Friday, April 22, 2022

Flirty emails got Mark Schlissel fired. A deeper history weighs on Michigan’s flagship

This is a rather sad case. To be a bit corny about it, Cupid's arrow strikes unpredictably. Sometimes you just know that a person you meet is one whom you can communicate with in a totally easy and enjoyable way. It happens to me on rare occasions. Though I am perhaps lucky to have autistic tendencies and so have always had no difficulty staying on the strait and narrow with my partner at the time. I think Prof. Schlissel was punished for being simply human. There appears after all to have been no affair, just lovelorn emails. I feel sorry for him

He is a lonely, bearded scientist who has an important job in the Midwest. A Brooklyn native, raised in a traditional Jewish household, he is amused by a satirization of the sexual fantasies of New Yorkers.

He is married with children. But he dreams at work about a sojourn in Paris with a woman other than his wife — someone who enjoys a good bistro; someone who makes his heart hurt.
He asks saucily if he might “lure” her with a knish.

This is the portrait of Mark S. Schlissel that emerges from 118 pages of documents that the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents made public on a Saturday evening in January, shortly after they had removed him as president.

In this collection of cringey communications between Schlissel and a subordinate, the university’s former top executive is stripped of his veneer of esteem, reduced instead to a lovestruck buffoon. All of it was so unbecoming of a man in Schlissel’s position, the regents agreed, that he should be summarily fired with cause.

Schlissel’s termination ranks among one of the more profoundly embarrassing firings of a major university leader in modern memory. Instantly memeable, excerpts from the emails quickly wound up on T-shirts and stickers. Before the Sunday sun had risen, some prankster had chalked the word “Lonely” on a campus sidewalk above a Michigan “M,” referencing one of the messages Schlissel had signed with the first letter of his name.

Turbulence around Schlissel was nothing new. He had, since 2020, worn the scarlet letter of a Faculty Senate vote of no-confidence, drawing the ire of professors for his handling of the pandemic, among other things. His tensions with the board, whose members are elected by statewide vote, had begun to bleed into public view. Even so, most expected this to end just as it often does for people in Schlissel’s rarified air: The president walks away with warm regards from the board and giant fistfuls of money. Schlissel’s transgressions upset this timeworn choreography.

But his story is about more than a president getting crosswise with his board, or what appears to have been a workplace romance. The university’s recent history imbues his downfall with a complicated resonance that people in Ann Arbor are still sorting through. His firing came less than two years after Schlissel dismissed the university’s [black] provost, Martin A. Philbert, who was accused of sexually harassing multiple women over the course of 15 years at Michigan.

Taken together, the two cases sent a message that the the university’s problems with sexual misconduct go all the way to the top. It isn’t that simple. There is nothing in the public evidence that would definitively establish that Schlissel engaged in sexual harassment. Even so, he gave fodder to a more systematic criticism that Michigan’s leaders still don’t get it. After all of the apologies, the legal settlements, the training sessions, the promises, and the shame, something has yet to sink in at the highest levels. Something is left to understand.

Since Philbert’s firing, in 2020, the university has signaled its willingness to turn over every rock, hiring an outside law firm to investigate how the system failed. As president, Schlissel was a visible champion of this work. But new reporting from The Chronicle suggests that the job remains unfinished.

A retired professor, who has not previously discussed with the news media her role in the Philbert case, told The Chronicle that she was met with intimidation and indifference more than 15 years ago, when she first reported allegations against the future provost. Another faculty member, who has not spoken with news reporters about the case before, said she was twice told that decision makers at the university believed in Philbert’s capacity for “rehabilitation.”

The University of Michigan’s administration considers the matter of Martin A. Philbert settled. But Schlissel’s firing cracks open history, inviting still unanswered questions. When powerful people cross the lines of propriety, who renders the final verdict on what really happened? Whose memory counts? Who is burdened by history, and who is allowed to forget it?

Why exactly was Schlissel fired? On a recent afternoon at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, a storied sandwich shop in Ann Arbor’s Kerrytown District, Jordan B. Acker confronts that question over a chicken-pesto sandwich. Acker, a 37-year-old lawyer from the Detroit suburbs, is chairman of the Board of Regents. On the subject of Schlissel’s termination, Acker stays mostly on script. He circles back continually to a letter that the board sent to Schlissel in January, stating the regents’ rationale for firing the president with cause.
“I think the letter kind of speaks for itself,” Acker says. ”It’s a judgment question at the end of the day. And I think it’s clear from the letter, what was lacking here was judgment.”

Strictly speaking, Schlissel was fired for violating a morals clause in his contract, which stipulated that he must at all times comport himself in a manner that promotes the “dignity, reputation, and academic excellence of the university.” Nevertheless, the board saw fit to invoke the past, calling Schlissel’s conduct “particularly egregious” in light of his commitment to stamp out sexual misconduct at the university. The letter lets the reader decide exactly what’s being charged here. Is the board calling Schlissel a hypocrite or accusing him of harassment?

“Mark Schlissel is not a monster,” Acker says. “He’s not an evil, evil guy. Mark Schlissel was guilty of extraordinarily poor judgment. But I put him and Martin Philbert in very different categories. Martin Philbert was engaged in sexual harassment. I can’t say the same about Mark Schlissel.”


Ex-school official sues Virginia board over anti-racism training

A former assistant principal is suing a Virginia school board, claiming that she was forced out of her job for a “slip of the tongue” during a mandatory “anti-racism” training based on Critical Race Theory.

Emily Mais, who was the assistant principal at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School, accused the school district in a lawsuit filed Thursday of pushing her out in fall 2021 after she mistakenly used the words “colored people” as she railed against the training session.

Though Mais apologized for the “slip of the tongue, ”a teacher’s aide, who is black, verbally attacked her in front of all training attendees, the lawsuit filed in Albemarle County claims.

The aide accused her of “speaking like old racists who told people of color to go to the back of the bus,” the complaint claims.

Following that training, Mais said that multiple colleagues told her that the teacher’s aide and her friends were openly calling her vulgar names at work, including ‘that white racist b—-h” and “that two-faced racist b—-h”

Mais complained to the principal that the harassment was causing her “substantial emotional distress, preventing her from focusing on her job, and making it impossible for her to effectively manage the employees involved in the harassment.”

But the principal refused to take any action to address her concerns, the complaint says.

Mais submitted her resignation on Aug. 29 and left her job on Sept. 10, after being forced to apologize to her colleagues in what her lawyers described as “ritual shaming.”

“On information and belief, from beginning to end, the apology meeting was carefully orchestrated by district officials to humiliate, shame, and traumatize Ms. Mais for an accidental slip of the tongue in order to make an example of her and to communicate to other district employees the type of punishment that would occur if anyone dared question the new reigning anti-racist orthodoxy, which is racist at its core,” the filing says.

The 45-page lawsuit filed by conservative Christian legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom on her behalf is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorneys’ fees.

“Instead of training faculty members to embrace students of all races, Albemarle County school officials are using a curriculum that promotes racial discrimination,” Kate Anderson, director of the ADF Center for Parental Rights, said in a prepared statement.

“The training sets up a classic Catch-22: It encourages all staff members to ‘speak their truth,’ but when a white person like Emily raises concerns about the divisive content, she is deemed a racist in need of further ‘anti-racism’ instruction.

