Monday, February 22, 2016

Tackling the new intolerance in British universities

If you were in any doubt that most students are sick to death of campus censorship, of having their horizons narrowed and their intellects coddled, than spiked’s first-of-its-kind conference, ‘The New Intolerance on Campus’, will have put your criticisms to bed. Attended by over 300 students, academics and members of the public, and watched by thousands around the world via the livestream, the conference raised the stakes in the free-speech fightback.

For as long as it has existed, spiked has made the case for free speech on campus, with no ifs and no buts. And, over the course of the three, fiery sessions – interrogating Safe Spaces, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and hate speech – it became clear that students from across the country share the sentiment. Free speech is a lived liberty; it’s something we have and are duty-bound to exercise. The spirited contributions in Conway Hall on Wednesday showed that, in spite of the stifling status quo on campuses today, free speech is far from dead.

Watch the videos of all three sessions. But don’t let the debate stop here. As spiked’s Ella Whelan put it on the day, it’s time students gave Safe Spaces the two-fingered salute. This year, spiked will be working with a national network of freedom-loving students to help them do just that.

SOURCE  (See the original for videos)

Rampell: Liberal intolerance on the rise at colleges

Okay, maybe conservatives are right to freak out about illiberal lefty militancy on college campuses.  Today’s students are indeed both more left wing and more openly hostile to free speech than earlier generations of collegians.

Don’t believe me? There are hard data to prove it.

For 50 years, researchers have surveyed incoming college freshmen about everything from their majors to their worldviews. On Thursday, the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles released the latest iteration of this survey, which included 141,189 full-time, first-year students attending about 200 public and private baccalaureate institutions around the country.

According to the findings, the current crop of freshmen can lay claim to multiple superlatives. Among them: most willing to shut down speech they find offensive.

About 71 percent of freshmen surveyed in the fall said they agreed with the statement that “colleges should prohibit racist/sexist speech on campus.” This question has been asked on and off for a couple of decades, and 2015 logged the highest percentage of positive responses on record. For comparison, the share in the early 1990s hovered around 60?percent; also high, but not as high as today.

What speech counts as “racist” or “sexist” is of course in the eye of the beholder, as evidenced by recent attempts to silence public discourse on racially and sexually charged topics at Wesleyan, Yale and Northwestern universities.

A related survey question, which has been asked most years since 1967, inquired whether “colleges have the right to ban extreme speakers from campus.”

About 43 percent of freshmen said they agreed. That’s nearly twice as high as the average share saying this in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It was surpassed only once, just barely, in 2004. But in general, support for banning speakers from campuses has trended upward over time.

Recent incidents suggest students (and sometimes their professors) may have rather expansive views of what constitutes an “extreme speaker.” Among those disinvited or forced to withdraw from campus speaking engagements in the past few years are feminism critic Suzanne Venker, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Narendra Modi, now the Indian prime minister.

Another survey question asked freshmen whether they would participate in student demonstrations while in college; 8.5 percent said there was a “very good chance” they would.

That, too, was the highest share on record, higher even than responses recorded during the years of Vietnam protests. In 1968 — the year of a tumultuous Columbia University student takeover — just 4.5 percent of freshmen nationwide said they expected to protest.

This question saw a big spike in positive responses just in the past year, perhaps reflecting the spate of demonstrations sweeping schools around the country.

Some of these protests have been quite successful. Students at the University of Missouri, for example, demanded that their president resign over the administration’s poor handling of racial tensions. The school’s celebrated football team threatened not to play unless he complied. Ultimately the president stepped down.

Student groups from at least 76 schools have now issued their own “demands” (not suggestions!), according to lists compiled by the A FiveThirtyEight analysis found that the modal “demand” related to increasing diversity (greater diversity of professors and students, more diversity sensitivity training, etc.), but many “demands” also involved speech codes, public apologies and resignations.

One last freshman survey finding of interest: The highest share of students since 1973 now consider themselves left of center. And the highest share of college freshmen ever (or at least since this question was first asked in 1970) call themselves “far left.”

All of which is to say that — while I support and admire students’ efforts to make the world a better place — I also kind of understand the right’s fear that student activism may be disparately used to muzzle conservative viewpoints.

Heck, some students are trying to muzzle liberal and moderate viewpoints. I’m hardly an arch-conservative, and whenever I write things that college students disagree with, I get a lot of email demanding retraction, recantation, apology, prostration. Some younger readers — not all that much younger than I, mind you — have accused my writing of “taking away” both their voices and their agency, as if free speech were zero-sum.

One parting observation: Remember that these survey questions were asked of newly matriculated college freshmen. That is, students are setting foot on campus already more liberal, more protest-happy and more amenable to speech restrictions than their predecessors.

Which suggests that colleges themselves are not wholly responsible for rising liberal and illiberal tendencies on campus — even if they do sometimes aid and abet both trends.


College Students Confuse Reagan for Clinton and Nixon

The average American is not expected to be an expert on constitutional law or ridiculed for not knowing the names of all 535 senators and representatives of Congress. They should, however, be expected to know the basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution along with the names of their local officials and top governmental leaders. Sadly, more and more students are either not taught or don’t care to learn these things, which makes cringeworthy exposés like the one below increasingly common.

A group called PoliTech visited the campus of George Mason University with a simple quest: to see how many students could put a name to famous political faces. The students surveyed in the film had a broad range of majors — from Finance, to Nursing, to Accounting, to Anthropology and, yes, even Government and International Politics. But nearly all of them failed the test. Big time. Most surprisingly, not only could the young woman majoring in politics not name Ronald Reagan, she even failed to identify Joe Biden, as did all the other students save for one. And not a single one was able to name Ronald Reagan after being shown his picture. (For the record, he looks nothing like Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.) However — and this is the least surprising part — every single student could instantly identify a pop culture icon known as Kim Kardashian.

The Daily Signal observes, “The American Council of Trustees and Alumni released a survey that found that nearly one in 10 recent college graduates think TV personality ‘Judge Judy’ is on the Supreme Court. ‘There is a crisis in American civic education,’ the group’s January report says. ‘Survey after survey shows that recent college graduates are alarmingly ignorant of America’s history and heritage.’ The same study found that ‘almost 40 percent of college graduates didn’t know that Congress has the power to declare war and nearly half couldn’t recognize the term lengths of members of Congress.’”

The bottom line: We shouldn’t be surprised that 32% of Americans don’t know who Justice Antonin Scalia is. But we can hope through exchanges like PoliTech’s that today’s indoctrinated snow flakes will feel prompted to actually start paying attention to what matters. Liberty, after all, will get you much farther in life than any $200,000 degree.


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