Monday, May 03, 2021

Almost Heaven

West Virginia is a beautiful state with a reputation problem. Along with gorgeous mountains and phenomenal outdoor amenities like golf, kayaking, mountain climbing, and skiing, it’s also close to major metropolitan areas and the coast. But it is also home to countless broken Appalachian communities. These communities suffer from poverty, low employment, and low education. There’s now some good news on the horizon for these communities.

The West Virginia Legislature just passed a sweeping school choice bill. The bill allows 90 percent of West Virginia children to receive $4,600 in an education scholarship account (ESA). These ESAs can be used for private school tuition, tutoring, education therapies, or homeschool curriculum. If the governor signs this bill, it could be a game changer.

West Virginia’s governor also announced a plan to eliminate the state income tax. The plan will be paid for in a combination of ways, including raising sales taxes, raising consumption taxes on alcohol, and reducing or eliminating tax breaks for the oil and gas industry.

All of the sudden, West Virginia, which has had a declining population since the 1950s, could look pretty attractive to young families who aren’t thrilled with the West Virginia public schools and would prefer to DIY their own plan. It’s going to look pretty attractive to high-income earners who can now work from anywhere. And it’s going to look pretty attractive to active folks who value a small-town atmosphere with a low cost of living. These are groups that can engage with their communities and help solve entrenched social problems. These are groups that Missouri would be wise to pursue.

Missouri also has great amenities. We have delightful small towns, beautiful state parks, Lake of the Ozarks, and Branson. Unfortunately, too many legislators from these very same areas are solidly against school choice in any form. They need the support of teachers to get elected and that, so far, has meant standing firm for the status quo and only the status quo. The fact that the young people who do go off to college often don’t return must not be considered. The fact that young families aren’t gravitating to these communities is seemingly being ignored. The fact that knowledge workers will go to states like West Virginia, Colorado, or Florida must not be a threat.

We keep this attitude at our peril. Post-pandemic, many people are thinking long and hard about where and how they want to live. Missouri should be setting itself up to be as attractive as possible.


The New Red Guards at Universities

Student campaigns to censure and punish professors.

Seeming to give credence to Bertrand Russell’s observation that “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts,” Michael Saunders, a member of the University of Washington Student Senate, introduced a resolution to create a system for students and staff to serve on an academic jury. The purpose of this jury, according to the resolution filed by Sanders, is to resolve “all discrimination accusations and charges that violate the University of Washington’s mission statement” so that the university is able to “think outside the lens of an oppressive system and think in a mindset of innovation, improvement, and radical change.”

As is clear from the tortured prose of the resolution, complete with its leftist catchphrases, this is another example of woke students trying to seize moral authority and use their newly found power to enforce a radical ideology on an entire campus. More disturbing is the actual ideology of the proposal which clearly is to promote a singular way of thinking to advance social justice, suppress dissent and opposing views, and “chill” the speech and opinions of faculty who dare to veer off the expected and acceptable way of thinking.

There are, of course, serious issues with the creation of such a tribunal to evaluate and punish faculty expression. For example, how would a faculty member know, in advance, what thoughts and ideas are acceptable and which ones are subject to censure? Who composes this list and whence do the authors derive the authority for creating such a code? Will the creation of a list of forbidden topics be drafted only by liberal students and faculty who feel that they have the moral authority to determine what can be said by whom on campuses now? Will any opposing, conservative views henceforth be tolerated?

Will the subjects questioned and debated by errant faculty—such as affirmative action, the Black Lives Matter movement, gay marriage, abortion, border and illegal immigration policy, gun control, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and other controversial topics—be limited to positions by liberal faculty who have predetermined views on these troubling topics? Does the creation of this jury mean that no opposing views on these or any other topics would be permitted, so that conservative speech and ideology would be effectively suppressed, subject to censure and punishment?

The fact that these students think that their personal ideology and views on controversial topics are established truths, rather than opinions, is troubling enough in itself, but will be made more dangerous and disturbing when they are codified in some type of a speech code which determines what can, and cannot, be said.

Since what will eventually happen is that a speech code will be created, these presumptuous students should remember that campus speech codes have been historically struck down by the courts as being unconstitutional infringements on First Amendment rights, in addition to violating the concept of academic freedom that most faculty enjoy on university campuses.

In its seminal 1940 statement on academic freedom, The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) affirmed this academic right and noted that when professors “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline,” although “they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances” and “they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others . . . .”

Absent any malice or illegal expression, a faculty member is normally free to address any topic he or she chooses, even on matters outside of one’s teaching discipline, so the notion that students will ferret out passages from articles and research to find out what a professor has written with which they disagree is both grotesque and contrary to the values of academic freedom and free speech on campus.

As is evident to observers of the current state of academia, students have been using this tactic of suppressing faculty speech they dislike for some time now, although it seems to have accelerated in recent times as students have realized that they can seize power without consequences or interference from feckless administrators.