“Emily believes every person is made in the image of God and entitled to equal treatment and respect and refuses to participate in using harmful ideology to indoctrinate students, teachers, or staff.”

Phil Giaramita, a district spokesman, told The Post in an email that officials have not yet been served with the lawsuit and have not had the chance to review its allegations.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity at some point in the future to responding to the suit’s claims in the appropriate legal forum,” he added.


Are Law Schools Now Woke Factories?

Students at three recent college events threatened violence against conservative speakers, along with the student groups that invited them to speak on campus.

This may be commonplace today, but what makes this hostility so much more shocking is that it occurred at colleges once considered eminent law schools: Georgetown University Law Center, Hastings College of Law at the University of California, and Yale Law School.

These future lawyers and their professors have shown us precisely what they think of free speech and open inquiry when the wrong people with the wrong views come to campus.

These identity politics-fueled attacks threaten to undermine legal education. As we have learned, nothing stays on campus anymore. Rank illiberalism in law schools will ripple through the profession and its institutions in due course.

At Georgetown University Law Center, Ilya Shapiro was put on administrative leave in January of this year, days before beginning his tenure as executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. The reason: Shapiro had tweeted that President Joe Biden’s nominee “will always have an asterisk attached” because the president promised to “only consider black women.”

Shapiro noted that Sri Srinivasan, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, was the “best pick for Biden.” The “latest intersectionality hierarchy,” excluded this judge, he argued, and “so we’ll get [a] lesser black woman.”

Shapiro apologized for how the tweets were worded, and in isolation they read poorly. His argument buried behind this phrasing was obvious: We should not elevate candidates to the Supreme Court based on race and gender. Rather than contend with this claim, Georgetown Law suspended Shapiro for an insensitive tweet.

The call to terminate Shapiro has been publicly made by the Georgetown Black Law Students Association. Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor in a note to the law school community fabricated the wording of the tweets, stating that Shapiro had suggested “that the best Supreme Court nominee could not be a Black woman.”

Translation: This is a closed society, and Shapiro unartfully opened questions and debates that we will not have here.

That was a false characterization by Treanor, and it fanned the flames, leading to calls to action across campus. Treanor further stated that “Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity.”

Students at Georgetown Law are learning how they should handle their disagreements with others. They should cancel them, suspend them, even fire them. Why not make arguments against his position, and teach your students how lawyers should behave?

Instead, the administration chose intolerance. Is it any wonder that some students have petitioned the school for a cry room so that they can grieve and process such manifest racism and bigotry?

Shapiro remains on administrative leave to this day.

Students from other campuses have taken their cues from Georgetown Law, including the Hastings School of Law, where Shapiro was recently shouted down at a debate with another professor about the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Video of the event depicts near endless verbal assaults, yelling, and cursing. Members of the Black Law Student Association demanded that Shapiro be removed from campus. Shapiro at one point was directly impeded from approaching the lectern.

One student said, “We can’t have a bigot on campus.” Another exclaimed, “Remove him off the f—ing campus, because that’s what we want.”

Two professors explicitly affirmed the protests, their aims, and their methods. One of those professors, Rory Hastings, was set to debate Shapiro. And in the video of the event, he stated that he was for the protest.

Another professor, Veena Dubal, said on Twitter: “For me, the central intellectual query here is not whether Shapiro can speak, but why he was invited. Why is the voice of someone who has made overtly racist & misogynist statements being elevated?”

At least the Hastings administration affirmed free speech in an email sent to the law school community, but it did nothing against the students who broke the school’s policies with their thug tactics during Shapiro’s appearance. And that omission speaks loudly to students about what is favored and disfavored speech.

At Yale, an event with Kristen Waggoner, Alliance Defending Freedom general counsel, and Monica Miller with the American Humanist Association was interrupted in a physically intimidating and violent fashion by students. Video of the event evinces high-pitched sounds of shrieking voices. The police were called and were, apparently, needed.

Waggoner left campus in a police vehicle. Students who organized the event and the speakers both reported feeling unsafe and would not leave without security.

The student mob also pounded walls, blocked exits, yelled at speakers, and physically threatened Federalist Society students who organized the event.

This is more absurd, totalitarian behavior at a law school. We are talking about representatives from two organizations of remarkably different philosophies appearing together in general agreement about free speech.

What was so explosive about the event?

The event showcased the work both the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Humanist Association performed together in the case Uzuegbunam v. Preczewski, in which the Supreme Court ruled that government officials can be held accountable for violating constitutionally protected freedoms.

A student was prevented from talking about the Gospel on his campus, and Alliance Defending Freedom represented the student and the American Humanist Association filed a “friend of the court” brief. So far, so good.

The ire of the students seems to have been triggered not by the actual work that Alliance Defending Freedom did in the case. Rather, their actions signal that Alliance Defending Freedom should not even be allowed to exist and participate in the legal system as a matter of right. The students screamed “protect the children” at one point.

Alliance Defending Freedom, among its many sins against the new morality, opposes the au courant indefinite extension of pronouns, an ideology that now demands even children should be introduced to it. For many students, that is the obverse of protecting students.

Protecting them now means to transgender them into the exciting malleable world of sexuality. Those who refuse this elastic notion of gender should not be allowed to speak because of the damage, hurt, and violence they psychically impose on students.

One way to become a better advocate is to listen to the other side, not shut it down. Waggoner, after all, has won at the Supreme Court, including the recent case she was at Yale to speak about to students. Her opponents might wonder what her secret sauce is. Those who are trying to launch their careers should have the humility to learn, to wonder.

But that is what these law students refused to do. The point is to crush opposing viewpoints.

And what did they learn from their supposed academic leadership on campus? No punishments of any kind were dealt to the students who verbally assaulted the speakers and the students. Yale Law School’s official statement was that the administration was “in serious conversation with students about our free speech policies, expectations, and norms.”

In other words, believe our lies. Mere words in a student handbook protect nothing if they are not enforced with official deeds. They are, at present, a dead letter.

Yale Law School denied that police were needed at the event, and the school’s official statement did not state that its free speech policy was violated. That prompted Waggoner to correct publicly this “blatant misrepresentation,” admonishing the leadership of the school that “ … Yale administrators shouldn’t be cowering to mobs. They should be insisting on embracing a culture of free speech.”

Much of the animus seems to be caused by the conservative and more classically liberal approaches certain speakers and groups take regarding identity politics and its vision for our politics and law to be defined by race and gender.

Moreover, the students seem to be taking cues from members of the administrations of their institutions. Those leaders have either led the attempt to quell speech they disfavor or they gently excuse censorious and physically aggressive behavior by their students.

This obviously should raise concerns about who our future jurists are and what type of legal culture they want to instantiate.

With Yale law students, we deal with future leaders in the profession. If blanket resistance to students or speakers who in any way question progressive pieties about identity politics becomes de rigueur and goes largely unpunished, then it would be an early sign that an official illiberalism will extend beyond campus and to our courts and politics.

Recognizing this nascent reality, U.S. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman penned an email to the entire bench of federal judges noting the event and that those who participate in this kind of activity should be barred from federal clerkships. That was a positive first step.

The American law school follows an academic model of pedagogy, instruction, and rigor. According to this model, all relevant legal questions should be open and engaged, not closed by a vocal elect, self-proclaimed tribunes of race and gender. Yale’s students instead opted to bring the methods of a closed society to campus, preventing debate where it should flow freely if the academy is to remain true to its calling.

