions and curriculum writers, the prevailing orthodoxy uncritically promoted cultural diversity, denigrated or ignored Australia's mainstream Anglo-Celtic tradition and taught children that our society is riddled with racism, inequality and social injustice.

The national Studies of Society and Environment curriculum developed during the Keating years argued that children must be taught "an awareness of and pride in Australia's multicultural society" and "develop an understanding of Australia's cultural and linguistic diversity". The 1993 Australian Education Union's curriculum policy argued that children must be taught that they "are living in a multicultural and class-based society that is diverse and characterised by inequality and social conflict". Not only was the then academically based school curriculum, especially in subjects such as history and literature, condemned as Eurocentric, patriarchal and socially unjust, but examinations were seen as favouring rich, white kids and culturally biased against recent migrants.

Fast forward to more recent years and little has changed. The 1999 Australian Education Union policy on combating racism argues that government polices "are founded upon a legal system which is inherently racist in so much as its prime purpose is to serve the needs of the dominant Anglo-Australian culture". The AEU also states that racism in Australia is both overt and covert and that "both forms of racism are still widely practised in Australian society", especially as a result of the school curriculum supposedly being based on "the knowledge and values of the Anglo-Australian culture".

On reading curriculum documents developed during the '90s, once again, it becomes obvious that all adopt a politically correct approach to issues such as multiculturalism and how we define ourselves as a nation. Cultural diversity is uncritically celebrated and students are taught, in the words of the Queensland curriculum, to "deconstruct dominant views of society" on the basis that the Australian community is riven with "privilege and marginalisation".

In Western Australia, as evidenced by the Curriculum Framework document, students are told they must value "the perspective of different cultures" and "recognise the cultural mores that underpin groups and appreciate why these are valued and important".

The curriculum policy of the South Australian branch of the AEU is underpinned by "five core values". One of the underlying values is that there should be respect for diversity and "no discrimination on any grounds".

The contradictions and weaknesses evident in the way multiculturalism has been taught in schools are manifold. Tolerance, the rule of law and a commitment to the common good are the very values needed if people are to live peacefully together. Cultural relativism and an uncritical acceptance of diversity denies such values and leads to what Robert Hughes terms, in his book The Culture of Complaint, the balkanisation of society.

It's also the case that Australia's legal and political system, while imperfect, best safeguards such values. Instead of denigrating Australian society, students should be taught the benefits of our Anglo-Celtic culture: a culture strongly influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition and from which our laws and morality have grown.

Much of the way history and politics is now taught also centres on the rights of the individual. Instead of emphasising responsibilities and giving allegiance to what we hold in common, individuals are free to define themselves how they will and to act as they wish. By defining Australian society as socially unjust and divisive there is also the danger of promoting a victim mentality. Whereas past generations felt part of a wider community and believed that hard work would be rewarded, recent generations see only inequality and their right to be supported.

Nobody should condone the violence in Cronulla perpetrated by those wearing the Australian flag or the actions of young Lebanese Muslims abusing women, destroying property and burning churches. But we also need to recognise that the PC approach to teaching multiculturalism in schools in part underpins the recent violence. As the American liberal historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr has argued: "The militants of ethnicity now contend that the main objective of public education should be the protection, strengthening, celebration and perpetuation of ethnic origins and identities. Separatism, however, nourishes prejudice, magnifies differences and stirs antagonisms."



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.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


No comments: