Thursday, May 18, 2017

Washington Post urges colleges to censor speech if someone thinks it’s racist

Does The Washington Post editorial board have the slightest familiarity with First Amendment precedents?

In response to the racist-banana incident at the private American University – now under investigation by the U.S. attorney in D.C. as well as the FBI – the editorial board has declared that all colleges should censor students if someone thinks their speech or behavior is racist:

Two-bit provocations such as hanging nooses on campuses play on emotions made raw in the wake of a presidential campaign that featured the vilification of minorities and barely veiled race-baiting. For university administrators, the challenge is to address that legitimate pain with sensitivity and make crystal clear that racist signs, symbols and speech are off-limits.

UCLA Law Prof. Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar, doesn’t try to explain away what appears to be a clear and chilling call for censorship from a legendary newspaper. He writes in his own Post column today:

This is an editorial, the product of carefully considered labor on the part of a group of people, not an extemporaneous remark …

And the editorial’s proposal is an awful idea. At public universities, it would violate the First Amendment; at private universities, it would violate many of the universities’ stated commitments to open debate, as well as basic principles of academic freedom.

The editorial board has no clue how wide a swath of speech it would be implicating, according to Volokh: Claims of “whites being an oppressor race” could just as easily be punished as bananas found hanging from makeshift nooses.

The same goes for criticizing Islam as illiberal, calling for stricter immigration limits or condemning Israeli policies:

All such advocacy that runs against university administrators’ political views would be deterred when “university administrators” “make crystal clear” that “racist … speech” — racist in the views of whatever disciplinary committee is making decisions — is “off-limits.”

Hans Bader, former lawyer in the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, said in an email today the Post has reached the “opposite extreme” from its past position:

Once upon a time it called for Congress to pass Congressman Henry Hyde’s bill to ban campus speech codes even at private campuses. Of course, that was years ago, when moderate Democrats still existed. …

I guess free speech no longer matters in an “era defined by trigger warnings and safe spaces.”  Forget that pesky First Amendment thing.

Brookings Institution scholar Stuart Taylor, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy, responded to Volokh’s post:

This is huge, and horrible. The Washington Post has — for the first time, as best I can tell — attacked the core of free speech and the First Amendment. Perhaps when Trump attacks the First Amendment by filing a billion-dollar libel suit against the Post, it will come to regret its role in tearing down our constitutional protections.

Another commenter noted the Post could be hoist with its own petard because of a “hate-filled rant” it published in 2013:

[The op-ed was] accusing whites of committing virtually all mass murders, when in fact, whites, who are three-quarters of the U.S. population, actually commit slightly less than their share of mass murders (moreover, about half of all murders in the U.S. are committed by blacks, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and Justice Department data). …

The Washington Post has also published other racist op-eds, such as one arguing that blacks should be given 5/3 of the votes give to whites, to make up for the racist 3/5 compromise in the original constitution.


War on Campus

Don't look to college "leaders" to defend free speech and shut down the rioters. It doesn't work that way. Universities almost always collapse in the face of student protest, even though the numbers are overwhelmingly in favor of the institutions. So it was in the sixties, and so it is again today.

Half a century ago, in the sixties, major universities retreated in the face of anti-Vietnam War, anti-ROTC, and anti-"racist" demonstrations on "top" campuses from Yale and Columbia to Wisconsin and Stanford. New politically inspired departments (Black Studies for example) were created, and professors, including some of the country's most distinguished, were prevented from teaching. At Cornell, the brilliant Walter Berns, quit in disgust

    after the faculty, "having jettisoned every vestige of academic freedom," Professor Berns said, reversed itself and granted amnesty to black students who had seized the student union building. Some denounced dissenting professors as racists and threatened them with violence.

And so it goes. A decade later, students had conquered positions on committees hiring tenured professors. Stephan Thernstrom at Harvard, for example, was blocked from teaching his famous course on the antebellum South on the outrageous grounds that no white man could deal fairly and completely with black history.

It was already obvious in the sixties that the protesters intended to undo the civil rights revolution, well demonstrated by the call for separate dormitories for black students. This was nothing less than the reimposition of segregation within the university. The demand that students choose their own professors was cut from the same detestable ideological cloth. Back then, such demands came from a minority of students, faculty, and administrators. Today, that minority is larger, and their world view far more commonplace. That is why there are so few conservative profs around, and why those that do have jobs pretend to be leftists until they get tenure, when, they tell themselves, they can start teaching and writing what they really believe.

Easier said than done. Survival on campus isn't just a matter of job security. It's rather reminiscent, as William Jacobson observes in a thoughtful essay, of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when professors were publicly humiliated for violations of Mao's political correctness.

    The early phases of the Cultural Revolution were centered on China's schools. In the summer of 1966, the Communist Party leadership proclaimed that some of China's educators were members of the exploiting classes, who were poisoning students with their capitalist ideology. Indeed, the educated classes in general were marked as targets of the revolution.

    The leadership gave Communist youth known as Red Guards the green light to remove educators from their jobs and punish them...

There are several similarities between student demonstrators here, and the Chinese Red Guards, of which I think the most important is that neither is/was spontaneous. Both mobs were following orders from their political masters, and many of the Americans appear to have been paid and trained.

The spread of censorship in the United States, along with the imposition of political correctness, is not limited to the universities. It is well-established in high schools as well.  Barely more than half of our high-school teachers favor free speech, when it is likely to offend others, or violate the official dogmas.

Nor is censorship just a feature of the educational system, as is easy to see from the monochromatic hues of most all social media sites and "news" publications, whether the dead-tree versions or the digital pages. In this environment, it's going to be very difficult for scholars, pundits, and teachers to tear off their liberal masks and declare themselves free thinkers. They can be purged, tenure or not. Let's see what happens to Bret Stephens, now at the New York Times. It's a significant test case.

So the clashes on campus are just part of a much bigger fight. A very important part, to be sure, and we are already seeing its consequences: with each graduating class, our college grads are more politically homogeneous and less informed. It's easy to see this in the many uninformed statements from our political class. Obama made some totally uninformed statements in his Cairo speech early in his first term, and many of Trump's gaffes are equally ignorant. If our leaders do not know the history of allies and enemies, it will be hard for them to design and conduct strategy to prevail in the current global war.

This will last long after the rioters calm down, even if the First Amendment survives.


Scotland's First Minister admits failures in her education policies

Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that teaching in schools does not focus enough on the basic skills of reading or writing.

The first minister, who has faced pressure over her stewardship of education since a survey last week found that fewer than half of 13 and 14-year-old children could write to the required standard, said that reforms would be introduced because results in some areas were “not good enough”.

She said that the Curriculum for Excellence introduced in 2010 had been designed to help young people become “good citizens” and “make sense of the world”, rather than simply to absorb facts and figures. However, she said she had received advice that there should be more time spent on maths and writing


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