Legal academic training will always contain an adversarial approach, along with the inevitable human emotions and passions that must be restrained while making opposing arguments.

As befits the process of legal instruction, students must be inculcated with restraint, civility, and curiosity to form the mentality of a profession vital to a republican form of government built on the rule of law, in both civil and private law realms.

Such a legal system demands that its practitioners exercise an ethic of decency within a demanding, competitive profession.

Rule of law is about form, procedure, and process, if it’s about anything. But that demands discipline on the part of lawyers, judges, and other key actors.

The pedagogical process, one that initiates students into the world of lawyering and its demands for civility, must be defended by academics and deans of law schools. Here there can be no neutrality.

That we are having this conversation is another sign that identity politics—its thorough envelopment of many law school students and school administration members—always manifests itself in an authoritarian, illiberal style. Our constitutional order needs to develop antibodies quickly to ward it off.

Some could be forgiven for concluding that to protect it we need to defund law schools.




Thursday, April 21, 2022

The blessing of 'rote' memory

I agree with Jeff Jacoby below. The poetry I memorized in my student days is a lasting pleasure to me. Sometimes I just recite it in my head and sometimes I recite it out loud for an audience. I know, for instance, about the first hundred lines of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" by heart -- in the original Middle English. I once won a heart by reciting it to a lady.

I also once got a very good response from a brilliant lady by reciting in an appropriate setting Goethe's
Meeres Stille, even though the lady knew no German

I also enjoy Tennyson's poems but since "Break, Break, Break" is in fact praise of a homosexual love I have never recited it to anyone

HERE'S A hypothesis: Perhaps one factor in Volodymyr Zelensky's skill as a wartime political leader is his training as an actor, which developed his ability to rally followers, evoke empathy, and convincingly express the justice of the cause for which Ukraine is fighting. Arguably, the many years Zelensky spent memorizing scripts and honing the ability to deliver lines effectively are now contributing to his effectiveness as Ukraine's president.

In a similar vein, historians have argued that Ronald Reagan's experience in Hollywood prepared him to become the "Great Communicator" who later proved so successful as president of the United States.

Winston Churchill wasn't a professional actor. But he too committed prodigious amounts of material to memory — not only entire speeches to be delivered in Parliament, but also vast swaths of Shakespeare's plays. Richard Burton ruefully recalled playing Hamlet in a performance attended by Churchill, who, from his seat in the audience, could be heard reciting the prince of Denmark's lines. "I could not shake him off," Burton said. "I tried going fast. I tried going slow. . . . He knew the play absolutely backward; he knows perhaps a dozen of Shakespeare's plays intimately."

More than one observer has suggested that the rhetoric in Churchill's wartime speeches echoes the inspiriting patriotism — "We few, we band of brothers" — of the message delivered by Shakespeare's Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt.

I don't want to overstate the point. It does seem plausible to me that practice at memorizing texts and reciting them by heart would be an asset for anyone with political aspirations. But memorization is a wonderful and valuable activity regardless of any political benefits.

There was a time when memorization was a standard feature of American schooling. In 1927, New York City's board of education directed grade school teachers to teach poetry to pupils, with particular emphasis on the use of rhythm, diction, and imagery. Children were to memorize at least some of the poems they studied. Among the material recommended by the board "for reading and memorization" in the first, second, and third grades were works by Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, Alfred Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. By the time they were in seventh and eighth grades, students were memorizing chunks of Edgar Allan Poe and Shakespeare, along with Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Needless to say, it isn't only literature that can be memorized. The elements of the periodic table, the names and locations of the 50 states, the 46 US presidents, the first 100 digits of pi, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, all the Best Picture Oscar winners — the list is literally endless.

When I was 11 or 12, I took it into my head to memorize the names of every sitting US senator and governor. Some of my sports-minded friends knew the starting lineup of each American League baseball team. When my twin niece and nephew were toddlers, my brother taught them the names of the 15 former Soviet republics and their capitals. He would say "Kyrgyzstan" and, from their high chairs, they would call out "Bishkek."

Everyone memorizes some things — the multiplication tables, their Social Security number, song lyrics, the wifi password, family members' birthdays — but memorization for its own sake has long since gone out of favor. Writing in The American Scholar more than 40 years ago, the late Clara Claiborne Park, a professor of English at Williams College, commented on the disdain with which professional educators dismissed learning material by heart as mere "rote memory."

She quoted one college professor who sneeringly called memorization "the lowest form of human intellectual activity." If anything, the rise of the Internet has exacerbated that attitude. "I've almost given up making an effort to remember anything," Clive Thompson, a columnist at Wired, has written, "because I can instantly retrieve the information online."

Winston Churchill was known to commit prodigious amounts of material to memory, including speeches to be delivered in Parliament and vast swaths of Shakespeare's plays.

But there is nothing "low" about mastering a block of information so effectively that you can surface it at will. Who has ever regretted being able to recite Rudyard Kipling's "Recessional" from memory? Or readily identify a bird from its songs? Or name the planets of the Solar System? You don't have to be a "Jeopardy!" contestant to relish having instant recall of thick slices of knowledge. Memorization takes work, but there is joy in the accumulation of knowledge that requires no googling.

The more information for which you develop "muscle memory," the more tools you have for thinking and reasoning — the more connections you can perceive in the world, the more insights you can draw, the more moments of intellectual serendipity you may experience. In that sense, memorized information is mental circuitry that provides a path for imagination and understanding to flow.

Granted, memorizing "mere" facts and figures is not the same as learning to think. But it does stock one's mind, as Park put it, with something "to think about, to think with, a range of language to think and speak in."

Our brain's capacity for memory is immense. We really should be putting it to better use.


US professor wins $400,000 payout after refusing to call trans student a woman

A public university in Ohio has agreed to pay $400,000 to one of its professors after it rebuked him for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

In 2018, Nicholas Meriwether, a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in southern Ohio, addressed a transgender student as “sir” when she raised her hand in class.

This prompted the university to launch an investigation into the incident. It found that Meriwether had created a “hostile environment” in the classroom.

The university delivered Meriwether a written warning that stated that he could be fired or suspended without pay for violating the university’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meriwether asked if referring to all students by self-asserted gender identity, and including a disclaimer in his syllabus that noted he was only doing so under “compulsion”, would comply with the university’s policies, which he was told would not.

He also offered to refer to the student by either first or last preferred legal name without using gendered titles, but continued to refuse to refer to the student as a woman.

Meriwether then sued the university, but had his case dismissed by a federal district court due to lack of standing.

However, in 2020, a three-judge panel from the sixth US circuit court of appeals ruled that Meriwether is allowed to sue the school, writing in a 32-page opinion: “Traditionally, American universities have been beacons of intellectual diversity and academic freedom. They have prided themselves on being forums where controversial ideas are discussed and debated. And they have tried not to stifle debate by picking sides.”


Education Dept. changes to affect nearly 4M student loan borrowers

President Joe Biden's Education Department again moved to ease the burden of U.S. student loans on Tuesday, with the federal government claiming its latest reforms will wipe out debts for 40,000 such borrowers and bring 3.6 million Americans closer to ending their payments.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona called the current system a 'life sentence' for millions of low-income borrowers and pledged to correct 'historical failures' that have plagued repayment schemes like the income-driven repayment program (IDR) and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF).

