Thursday, April 14, 2016

Politically Incorrect to Talk Western Values on College Campuses, by PETE HOEKSTRA

In a discussion with Ed Morrissey. Start transcript:

Morrissey: Is Western civilization ended at Stanford University? Is that what I'm reading here?

Hoekstra: It ended a number of years ago when they, Stanford, eliminated a requirement that students have a requirement to study the history of Western civilization. And the good thing is now there's a group of students on campus who got a petition signed by, I think it was like roughly 350 of their peers, to have a vote on whether Western civilization should again be part of the requirement now. If this petition or this referendum passes, it's a non-binding referendum, but the students, or excuse me, then the faculty senate would have to consider whether they would reestablish Western civilization as a requirement for graduating from Stanford.

Morrissey: So help me out with this. The idea is that there is no particular requirement to study the history of the culture in which you live. Is that the idea here, because honestly, I didn't realize that until I read your article that Western Civ had been taken off of anybody's requirement for a degree. I mean I went to -

Hoekstra: Basically it's been eliminated, I don't know the exact statistics, but it's been eliminated from most college campuses today. It's politically incorrect to be talking about you know the values and those types of things of Western civilization. Now, you know I'm sure that if it were brought back on campus today it would be in a values-neutral perspective, although there are many of us who believe that there's a lot of good and positive things to say about Western civilization and what we have contributed to development over the last millennium.

Morrissey: Well don't get me wrong, Pete, because I was not a brilliant student at Western Civ when I was in college, and it was a little bit before Stanford University decided to end the requirement for it, but at least I still recognized the need to know about the major philosophies that went behind the development of the culture in the dominant culture in which we live. I mean we can talk about the fact that - well, there shouldn't be a dominant culture, and everything is relative, and I think you could make an intellectual argument about that, but at the very least you should know the culture in which you live before you start making value judgments about the culture in which you live. And where else are you going to, in what other environment other than in college or at university are you going to have the ability to do that, even in a values-neutral comparative civilization type of environment, which actually I think would not necessarily be all bad.

Hoekstra: Yeah.

Morrissey: I think it could be a good idea to scrutinize yourself and to think through these things. But you at least have to address them, do you not?

Hoekstra: That's what these young people at Stanford believe. And I was, I heard their arguments. I heard a little bit about what they were doing, and some folks asked me about my opinion, and so I decided to write the piece, and give them support for their petition, and hopefully that in the next few days they will win at the election and the senate, or the faculty senate, at Stanford will seriously consider the grievances or the suggestions that these students have put forward. The interesting thing is these students, from what I'm reading, are being pretty viciously attacked for being racist and all of these types of things. And all they're asking for is a non-binding resolution that the faculty senate actually consider reinstating this as a requirement.

Morrissey: You know and this is leading to a larger discussion, and you know where this is going to go. We're speaking with Pete Hoekstra, who is former U.S. Congressman, former House Intelligence Committee Chair, and former member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which is really what's on point right now. And it's this, Pete, you're seeing all these different colleges, all these different students, erupt in hives, I guess, whenever they confront speech that somehow conflicts with their own particular worldview.

And probably the most ridiculous example of that is happening over the last couple of weeks in which, I'm not taking any sides here in the Republican primary race, but supporters of Donald Trump have written in chalk on some college campuses some pro-Trump messages, and all of a sudden there is a need for safe spaces and we need to punish the people who put chalk on the sidewalks. I mean this is, it is becoming almost irrelevant. College education is becoming almost irrelevant. There is no sense that you have to encounter new ideas, but instead need to be protected from new ideas. If that's the case, Pete, is there any point in sending your kids to college anymore?

Hoekstra: Well I'll tell you, I experienced this myself, about a month ago, a month, six weeks ago, I was up in Rhode Island, and I was across the street from Brown University. And we were doing a press conference on you know allowing these refugees and immigrants, whatever you want to call them, in from so-called Syria. And as we were having the press conference, we were invaded by roughly 250 primarily students, and some clergy, with ties to Brown University, and for the next 30 to 35 minutes as those of us who were part of the press conference were speaking, we were drowned out by the hollering, the yelling, and the swearing, of you know 200 to 250 people, who were all about free speech as long as it was speech that they agreed with; other than that, they were not going to allow free speech.

