Thursday, June 04, 2015

Leftist Censors Strike Again --  at a Las Vegas high school

School administrators have denied Angelique Clark the right to form a Students for Life club at West Career and Technical Academy

I have often maintained that threats to freedom of expression in this country come predominantly — probably exclusively — from the political left. The censoring of a pro-life student club in a Las Vegas high school is a recent egregious example.

Angelique Clark, a sophomore at West Career and Technical Academy in Las Vegas, says the Clark County School District denied her application to charter a pro-life club as a chapter of Students for Life of America, the nation's largest youth pro-life organization. The district, according to Clark, said, "It was too controversial, and it would be too exclusive, and it would leave out pro-choice people."

Fox News reported that in a statement, the school district said that all the school district's clubs must have a faculty adviser before being allowed to form an official club and that Clark's proposed club did not. But Fox affiliate KVVU reports that it obtained a copy of Clark's charter application, dated December 2014, and it in fact does include a faculty adviser's signature.

The plot thickens.

I received an email from a representative from Students for Life, which said the school's vice principal told Clark that abortion is too controversial. Yet according to the email, this school has a Gay-Straight Alliance club. The vice principal also allegedly told Clark that there are "far more qualified" people to talk about abortion than a 16-year-old high-school sophomore. Wow.

Let's examine some of the school's alleged claims for denying this application. How about its claim that the proposed club would be too controversial and exclusive?

The constitutional right to free speech was designed to protect so-called controversial speech. Why would we need to protect speech that offends no one or that no one disagrees with?

Are people who make such arguments really that intoxicated by their own ideology that they can't understand that if governmental authorities get to decide what is and isn't permissible speech, you don't have freedom at all? Or do they not care? As they consistently demonstrate, they are not about freedom but about coercing the universal acceptance of their views and suppressing all dissent.

Their ideological blindness is clearly demonstrated not just by their willingness to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance club, with no apparent concerns about its potentially controversial nature, but by their obliviousness to their inconsistency.

The scary thing about the way these ideologues think — and this isn't an isolated case — is that they don't even recognize competing interests that must be weighed: free speech vs. ostensibly avoiding any angst in the school caused by controversial subjects. They doubtlessly have such contempt for the pro-life cause that they summarily dismiss the notion that it is protected speech within the school district's mini-tyrannical domain.

Concerning the gay-straight club, they are so convinced of its cause that they automatically disregard any possible suggestion that it is also a controversial subject. It is sobering that these people are so deluded with Orwellian thought that they don't see themselves as censoring speech; they just simply redefine speech as that universe of propositions they happen to agree with, and ideas outside their universe are not protected.

How about the claim that it would be too exclusive because it would leave out pro-choice people? This is so ludicrous that it shouldn't require a rebuttal. What clubs don't encourage people with common interests or common causes to join? Is the gay-straight alliance not similarly exclusive? Are not all such clubs exclusive as the school administrators are defining it? Clubs, by definition, are groups whose members have something in common and therefore, also by definition, are in some ways exclusive.

Apparently, for people of the worldview espoused by this school administration, a gay-straight club is not similarly exclusive, because in their minds, a club that supports camaraderie among gay people and straight people is inherently inclusive. But what about people who don't agree with the platform such clubs endorse? Well, to the leftist ideologues, it is objectively unreasonable and usually evil to oppose anything such a group would endorse, just as those who disagree with the absurdly apocalyptical claims of extreme environmentalists are branded "deniers." And remember hearing proponents of same-sex marriage recently saying that speech opposing it is "hate speech" and not protected? It's the exact same type of thinking.

Again, the problem is not just that these leftists want to censor certain opposing views; it's also that they don't see their own tyranny, hypocrisy, intolerance and exclusiveness.

What about the claim that Angelique Clark isn't qualified enough to opine on the subject? Don't you see how this bizarre idea flows from the same warped ideological mindset? Since when did one have to be an expert on something to have a right to advocate it? And who decides?