Borrowers working as public servants are eligible for forgiveness under PSLF once they’ve made 10 years of qualifying payments.

'Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,' Cardona said in a press release.

'Today, the Department of Education will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans.

'These actions once again demonstrate the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to delivering meaningful debt relief and ensuring federal student loan programs are administered fairly and effectively.'

Roughly 41 million Americans collectively own about $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, larger than the total sum of the country's credit card and auto loan debt.




Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Maryland Schools Spend $1 Million on Anti-Racism Consultants

An increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools has led to exorbitant spending on outside consulting groups to implement diversity training.

In Maryland, Montgomery County Public Schools paid the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, an equity consulting group, over $1 million since 2020 to implement an anti-racism curriculum in their schools, according to an investigation from Parents Defending Education.

The Washington Free Beacon reported that, while spending on diversity, equity and inclusion training for kids has skyrocketed, test scores have gone down.

Literacy readiness in Montgomery County has dropped 30 to 40 percent since 2020, and only 54 percent of high school students test at or above a proficient level for reading.

Former Montgomery County school administrator Dee Reuben told the Free Beacon, “Parents are livid. I hear this every day — parents are afraid to speak out because they're afraid of the repercussions that will happen to their kids. Academics is going down the tube, and I think that is a shame considering we were one of the top school systems around — it breaks my heart.”

One of the projects that the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium has sponsored is a survey emailed to parents, asking, “To what extent does [Montgomery County Public Schools] support racial equity and disrupt systemic racism through its policies, procedures, structures, and practices?”

It also asks if parents think their children should be taught to “recognize, understand and interrupt racism,” according to the Free Beacon.

One thing everyone should agree on is that consulting firms shouldn’t be able to charge millions in taxpayer dollars meant for education while students’ grades suffer.


Commentary: Exhuming the Academy

On the East Coast, many have been following the suspension of Ilya Shapiro from Georgetown University, now lasting longer than an entire SCOTUS confirmation process. His accusers, law students, have called him “racist” and demanded that the university reserve for them a space to cry. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a similar assault on free speech has resulted in a lawsuit, but that story, despite a relative lack of coverage, displays a much deeper problem facing the academy today: the politicization of scientific research.

Elizabeth Weiss, a tenured professor of anthropology at San Jose State University, is the plaintiff in this case. Her story is lamentable. In 2020, Weiss and James Springer published a critique of repatriation laws, which govern the return of Native American skeletal remains, a topic Weiss discussed at length with the National Association of Scholars. Activists denounced the book as “scientific racism” and shortly after its publication Roberto Gonzalez (Weiss’s department chair) and Dean Walter Jacobs of the SJSU College of Social Sciences held a symposium in response to the book: “What to Do When a Tenured Colleague is Branded a Racist.” Gonzalez called Weiss his “racist colleague,” adding that her work “borders on professional incompetence.”

Weiss wrote an op-ed in August arguing against a proposed mandate to re-bury skeletal remains. Once again, she was denounced as a “racist” and there were many demands that Weiss be punished for her position. A month later, excited to return to the university’s skeletal collection after the COVID-19 pandemic, Weiss tweeted a photograph of herself holding a skull, with the caption: “So happy to be back with some old friends.”

The university’s provost, Vincent Del Casino, was outraged by the photo. He wrote that it shocked the university’s indigenous community and claimed that there were “many things in the image itself that do not align with the values of SJSU.” The claim is dubious, as a similar photo of another professor was shared for a recent faculty award—although the original page appears now deleted—and Weiss’s photo on the department’s webpage shows her working with the skulls. Regardless, Weiss was barred from accessing the collection of which she was curator.

As bad as the assault on Wiess’s free speech is, there lies a deeper problem in the politicization of scientific research. Weiss understands this problem all too well and wrote about it in a recent article for Aero. She explained that social justice activists have intruded in her field of biological anthropology (probably for funding more than anything else) and are insisting that scientific researchers work towards political goals such as decolonization by “writing back” against “colonial mentalities.” As an example, Weiss criticized one paper recently published in a peer-reviewed journal, which argued for changing taxonomic names honoring discoverers. Why? Generally, those discoverers were white men. Continued use of the names supposedly perpetuates “colonialism” and “white supremacy.”

In another example, two anthropologists called for a moratorium on the use of cranial traits in estimating ancestry. Again, why? “Their use serves to bolster the debunked biological race concept,” the authors wrote, despite evidence that race (or ancestry, if you will) can often be determined by such features. Transgender activists have even argued against identifying the sex of human remains, as this could offend the victims of anti-trans violence. The fact that biological sex is an immutable characteristic useful in identifying homicide victims—transgender or not—is discarded.

All of this raises a question: what is the “professional incompetence” Gonzalez attributed to Weiss? Is it Weiss’s rational defense of contrary opinion? Or is it the scientific research which Gonzalez and many others intend on politicizing? Embracing the politicization of science is reprehensible, and entirely detrimental to the field. As Weiss points out in her Aero article, archaeologists Kent V. Flannery, Joyce Marcus, and others warned in 1994 that no matter how noble the political agenda, the science serving as its host always suffers.

“Today, more than 25 years later,” Weiss laments, “we’ve reached a point at which political ideology seems to be nearly decimating scientific research: within a few years, whole fields of study may be off limits. I hope that this is not the case for biological anthropology.”

Let us hope this is not the case for all scientific fields, not just for biological anthropology. Otherwise, when the academy is eventually exhumed, the remains of those who made it their crypt will leave future anthropologists utterly baffled. How the pusillanimous professoriate ever survived this long is mysterious enough, but intentionally starving themselves by making their own fields of study off-limits is truly inexplicable.


How teachers in an Australian territory could soon be forced to call students 'crew' instead of 'boys and girls' and encouraged to organise 'non-gendered' sports teams

Teachers calling students 'boys' and 'girls' may soon be a thing of the past under plans to create a more welcoming environment for gender diverse children.

In draft guidelines on gender identity from the Northern Territory's Education Department, a variety of steps would be taken to ensure those questioning their gender weren't being offended in the classroom.

School sport days would not be split between boys and girls while students on overnight excursions and school camps would be allowed to sleep in rooms and use bathrooms of their 'affirmed gender', Sky News reported.

'Using gendered language such as 'girls and boys' or 'ladies and gentlemen' confirms gender stereotyping and roles and can be alienating for gender questioning and gender diverse children,' the document says.

'Avoid this by using vocabulary such as 'students', 'class', 'crew', 'everyone', people' or 'year X' that are more inclusive.'

Schools have also been encouraged in the guidelines to organise 'non-gendered' sport days, teams and events.

Rules around tight-fitted clothing should also be changed to cater to gender diverse children such as during swimming events, the document says.

'Many transgender and gender diverse children often withdraw from taking part in sport and physical activities because they feel highly uncomfortable or are forced into teams that do not match with their gender identity,' the guidelines say.

LGBTIQ students on school camps who require 'increased privacy' may be allowed to be given private rooms.

The guidelines also include a warning that concerns from other kids may be seen as bullying.

'If a child, or their peers, do not agree that they would feel safe and comfortable sharing, seek alternative solutions and acknowledge that this is an indication of possible exclusionary behaviour and potential bullying toward the LGBTQI child,' the guidelines say.

Labor NT Education Minister Lauren Moss stressed the document which has surfaced has not been finalised and said the terms 'boys' and 'girls' would not be banned in the classroom.