As this academic year opened, for example, “anti-racist” Skidmore students presented 19 demands to the administration, including the predictable ones, such as “a zero-tolerance policy toward racism among faculty, staff, students and administrators” and “mandatory and reoccurring anti-racist training for all professors and students.” But perhaps most troubling on this list was the one very specific demand that called for two studio art professors, David Peterson, and Andrea Peterson, to be immediately fired. What was the grave offense that would have justified terminating someone’s academic career? The two professors, the triggered and indignant students revealed, “were seen protesting with Blue Lives Matter protestors, while Skidmore alumni and students were being teargassed and attacked on the other side of the street,” and this mere presence at the pro-police rally was clear evidence to these fragile students that the Petersons were “openly advocating and preaching exclusionary, racist, and fascist ideology.” [Emphasis added.]

In a November, eight McGill University student organizations not only outrageously critiqued the University’s stated policies on academic freedom, but also attacked Philip Salzman, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, demanding that he be stripped of his academic credentials and have his McGill connection erased. In their letter they suggested that if members of the McGill community are able to express their views without restraint—and without considering how this expression may negatively affect victim groups and individuals on the McGill campus—then academic freedom must be contained and restricted to avoid “harming” these alleged victims . . . .”

The letter specifically denounced Salzman’s writing because, the tendentious students wrote, he presented “opinions as if they are objective facts.” The students, of course, did the exact same thing by claiming that inclusivity, diversity, social justice, white supremacy, systemic racism, and Islamophobia, for instance—many of the terms that animate current progressive thought—are themselves absolute truths and not subject to vigorous debate, discussion, and critique, precisely what Professor Salzman’s articles do. And here the students reveal their primary, though flawed, view: that regardless of how legitimate Salzman’s viewpoints may be (a point which they do not, of course, even consider), the sensitivity and feelings of his purported victims is more important than the creation of knowledge and academic discourse.

Another unfortunate example of student attacks on professors’ academic freedom revealed itself when the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) of University of San Diego’s Law School proposed creating their own version of Orwell’s ThinkPol. In a six-page letter to USD law school faculty and students in the wake of the George Floyd death the BLSA included as one of its “calls to action” the troubling demand that the law school “develop a classroom diversity officer position tasked with observing classroom practices and reporting questionable conduct within the classroom to the administration.” [Emphasis added.]

It is certain, of course, that these monitors would have the effect of chilling speech and inhibiting the free exchange of ideas about the law, society, criminality, law enforcement, racism, and other likely topics in a law school classroom. And since the proposed monitors would report those individuals who commit racial thought crimes at USD, what Orwell called “unapproved thought,” how is someone to know in advance what speech and thought is permitted and which is not? College speech codes, which is what this proposal actually amounts to, have, as mentioned, been regularly struck down as unconstitutional for, among other reasons, being overly vague, broad, and highly subjective.

The notion that a vocal minority of self-important student ideologues can determine what views may or may not be expressed on a particular campus is not only antithetical to the purpose of a university, of course, but is vaguely fascistic by purposely or carelessly relinquishing power to a few to decide what can be said and what speech is allowed and what must be suppressed; it is what former Yale University president Bartlett Giamatti characterized as the “tyranny of group self-righteousness.”

The problem is that intellectually arrogant, coddled students feel that they can determine who on campus has the right to have certain viewpoints and who does not. More seriously, not only do they believe that their ideological foes deserve to be denounced, but they further believe that the targets of their opprobrium—these alleged racists, white supremacists, conservatives and anyone else who expresses alternate views to the prevailing orthodoxy— should not even be allowed to remain on campus and that it is reasonable they be purged from their respective campuses.

This is “cancel culture” at its inevitable and grotesque endpoint, and that students have weaponized leftist ideology to suppress alternate views and eliminate any debate bodes poorly for the future of the academy.

The prescient and still-relevant 1975 Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at Yale discussed the danger of allowing some intellectually intolerant individuals on campus to degrade or demonize the expression of others with whom they disagree. “They assert a right to prevent free expression,” the report noted. “They rest upon the assumption that speech can be suppressed by anyone who deems it false or offensive,” echoing Herbert Marcuse’s notion of ‘repressive tolerance.’ “They deny what Justice Holmes termed ‘freedom for the thought that we hate.’ They make the majority, or any willful minority, the arbiters of truth for all.”

And what is the ultimate threat for such suppression of free speech, of this unfortunate symptom of cancel culture, according to the report? “If expression may be prevented, censored or punished, because of its content or because of the motives attributed to those who promote it, then it is no longer free. It will be subordinated to other values that we believe to be of lower priority in a university.”

And when censorious students seek to silence opposing thought by banishing ideological foes from a campus, free speech is threatened and degraded for all.


A California community college professor has slammed one of her 19-year-old students after he called police 'heroes'.

The student, Braden Ellis, got into the heated exchange with his communications professor at Cypress College after he gave a Zoom presentation about 'cancel culture' in the United States.

Footage of their exchange, which he says came immediately after his presentation, shows the professor repeatedly interrupting Ellis after he defended police.

The female professor, who wasn't immediately identified but is an adjunct professor, kept insisting that police were bad.