Morrissey: And of course we also have these safe spaces that have to be erected whenever anybody with a heterodox opinion shows up to express themselves where they have, and I don't mean to demean this, but coloring books and little toys that people can use to get past their anxiety and their trauma of having listened, or having at least encountered a differing opinion on something. And honestly, this to me when I look at this and I, my son is on the verge of a doctorate, so I am a big believer in education; I'm just not necessarily any longer a big believer in universities, because I don't think that universities are actually, for at least in some part, I don't think they're providing education any longer.

Hoekstra: No, they are not providing education. They are not the environments any more where you go and debate ideas. They have been in many cases become politically correct zones where you're allowed to develop and express your ideas as long as they are consistent with whatever the faculty or the culture on campus has decided it should be, and typically that's very much a leftist, liberal leaning.

Morrissey: You know I seem to recall a culture that developed the ideas of free speech, open intercourse of ideas, both commonality and embracing of the new. It's just a shame that they don't teach about that culture any longer at Stanford University, because that's what Western civilization produced. Now bear in mind, I say this eyes open to all of the different faults that Western civilization had over the centuries in millennia, because there certainly were many of them. But this particular -

Hoekstra: There were, yeah, there were plenty. And as with anything else, Western civilization is aspirational.

Morrissey: Yeah.

Hoekstra: We've outlined where we want to go and what we want to achieve, recognizing that we've made mistakes along the way, but it's aspirational. It's no different than what you will find in hopefully in much of corporate America, their goals and their vision for their corporation, they're aspirational, and you're always trying to get there, recognizing that you may fall short, but that you know where you want to go.


The Absurd Demands of Harvard Students Who Feel Guilty About Their ‘Privilege’

Where direct regulation does not change hearts and minds, America’s universities have long used indoctrination. At Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, for example, student orientation now includes instruction in “privilege.” If you aren’t already aware: “privilege” is a term employed in conversation as a way to encourage the listener to recognize that his or her upbringing might be clouding dialogue. In practice, the term is generally used to shame and intimidate people they don’t like: Usually ordinary Americans.

But this kind of shaming is not enough, apparently. For months now, students and faculty at Harvard Law School have banded together to create what they have labeled the “Reclaim Harvard Law Movement.” While not really a movement, these privileged students are making increasingly silly demands.

They argue that “the law school (Harvard) refuses to provide adequate institutional support for an office of diversity and inclusion, hire critical race theorists, promote staff of color in the workplace to management positions in their due course, provide adequate contextualization in curricula, educate its professors, its staff, and its students around cultural competency, take the steps that are necessary to accord adequate and equal dignity to marginalized students.” On top of this, they claim that the law school promotes and sustains systems of systemic racism and exclusion of marginalized groups.

That’s a lot of finger pointing to do for a law school which openly states that their law school population is comprised of 44 percent students of color. (On the other hand, Harvard University itself is being sued for alleged racially discriminatory “affirmative action” programs, so perhaps they do have some atoning in store.)

Not satisfied or mollified by such facts, some students have decided to physically colonize a building for their own use. According to their webpage, the students behind Reclaim Harvard Law claim the right to occupy the Caspersen Center Student lounge, which they have taken it upon themselves to rename Belinda Hall. Who is Belinda? Apparently, she was a former slave who demanded reparations, thereby implying that Harvard Law students and some of the workers they purport to be advocating on behalf of are in a similar situation to slaves.

This situation is not unique. Indeed, the Reclaim Harvard Law Movement follows the typical pattern of privileged left-wing student protests. They call themselves a “movement” and cause physical disruptions on campus. They compare themselves to various civil rights movements and issue a long list of absurd demands. While they think of themselves as challenging the system, it is almost as if their protests have become a routine part of that system.