She did not comment on the specifics of the guidelines but said the department was looking at creating more inclusive environments for LGBTQI children.

'We know that often these students are young people and children who experience greater levels of harm or greater levels of isolation or greater levels of bullying and we need to make sure that we are working together as a school community to support all of our students and make sure that they all feel welcome,' she told the publication.

But the draft wasn't well received by everyone in the state with Country Liberal Party Senate candidate Jacinta Price labelling it 'utterly ridiculous'.

'I'm stunned the (Chief Minister Michael Gunner) Gunner government would even consider attempting to apply any Marxist ideology into our schooling system,' she said.

'It infuriates me. This government think that they can go ahead and make these decisions on behalf of teachers, on behalf of the Indigenous community. To suggest that terms like girl and boy are gender stereotypes and can be offensive is utterly ridiculous.'

She said the focus should instead be on lifting attendance rates in schools in remote communities.




Tuesday, April 19, 2022

‘Community circle’ classroom fad is likely to do far more harm than good

America’s classrooms seem focused lately on just about everything except educating kids: progressive politics, social fads, psychological tinkering, fringe ideologies. Alas, we must add group therapy to that collection of non-academic pursuits: “Circle conversations” are appearing in more and more public schools, and even colleges like UC Berkeley — asking teachers to play the role of therapist, not educator.

The Twitter account Libs of TikTok caught attention when it shared an example of “community circles” at an elementary school in the Austin (Texas) Independent School District, requiring kids to keep anything said there confidential. This is in line with a “restorative justice” initiative in the district that seeks to make the “circle process” a regular part of the school day.

What exactly is this “circle process?” As a University of California Berkeley’s Restorative Justice Center manual describes it, it resembles a religious ritual more than a classroom practice, with opening and closing ceremonies, a centerpiece bearing trinkets or candles and a talking piece — anything from a popsicle stick to personal jewelry. The ritual begins; the “leader” asks prying and probing questions, encouraging the discussions of “difficult or painful events,” as participants pass around the talking piece and share.

The manual recommends discussion of topics such as when participants felt harmed or had themselves perpetrated trauma, how they deal with negative emotions and personal history. A manual for the San Francisco school district encourages teachers to ask questions that are “edgy” and “controversial” and to use prompts that solicit “more intimate exposure.” The idea is to incentivize, reward and encourage self-disclosure, confession and personal vulnerability.

Supposedly, these circles prevent misbehavior by providing emotional support. In reality, they are a clear example of pop psychology leaking into school rooms — an ongoing shift from schools administering academic services to providing emotional support, with the teacher as therapist.

To which the American Enterprise Institute’s Robert Pondiscio asks: “At what point does a school’s concern for its students’ emotional health and well-being, however well-intended, become too personal, too intrusive and too sensitive to be a legitimate function of public school?” Indeed, the circles run afoul of ethical, practical and political concerns.

First, the ethical. The American Psychological Association’s code of ethics discourages counselors and therapists from practicing outside their area of competence. In managing the volatility of human emotions, experience and expertise matter. Teachers have a basic grounding in child psychology, yes, but nowhere near the competence to manage the tenuous scenarios the circles can create. They’re experts in academic instruction; deputizing them into a counseling role far beyond that expertise risks adverse outcomes.

The practical issue: Do they work?

Circle conversations are a key part of an increasingly popular philosophy of discipline that involves “restorative justice,” curbing a school’s dependence on punitive discipline — suspensions, detentions, expulsions. Yet when restorative justice nudges out punitive discipline, misbehavior flourishes; classroom disruptions, bullying and violent behavior all increase.

Meanwhile, as schools phase out suspensions for small infractions, many end up assigning more total days of suspensions; they assign fewer suspensions but for increasingly severe behavior with more days of punishment, so kids wind up spending more days outside the classroom.

Finally, the political. To no one’s surprise, many of the circle topics reach far into left-wing politics. A resource site for Oakland Unified School District has a workshop called “Transforming Whiteness.” The Berkeley manual has questions based on the writings of Ibram X. Kendi and Robin D’Angelo, and it lists “colorblindness” and “invocations of meritocracy” as microaggressions to avoid.

Progressive buzzwords abound across the sites and manuals — intersectionality, equity, social justice and so on, alongside countless activities and questions that center reflection on immutable characteristics.

At best, these circle conversations create a discussion format that gets inappropriately personal for a classroom and bears little-to-no good results, as untrained teachers tinker with the psyches of their students. At worst, they’re a shoo-in for fringe, radical politics. In either case, they don’t belong in the classroom.


Florida School Chief Rejects Math Textbooks Over ‘Attempts to Indoctrinate Students’

Florida’s Department of Education has rejected dozens of K–12 mathematics textbooks after officials said they include “indoctrinating concepts,” such as critical race theory (CRT).

According to Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, his department reviewed 132 submitted textbooks and found that 54 of them, or 41 percent, didn’t meet Florida’s K–12 curriculum standards or contained prohibited topics.

“Reasons for rejecting textbooks included references to Critical Race Theory (CRT), inclusions of Common Core, and the unsolicited addition of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in mathematics,” the department said in an April 15 statement. “The highest number of books rejected were for grade levels K–5, where an alarming 71 percent were not appropriately aligned with Florida standards or included prohibited topics and unsolicited strategies.”

Specifically, 28 rejected textbooks “incorporate prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies” including CRT, 12 don’t properly align with Florida standards, and 14 were rejected for both reasons.

“It seems that some publishers attempted to slap a coat of paint on an old house built on the foundation of Common Core and indoctrinating concepts like race essentialism, especially, bizarrely, for elementary school students,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “I’m grateful that Commissioner Corcoran and his team at the department have conducted such a thorough vetting of these textbooks to ensure they comply with the law.”

Under current Florida law, public schools are prohibited from teaching key concepts of CRT, such as that one should feel guilt or shame because of his or her race or that the United States is inherently racist. Florida parents can sue school districts they suspect of incorporating CRT concepts and recover attorney fees if they prevail.

In 2020, Florida officially removed Common Core and adopted the Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST) standards. The state plans to fully implement the new standard after 2023, giving school districts approximately three years to familiarize their teachers with the new benchmarks and purchase new textbooks and other instructional materials.

DeSantis called the new standards a “return to the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic.”

When it comes to math, the BEST standards promote a simplified approach and focus on the usefulness of content. The Florida framework also has an emphasis on getting the correct answer, rather than using the required method, meaning that students won’t lose points for the method they use as long as the answer is correct.

By contrast, Common Core math has long been criticized for expecting students to master several different new experimental methods to solve the same math problem. Following these methods, some teachers have created questions that are confusing or otherwise have no practical meaning, causing frustration among students and parents.

“It really goes beyond Common Core to embrace common sense, something that’s long been necessary,” DeSantis said in 2020, when he unveiled the new education standards.


Why we’re giving $50M to charter schools to help kids catch up after the pandemic

By donor Michael Bloomberg

School closures and inadequate remote instruction over the last two years have created a crisis in public education.

The data are clear. Across the United States, students have fallen behind by an average of four months in math and five months in English. The results have been even worse for those children most in need, especially in schools serving mainly low-income populations, where students have fallen behind by an average of seven months.

Make no mistake: This is a real crisis requiring immediate intervention. Unless urgent steps are taken, many children will never catch back up.