At one point, she suggested police were created in the South to track down runaway slaves and that it was a form of systemic racism.

'I think cops are heroes,' Ellis, who is a business major, said at the beginning of the exchange.

The student, Braden Ellis, got into the heated exchange with his unidentified communications professor at Cypress College in California after he gave a Zoom presentation about 'cancel culture' and defending police

He was immediately interrupted by the professor, saying: 'All of them?'

Before being cut off again, Ellis managed to calmly argue: 'I'd say a good majority. You have bad people in every business.'

'Yet, a lot of police officers have committed an atrocious crime and have gotten away with it and have never been convicted of any of it,' the professor could then be heard saying.

Ellis responded: 'This is what I believe... I do support our police. We have bad people, and the people that do bad things should be brought to justice... I agree with that.'

The professor then interrupted, saying: 'So what is your bottom line point? You're saying police officers should be revered, viewed as heroes? They belong on TV shows with children?'

Ellis said: 'I think they are heroes, in a sense, because they come to you in need and help you. 'They have problems just like any other business and we should fix that.'

The professor then argued that policing wasn't a business because they are supposed to 'protect and serve the people'.

When the student asked his professor whether she would call police in an emergency, she claimed she wouldn't call law enforcement because she doesn't trust them.

'My life's more in danger in their presence… I wouldn't call anybody,' she said.

When Ellis questioned what she would do if an intruder came into her home, the professor said the class was over.

'I know it's not popular for me to say that to you guys but that's what I believe about the police,' Ellis told his professor and classmates before the class ended.

Cypress College takes great pride in fostering a learning environment for students where ideas and opinions are exchanged as a vital piece of the educational journey.

Our community fully embraces this culture; students often defend one another’s rights to express themselves freely, even when opinions differ.

Any efforts to suppress free and respectful expression on our campus will not be tolerated.

The adjunct professor will be taking a leave of absence for the duration of her assignment at Cypress College. This was her first course at Cypress and she had previously indicated her intention to not return in the fall.

We are reviewing the full recording of the exchange between the adjunct professor and the student and will address it fully in the coming days.

In an interview with Fox News, Ellis said the exchange happened after his 10 minute presentation on cancel culture in which he specifically mentioned how the Nickelodeon show Paw Patrol faced criticism because it showed police in a positive light.

He also noted how the Cops TV series had briefly been stopped, while A&E's Live PD was completely taken off the air.

Ellis said he didn't record his exchange with the professor but took it from her archive after it left him feeling shocked.

He said he was defending his right to free speech. 'Even if you don't like it, you should be able to speak,' he said. 'You might dislike it, but I should fight for your right to say it. That used to be a liberal position.

'We Republicans have the policies. We need to make sure that we are standing strong, need to be tough and fight back against the liberal agenda in college, but do it with gentleness and respect.'

The college issued a statement in the wake of the exchange, saying any efforts to stifle free speech would not be tolerated.

'Cypress College takes great pride in fostering a learning environment for students where ideas and opinions are exchanged as a vital piece of the educational journey,' the statement read.

'Our community fully embraces this culture; students often defend one another's rights to express themselves freely, even when opinions differ. Any efforts to suppress free and respectful expression on our campus will not be tolerated.

'The adjunct professor will be taking a leave of absence for the duration of her assignment at Cypress College. This was her first course at Cypress and she had previously indicated her intention to not return in the fall.

'We are reviewing the full recording of the exchange between the adjunct professor and the student and will address it fully in the coming days.'


School Principal Privately Admits What 'Anti-racist' Curriculum Is Doing to White Kids

The head of an elite private school in New York City privately admitted to a teacher that the institution is “demonizing white people for being born."

The call between math teacher Paul Rossi, who was later relieved of his duties after publicly criticizing the school’s anti-racist orthodoxy, and George Davidson, head of Grace Church School, took place on March 2. The two discussed wokeness at the school and how it’s affecting white students.

"Let me ask you something, George, because I think there's something very different about having a single experience where you make sense of it, right, and having a teacher, an authority figure, talk to you endlessly, every year, telling you, that because you have whiteness you are associated with evils, all these different evils," Rossi says to him. “These are moral evils, it's not the same as taking like a physical thing, because it doesn't affect your moral value. That's the problem.”

“The fact is that I'm agreeing with you that there has been a demonization that we need to get our hands around, in the way in which people are doing this understanding,” Davidson responds.

“So you agree that we're demonizing kids,” Rossi answers.

“We're demonizing ki—" Davison starts to say before cutting himself off, adding, “We're demonizing white people, for being born.”

“And are some of our students white people?” Rossi asks.

“Yes,” Davidson replies.

“Okay, so we're demonizing white kids,” Rossi says. “Why don't you just say it?”

"We are using language that makes them feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for," Davidson responds.

The conversation was posted online by the civil rights organization Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism. FAIR is supporting Rossi, who was “relieved of his teaching duties” for his public criticism of the school on former New York Times editor Bari Weiss's Substack.