Harvard Law School is one of the most respected legal institutions in the world and prides itself on training future lawyers and America’s future leaders. It is, indeed, a bastion of privilege, deserved privilege in most cases. However, it has also been the origin of much left-wing thought, including “Critical Race Studies,” a legal theory with its roots in Marxism. If students really wanted to challenge authority, one would think a good place to start would be by challenging the left-wing ideas that those in authority teach.

Mind you, these student protestors are not taking the most radical step, which would be to quit Harvard Law School because of the pervasive inequities that they claim exist. Rather, they seek to benefit from the “privilege” that association with Harvard Law School provides, while at the same time employing the language and tactics that cultural elites on the left have given them to engage in behavior that, perhaps, assuages their guilt for taking advantage of the many privileges that their association with the school will provide.

Things have gotten so heated at Harvard Law that the school has begun to monitor the situation closely. According to sources, “The school filmed activities in the room Friday to ensure that students were complying with the policy outlined in their emails. Activists said they identified several undercover Harvard University Police Officers masquerading as admissions officers stationed in the hall watching Friday’s dispute play out.” In other words, instead of directly addressing the severity of the movement, Harvard Law has merely conducted surveillance while the insanity continues.

Reclaim Harvard Law has taken campus activism to such extreme lengths that even former supporters are concerned. A recent article published in The Harvard Law Record calls for the movement to “stop destroying itself.” A former supporter claims that the movement has “taken over Belinda Hall not just physically, but mentally. Everyone who dares to disagree with you is labeled a racist or an extremist.”

This type of activism does not promote respectful dialogue and healthy change on campuses, but rather, is a just another example of privileged silliness.


Federal Bureaucrats Stick Their Noses Into School Lunches

“School meals matter!” says the USDA’s guide for parents. The content of your child’s plate has been added to the long list of things that, according to the Obama Administration, must be regulated by the federal government. Those who are not convinced by the USDA’s less-than-compelling evidence that the government should dictate the diets of America’s schoolchildren should be prepared to pay a hefty fine. As if Common Core had not done enough damage to our children’s schools, the federal government is now planning to sic its bureaucrats on school cafeterias.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service proposed a regulation on March 28th that would fine schools and state agencies for “egregious or persistent disregard” of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was the product of Michelle Obama’s “healthy eating” crusade. The proposed rule, which calls the fines an “assessment,” would allow the agency to confiscate a portion of the school’s or state’s total meal reimbursements. Even without violations, enforcement of the new rule will cost states $4.3 million in 2017 and $22.7 million over five years.

These “assessments” are particularly problematic as the USDA has failed to evaluate the effectiveness of the Act itself. Thus, the government will be blindly enforcing a regulation that has no outcome-based goals and no measure for long-term success. Additionally, the campaign leading to the passage of the Act contained little to no fact-based evidence, instead relying upon stories of childhood obesity and bullying. This is just one example of the Obama administration’s policy-by-anecdote approach.

The Hunger-Free Kids Act has already delivered a major blow to the school lunch program. Unhappy with their slimmed-down lunch choices under Mrs. Obama’s rules, 1.4 million students have dropped out of the program, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

Complaining of unappetizing choices and small portions, students have taken to Twitter to post picture of their terrible school lunches with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama. School lunches can only be made appetizing through a “temporary pasta exemption” or through the “black market” of condiments, resulting in an increase in the amount of food waste by students. As it turns out, you can lead a student to a Michelle-approved school lunch but you cannot make him eat it.

By controlling the contents of our children’s plates, the federal government is contributing to a much larger problem. The government is assuming the role of parent and, in doing so, is teaching an entire generation of Americans that the government is the best authority on daily choices such as the content of their meals. In order to promote this agenda, the Obama administration is using valuable leverage: school funding. If school funding and parental control of nutrition “matters” to you, tell the Obama administration to quit fining our children’s food.


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