That’s why it’s so encouraging to see that Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks have wisely expanded Summer Rising, which offers academics in the morning and enrichment activities in the afternoon. The program will serve 110,000 students in grades K-8, up more than 10% from last year.

Given the extent of the crisis, the private sector and philanthropic groups must step up, too. So to build on the city’s efforts and increase access to summer classes, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Kenneth C. Griffin, Stan Druckenmiller, the Carson Family Charitable Trust, Robin Hood, Gray Foundation and Walentas Foundation are committing $50 million to help charter schools create or expand summer-school programs this year. Through the initiative, called Summer Boost NYC, all the city’s elementary and middle charter schools can apply for funding to create and run high-quality programs.

We’ll focus on helping K-8 students most in need of additional assistance. Schools will have flexibility in how they use the funding, which will help them target resources to where they’re needed most, but each will offer a high-quality curriculum attentive to improving reading levels and math fluency.

The vast majority of charter-school students come from low-income households in black and Latino communities, and they deserve high-quality summer-school programs. Charter-school leaders are eager to offer them, but they need support to make it happen — for curriculum, salaries for teachers and staff, transportation and enrichment activities that involve social and emotional development. The funding we’re providing will help them pay for all those things.

Charter schools receive less in per-pupil state education funding than district schools, but the flexibility they have to empower teachers and principals — and hold them accountable for success — has produced extraordinary results. In New York City, charters outperform district schools by 10 points in English and more than 15 points in math. And many have reduced or eliminated the achievement gap with the state’s wealthiest suburbs.

More young New Yorkers deserve access to those opportunities, and our leaders in Albany should help provide them by lifting the state cap on charter schools.

Nevertheless, charter-school students — like all students — have suffered learning loss over the past two years. And like all students, they should have the opportunity to attend a summer-school program that will help them catch up and get back on track. For many students, it could make a lifetime of difference




Monday, April 18, 2022

Massachusetts School Teachers Sued After Allegedly Encouraging Students to Alter Gender Identity

Parents with children attending middle school at Ludlow Public Schools in Massachusetts have filed a lawsuit against a group of teachers and administrators over the district's gender policy and failure to disclose students' gender identity to their parents.

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court by the Massachusetts Family Institute and the Child and Parental Rights Campaign on behalf of two separate sets of parents, who claim their children were encouraged by their Baird Middle School teachers to change their names and pronouns without parental consent.

The students were also told they could use restrooms corresponding with their new gender identity, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that the district's policy affirming the gender identities of transgender students violates both state and federal law.

And while the lawsuit did not identify the school policy, The Boston Globe Magazine reported in the fall that the district allows students to adopt new names and pronouns, and school staff are barred from discussing a student's gender identity with their parent unless the child offers their consent.

But in Tuesday's lawsuit, the parents claim the district has not implemented a formal written gender policy, violating a state requirement.

The parents said that guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was issued to school districts in 2012 after state law was changed to include gender identity as a protected class.

The guidance states that transgender students may sometimes not wish to disclose their gender identity to their families due to concerns about safety or acceptance. Because of this, teachers are expected to talk with the student before discussing their gender identity with their parents.

However, the guidance also explains that, when "young students" are involved, parents should be notified regarding issues on their child's gender identity. The guidance fails to define what is meant by "young students."

The suit asserts that one defendant, former middle school librarian Jordan Funke, publicly expressed to the school community that they were "nonbinary," told students to use gender-neutral pronouns on each other and encouraged children to "experiment with alternate gender identities without notifying parents or obtaining parental consent."

Funke is also accused of telling incoming sixth-graders in 2019 to make videos that featured their gender identity and preferred pronouns. The child of two of the parents involved in the suit, then 11, was among those students. Funke had not sought parental consent, according to the complaint.

Ludlow School Committee Chair James P. Harrington said in a statement to MassLive, "We want to support our students the best we can. But we should bring parents to the table, and hope they respond in a loving and supportive way as well."

But the parents' attorney, Massachusetts Family Institute President Andrew Beckwith, told The Boston Globe that the lawsuit is about parental rights.

"This lawsuit is about protecting the right of parents to raise their children without the interference of government officials," Beckwith said. "By deliberately circumventing the authority of parents over the mental health and religious beliefs of their children, activists at the Ludlow schools are violating time-honored rights guaranteed under the US Constitution and the Massachusetts Constitution."

This comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) recently signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law, banning instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades kindergarten through third grade and limiting age-inappropriate discussions of sexuality in other grades.

Dubbed by critics as the "Don't say gay" bill despite there being no mention of a ban on the word, Florida's legislation also allows parents to access their children's education and health records and requires schools to notify parents of changes to their child's mental, physical or emotional well-being. The bill exempts schools from disclosing information to their parents if a "reasonably prudent person" would be concerned that doing so could result in abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Legislation mirroring Florida's parental rights law have since been introduced in other states, including Alabama, Ohio, Louisiana, Tennessee and Ohio.


WA School District Launched an 'Ethnic Studies' Program Teaching Students to Resist 'Systems of Oppression'

The Northshore School District in Washington state launched an ethnic studies program early last year in which an Ethnic Studies Pilot Work Team was offered materials to learn about "transformative ethnic studies in schools that will aid in the development of an Ethnic Studies Framework."

According to a slide presentation from October, the purpose of ethnic studies is "to transform student lives by promoting healing from historical trauma, humanizing and empowering all students, and promoting civic and community engagement through action in solidarity with others."

"Ethnic Studies pedagogy promotes collaboration in learning, higher level thinking and critical analysis of racism and other forms of oppression," the slide continues. "Ethnic Studies further provides students with the opportunity to understand themselves and their intersectionality in relation to society."

And in a November slide presentation, the work team listed several bullet points detailing what "we are talking about" when ethnic studies are being discussed.

These bullet points include that ethnic studies intend to "eliminate racism by critiquing, resisting, and transforming systems of oppression," and that ethnic studies are "responsive to students' cultural, historical, and contemporary experiences."

A December presentation included a draft of the work team's "Framework Components" the team was working on. The themes from this unit were "Identity," "Power and Oppression," "History of Resistance and Liberation" and "Healing."

In a presentation in January of 2022, the work team was told that "Safe, brave spaces are growing" and that the ethnic studies framework should consider "Decolonization through self-determination and cultural resurgence."

Last month, a presentation on "Disability Justice" was delivered and team members were tasked with watching the video, "Paulo Freire and the Development of Critical Pedagogy" prior to the next meeting.

Students at the November, January and March sessions were asked to read a guide entitled, "This Book is Anti-Racist."

Each presentation began with a "Land Acknowledgement" that the Northshore School District is located in areas that have been "colonized, occupied, and renamed."

"We acknowledge the experiences of genocide, forced relocation, ethnic cleansing, and land theft of Indigenous peoples and sacred lands so we can build our awareness of how settler colonization still exists today," the acknowledgment reads. "We honor the ways of knowing and ways of being of Indigenous peoples and tribal nations, who are still here and thriving, in our district-community."

Nonprofit parent group Parents Defending Education, which obtained the work team's presentations, ripped the school district for prioritizing ethnic studies over subjects like reading and mathematics.