The answer is the political left. Because leftists believe that the pro-life position is inarguably wrong, they apparently attribute Clark's endorsement of it to her youthful ignorance. What else could explain their embarrassingly ridiculous statement that she can't form a club because other people would be more qualified to articulate the ideas it would advance? Applying that standard, the school should have to ban all of its athletic programs because its athletes aren't so good as college or professional athletes.

I have no expectation that my arguments here will be viewed as reasonable by people who would agree with the horrifying thinking of this school administration, but I would never deny their right to think or express their views, nor would any conservative I've ever met.


Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Strict Regulation Leads to Information Overload

This month the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the Higher Education Act, which was originally passed in 1965. The primary topic for the duration of the two hour hearing was the collection and dissemination of data from colleges and universities.

The federal government mandates that institutions of higher education release a lot of data. Colleges and universities collect data, report it to the federal government, and make it available to the public. Some of that information is vital for high school students in their search for the right college or university, and some isn’t.

What information is most important? Is that information readily available to students, or is it buried in 900 page binders and needlessly confusing reports? These are questions the 22 senators addressed, lead by Chairman Alexander and aided by the testimony of four individuals with experience in the field.

Chairmen Alexander read a letter from a university president attesting that there is more regulatory pressure now than ever before, and reported statistics saying 90% of workers in higher education administration find the current regulations burdensome. Chairman Alexander also held up thick binders to provide a visual for the amount of information schools are required to collect. And they looked heavy.

The general consensus seemed to be that when too much information is collected, the process becomes over-complicated, and the information of real importance becomes lost. High school students should be able to easily access important statistics about the colleges and universities they are considering, including information about financial aid, admissions rates, and retention and graduations rates, without sifting through junk numbers.

What is more, Dr. Mark Schneider, Vice President and Institute Fellow at American Institutes of Research, admitted that the obsessive collection of data carries privacy concerns. We have previously seen the dangers of the federal government invading the privacy of students by collecting data at the K-12 level in association with Common Core. The federal government has no business with the personal and potentially sensitive information of students. We should all be wary.

Are we really willing to sacrifice our privacy for data that’s unimportant to the government and unhelpful to high school students? As a college student myself, I think the answer should be a resounding no. We need a less complicated system, fewer mandates, and easier access to important statistics for high school students looking at colleges and universities.

Dear federal government, relinquish your hold on institutions of higher education, and let them do their thing! Excessive regulations are holding back schools and students.


Better Late than Never: Christie Turns on Common Core

Say what you will about Republican governors, eventually they catch on. Well, most of them do, anyway (I’m looking at you, Jeb.)The latest addition to the ever-expanding number of governors turning against Common Core education standards is New Jersey’s own Chris Christie

In a recent speech, Christie spoke about a desire to wrest power “away from the bureaucrats in Washington, DC” when it comes to education, arguing that New Jersey should be able to create its own standards to suit its residents. Christie’s conversion is admittedly tempered by his calling for standards that are “even higher” than Common Core, but at least he recognizes how badly things go wrong when you put the feds in charge of state issues.

With this reversal, Christie joins the ranks of Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Mike Huckabee, all of whom initially supported Common Core, but turned against it when they saw its devastating effects on state education systems.

Back in 2013, Christie dismissed Republican opposition to the standards as a “knee-jerk” reaction against anything Obama wanted to do. It’s gratifying to hear that he has seen the light, learning that conservatives can actually have some pretty thoughtful positions.

It’s a testament to just how bad the federal government was bungled education policy that even governors with less than conservative records in other areas are recognizing that Common Core doesn’t work. The federal government has no authority to dictate education policy at the state level, but through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) the Department of Education has been bullying states into adopting standards against their best interests. That type of coercion has to stop if states are ever going to be truly free of Common Core’s effects.

It’s not surprising that Christie has taken the opportunity to clarify his position on Common Core now. Public support for the standards is declining and the issue is likely to be a major deciding factor in the upcoming presidential election. Anyone who hopes to do well in the GOP primary would be wise to vocally oppose them. It is still unclear whether Christie intends to run, but here’s hoping his newfound distrust of the standards results in some education reform legislation coming out of New Jersey in the near future.


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