"Ethnic studies is being used as another avenue for schools to teach students, as young as pre-K, that the United States is systemically racist," PDE researcher Rhyen Staley said in a statement to Townhall. "The focus of curriculums such as the one Northshore is creating centers around the idea that society is filled with oppression and that students need to be trained activists to end that oppression. Schools should not be in the business of fixing alleged societal ills. Rather, in order to bring about real lasting change, they should be focused on how to best educate students in reading, writing, and math."


Teachers Unions' Other Foes: Liberal Parents

Khulia Pringle would seem an unlikely critic of the local Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. The St. Paul native embarked on a teaching career in the hope of improving a school system that she saw as failing her daughter. By the time she finished her training in 2014, she had grown so disillusioned with the public school system that she took a job with an education reform group, helping to recruit and place hundreds of tutors in schools across the state.

While she shares the union’s emphasis on pushing for higher pay and smaller classrooms, the self-described liberal education activist says the federation’s three-week strike last month provided final confirmation of her worst fear: The union and public education system place a higher priority on serving their own needs than they do on serving students and parents, 60% of whom are minorities.

"Students are just coming back to some sort of normalcy – they're already behind," she says. "These strikes aren't asking for any of the things that will solve the disparities between black and brown and indigenous children."

Pringle is part of a growing chorus of parents and educators across the country who are challenging the public education establishment. While much attention has focused on opposition by conservative parents and red state lawmakers to the teaching of critical race theory and gender issues, resistance is percolating among blue state parents like Pringle who have long championed teacher unions and progressive school boards.

The second front in the battle over public education is clear: From San Francisco, where voters ousted several left-wing, union-endorsed school board members in February, to Chicago, Massachusetts, and other blue enclaves, parents are demanding reform.

Teachers enjoyed immense support in the early days of the pandemic, but their unions’ reluctance to return to the classroom, even as scientific findings established children’s resilience against the disease, appears to have alienated a substantial number of parents.

In December 2020, Gallup found that three-quarters of those polled rated teachers as ethical and trustworthy, setting an all-time record since it began asking the question. When Gallup asked the same question in December 2021, the results were startling. In the space of 12 months, support for teachers fell about 15 percent, to “a point or two below their previous all-time lows,” according to the pollster. A 2021 survey from nonprofit think tank Education Next found the public held less favorable views of the education system than other public services. Americans nationwide were twice as likely to give police forces A or B grades than they were public schools – this despite the backlash against cops in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

The sagging poll numbers reflect a mounting challenge for public school teachers and their unions, which have long counted on public support when they have gone out on strike to secure better pay and working conditions.

“That trust has been so eroded because of what parents have gone through for the past 18 to 20 months, so now parents have to question what they are being told by teachers,” said Keri Rodriguez, a Massachusetts mother of five. “There's been so much overreach and they have asked for so much grace from parents across the country; well, unfortunately we have watched teachers respond with not much effort in remote learning.”

Rodriguez is an even more unlikely opponent of teachers’ unions than Pringle. She made a career in the organized labor movement, rising to an executive position at labor giant Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and served as chair of the Somerville Democratic Party. But even as she rose in progressive circles in the most progressive of enclaves – a city where Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by 89% to 10% – she began to question the party’s alliance with teachers’ unions.

“Only in the education system are parents treated as if we should be passively going along and allow others to not only run the system but run it in a way that's beneficial to adults,” Rodriguez says. “We started to see how kids are getting the short end of the stick.”

Critics see this dynamic as particularly pronounced in the labor movement’s embrace of lockdowns and remote learning. The results could be seen in Minnesota, where high school graduation rates dropped for the first time in 12 years in 2021. In a normal school year about 90% of Minneapolis students participate in statewide proficiency tests. But in 2021, only 48% of district students took the tests – significantly less than the 80% of students who took the tests statewide. Those Minneapolis students motivated enough to take the tests from home performed poorly, with only 35.5% considered proficient, down from the district's 42.2% proficiency rate in 2019. Test scores during the pandemic also revealed growing racial disparities in achievement. Proficiency rates in math among black and Hispanic children plummeted by 34% in 2021, compared with a 19% decline among white students.

The results in Minneapolis mirror those in other major school districts that resisted the return to the classroom. Washington, D.C. public schools enforced some of the strictest lockdowns in the country. Performance among its students, some 84% of whom are minorities, plummeted during the pandemic. Racial disparities in proficiency were particularly acute. White children fell 4% in literacy proficiency as only 70% met district benchmarks. By contrast, only 28% of the district's black students met benchmarks – a nearly 40% decline. Black students are now less likely to meet literacy standards than Hispanic students, many of whom come from households where English is not the primary language, even after those students experienced a 29% decline in proficiency during the pandemic.




Sunday, April 17, 2022

Court Rules Professor Can’t Be Forced to Endorse an Ideology Against His Beliefs

Dr. Nicholas Meriwether enjoys a spirited debate. As a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, there is plenty of that to go around in his classroom. And he is not afraid to voice his disagreement or bring up an entirely different viewpoint.

That’s part of what makes him a great professor. In his class, students are exposed to new ideas and opposing viewpoints. They have the opportunity to grapple with what they believe and why they believe it.

Most people think that’s what universities—the “marketplace of ideas”—are supposed to be.

But not according to Shawnee State officials. Now, the professor finds himself involved in a very different kind of debate—on the opposite side of the courtroom from his university, after it tried to shut down the free exchange of ideas by forcing him to endorse an ideology that he does not believe.

Let’s take a deeper look at his case and the freedoms at stake.

Dr. Meriwether has served as a philosophy professor at Shawnee State University for over 20 years with an unblemished record. He is serious about creating an atmosphere of mutual respect in his classroom.

He is also serious about his beliefs. As a Christian, he strives to live and work consistently with his faith. In fact, his core beliefs are why he’s devoted his career to education.

Many of Dr. Meriwether’s students appreciate how he challenged them in the classroom and brought ideas to the table that were different than their own. As one student wrote:

You and I saw eye-to-eye on very little and that made those arguments all the more valuable to me. If you had only made a half-hearted attempt at a counterpoint or (far worse) neglected to even mention an opposing position in order to spare my feelings, you would have been fundamentally undermining my education. I thank you for showing me enough respect to bring your "A-Game" to every in-class debate.

Unfortunately, not every student felt the same way about encountering differing viewpoints in Dr. Meriwether’s class.

One day, a male student approached Dr. Nicholas Meriwether after class, informed him that he identified as transgender, and demanded that the professor refer to him as a woman, with feminine titles and pronouns. When Dr. Meriwether did not immediately agree, the student became aggressive, physically circling him, getting in his face, using expletives, and even threatening to get him fired.

The student then filed a complaint with the university, which launched a formal investigation.

As a philosopher and as a Christian, Dr. Meriwether believes that God has created human beings as either male or female, and that a person’s sex cannot change. To call a man a woman or vice versa endorses an ideology that conflicts with his beliefs. So, Dr. Meriwether offered a compromise: he would refer to this student by a first or last name only. That way, he would not call the student something the student did not like, but he would also not say anything that contradicts what he believes is real and true.

This compromise was not enough for university officials; they formally charged Dr. Meriwether, claiming he “created a hostile environment” and discriminated against the student. Later, they placed a written warning in his personnel file that threatened “further corrective actions” if he did not refer to students using pronouns that reflect their self-asserted gender identity.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on Dr. Meriwether’s behalf.

And in April 2022, the professor settled with the university, finalizing his huge victory for free speech. The university agreed (1) that Dr. Meriwether cannot be forced to refer to students using pronouns and titles that are different than the students’ biological sex, (2) to remove the discipline from Dr. Meriwether’s file, and (3) to pay $400,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

When the university punished Dr. Meriwether, its message was loud and clear: You must endorse the university’s favored ideology or be punished. There is no room for dissent.

But universities are meant to be a marketplace of ideas, not an assembly line for one type of thought. With its actions, Shawnee State ignored this fundamental truth as well as the Constitution. And the 6th Circuit’s decision sent a strong message to universities: you must respect the First Amendment rights of all professors, and that means you cannot force them to say things they do not believe.

Dr. Meriwether took a stand for his First Amendment rights and secured a victory for every American’s right to speak in accordance with their beliefs.


Judge Dismisses Charges Against Parent Opposed to Race-Based Admissions

A federal lawsuit is seeking to get race-based admissions thrown out at the prestigious Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. Pictured: Then-President Barack Obama visits the school on Sept. 16, 2011, and watches as then-students Meghan Clark and Nathan Hughes demonstrate a robot created in the school’s prototyping and robotics senior research labs. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A Virginia parent won a legal victory when a Fairfax County judge dismissed four charges of libel and slander with prejudice Friday.

Harry Jackson, a former PTA president of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology who opposed changes to the school’s admissions policy, was facing libel and slander charges in the wake of claiming that a proponent of the new admissions policies exhibited “grooming behavior” on social media.

The new policies, which critics have characterized as “race-based,” eliminated standardized testing requirements and were found by a federal judge to discriminate against Asian Americans.

“It was a great day for parents maintaining their right to free speech, and if they see something of concern when it comes to child safety, to say something without fear of reprisal,” Jackson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A lawsuit against Fairfax County Public Schools that includes Jackson as a plaintiff seeks to strike down the new admissions policies as being race-based. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently granted a stay in the case that allows the current admissions policy to remain in place.

Jorge Torrico, a member of the TJ Alumni Action Group, an advocacy group that favored the changes to the admissions process, alleged to the Fairfax County magistrate that Jackson violated Virginia’s criminal libel and slander law by making the “grooming behavior” claims, according to legal documents.

Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano’s office sought to drop prosecution Thursday, but Jackson’s attorney, Marina Medvin, objected and instead filed a motion to have the charges dismissed with prejudice.

“The judge did not reach the constitutional issues of the statute that was used to charge the ‘grooming’ words,” Medvin tweeted.

“This is an important victory for not just Harry Jackson, but also parents and journalists everywhere,” Asra Nomani, a co-founder of Coalition for TJ, told the Daily Caller National Foundation. “A woke activist used a little-used statute to criminalize speech, and prosecutor Steve Descano allowed this harassment to hang over Harry’s head for months.”

“I believe this dismissal, coupled with the publicity from this case, will hopefully restore the public’s trust in the First Amendment,” Medvin told the news foundation. “Nonetheless, my work is not done. My next project is to get this law off the books. Next stop is Richmond.”


For the Sake of Our Children, Abolish the Department of Education

I don’t know if there’s a more reactionary, superfluous arm of the U.S. government than the Department of Education.

(Well, maybe National Public Radio, whose newsroom called the Hunter Biden story a “waste of time,” but NPR only gets a small government stipend.)

During the Trump administration among his most criticized appointees was Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—probably with justification. But in fairness to DeVos, no one could have done that job well short of turning out the lights and shutting the doors forever.

Education should always be done locally, as far from Washington bureaucrats as humanly possible. This local control should avail itself of charter schools, and school choice (obviously). homeschooling and every other form of education that people—largely parents—can devise for the better education of their children to prepare them and the country for the future.

This doesn’t have to do with money.

One of the great illusions, great lies actually, is that the more you spend on education the better it is. Of course, you need a certain amount, but at a certain point, the reverse is true.

Money becomes an instrument of control with the government withholding it if you don’t go along with their diktats. Further, fancy buildings don’t make a child smart. Never have. Some of the most brilliant people of all time came out of one-room schoolhouses, right, Mrs. Lincoln?

You don’t learn to read and do basic math from gleaming buildings. You learn in small groups, working hard.

These days, few young people can write coherently or even parse a sentence. They don’t even know what parsing a sentence is. It’s rarely taught because considered too difficult by the geniuses with education degrees.

The results of federal control, any federal control, including the egregious Common Core, of our children’s education, have been nothing short of horrendous. The U.S. public educational system, once the envy of the world, is a disgrace, run from above by people who would never think of sending their children to public schools but are certain exactly how we should run them.

This begins in our kindergartens where 5-year-olds are taught the likes of critical race theory (overtly or covertly) or explained the intricacies of transgenderism before they have the faintest idea of how to read or add and subtract.

In classrooms today, teachers no longer teach. They read from pre-planned syllabi as if they were robots. These syllabi, often filled with carefully crafted left-wing gibberish, are intended to make sure our children get a “proper” education but actually do just the opposite: cut off communication between student and teacher.

This also produces teachers who are know-nothings, educated only in “education.” The process is circular and destructive. Teachers spend more time learning how to teach (i.e.. recite by rote what they are told to recite) than they spend actually learning information worth teaching.

Instead of imparting information or actually teaching, that function is left to highly manipulated technology in the form of iPads and the like that are given to students from kindergarten onwards. The outgrowth of that is what I wrote about the other day—5-year-olds putatively taught to read via “The GayBCs,” including N is for nonbinary, T is for trans, and so forth.

And don’t get me started on the teachers’ unions that are a conspiracy to preserve this system and exercise unfair leverage against taxpayers and parents who can only respond to their demands through politicians years after the fact. They also who’ll be abolished.

I say that even though I believe that the greatest people alive are the best teachers, worthy of more respect than anybody, national treasures in essence.

Years ago, when he was running for president, I was a sometime speechwriter for then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry. I liked him a lot and he seemed a possible front-runner until he had that calamity during a debate when he couldn’t remember the federal government departments he would eliminate as president.

The truth was Perry had just had back surgery and was on painkillers. If he only had explained that to the audience, all might well have been forgiven and who knows what would have happened.

Obviously, one of the departments he would have abolished was Education. Maybe Trump or DeSantis will take up this worthy cause.


Woke mob swarms Lt. Col. Allen West's speech at University of Buffalo

A University at Buffalo student said Monday she feared for life when she was chased by an angry mob last week after inviting black former Texas GOP Chair Lt. Col. Allen West to speak on campus about overcoming racism.

Therese Purcell, who is president of the Young Americans for Freedom at the university, told “Fox & Friends” she was forced to flee into a men’s bathroom after the on-campus event with West spiraled out of control.

Purcell said protestors derailed the Thursday night event — titled America Is Not Racist: Why American Values are Exceptional — during a Q&A segment with West.

She said the protesters — made up of black and white students — started screaming “no peace” and banging on the walls.

“I was really afraid for my life,” Purcell said.

Purcell said West was escorted out by police and protesters started “hunting” her down as she tried to leave. She said that’s when she ran to the bathroom and called 911.

“I don’t think they were going to do anything remotely peaceful. They were a very angry mob, and they were clearly saying that they were trying to chase me, that they wanted to capture me,” Purcell said.

“I’m afraid of what would have happened if I wasn’t able to hide from them.”