Archive for the ‘Thought Reform’ Category

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April 26, 2010

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California Legislature seeks creation of “Discrimination-Free Zones” at all state universities

April 12, 2010

I have been rough on my home state in recent posts.  Whether chiding the University of California Regents over a proposed speech code or pointing out the contradictory approaches to student speech, the lack of respect for student speech in California has caused me to cringe.  But just when I thought I was being too hard on the State I love, the California Legislature moves one step closer to creating “Discrimination-Free Zones” on all public school campuses, including universities.  And now I don’t feel so guilty. 

According to the text of ACR 82, which passed another hurdle in the legislature last week, California wants all public institutions of learning to implement “discrimination-free” zones by enacting new policies, offering new counseling services and providing new conflict management groups to “provide a safe haven from intolerance or discrimination.”  Here are the relevant portions of the resolution: 

Resolved, by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof, concurring, That the Legislature of the State of California hereby encourages all public education institutions, working with students, teachers, faculty, and other members of the public education community, to designate each campus as a “Discrimination-Free Zone” to provide a safe haven from intolerance or discrimination; and be it further

Resolved, That all public education institutions, prekindergarten through university campuses, are encouraged to develop and enact policies that support tolerance and acceptance of others regardless of their race or ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes set forth in Section 422.55 of the Penal Code; and be it further

Resolved, That all public education institutions are encouraged to enact procedures, such as counseling services and conflict management, that meaningfully address acts of discrimination that occur on campus; and be it further

Resolved, That all public education institutions are encouraged to notify parents and the campus community should be notified of existing policies and procedures that encourage tolerance of others; and be it further

Resolved, That all public education institutions are encouraged to use existing resources to identify themselves as “Discrimination-Free Zones” through placards, signs, notices of available services, and other appropriate identifications to create a campus climate that welcomes diversity and supports the tolerance of others

Who is behind this, you ask?  The California Faculty Association, the University of California, Equality California, the PTA and the California State Student Association, among others

While this is only a resolution and not a binding bill, the intent of the California Legislature could not be more clear:  free speech must yield to “tolerance and acceptance of others.”  Unfortunately for California college students, the encouragement of “policies that support tolerance and acceptance of others” will inevitably result in more campus speech codes and censorship, similar to what happened at Spokane Falls Community College last year. 

It turns out I was wrong the other day when I said that California has free speech schizophrenia.  It does not.  A few colleges and universities strive to protect students’ rights.  But these are the outliers.  The Legislature has made it clear that California public policy is to dismantle the marketplace of ideas.   We will try to make sure that does not happen.

UC Santa Cruz Professor Urges California Legislature to Consider the Lack of Intellectual Diversity on Campus

March 25, 2010

When academic institutions refuse to permit dissenting voices, they do not only hurt the dissenters.  They also damage the quality of the education they provide, even for those who agree with the prevailing view.  John Ellis, President of the California Association of Scholars and Professor Emeritus of German Literature at UC Santa Cruz, explains this downward spiral in a statement submitted to the California Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education:

The clearest indication of how serious the lack of intellectual diversity has become is the state of Political Science departments in the University of California.  Surveys have found that many of them are almost exclusively staffed by professors who are politically left of center.  In any department, this would be regrettable, and suspicious.  But in a politics department, the lack of intellectual diversity in political thought raises a serious question of competence.  Departments that exclude one half of the spectrum of thought in their field are simply incompetent departments.  They can’t provide students with a challenging intellectual environment where they learn to think for themselves, and know that whatever position they take, they will have to face tough scrutiny from contrary opinion.  One has to wonder: what kind of professor of politics would want a department like that?  And how did we come to appoint them?  If accountability is your concern, why not ask those simple questions of the university?

Let me be quite clear:  my concern here has nothing to do with being fair to conservatives. . . .  It’s a far more serious matter than that, and it should concern everyone, whatever their political opinions.  It’s about the dumbing down of education.  One-sided departments can’t educate.  John Stuart Mill put the point best when he said: “He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”  What Mill is saying here is that you don’t really understand the case for the left until you also thoroughly grasp the case for the right, because the one is an answer to the other and so each is a necessary part of understanding the other.  If leftist professors think they can simply present the other side’s case themselves, Mill had this devastating response: “Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post as soon as there is no enemy in the field.” And for that reason, he went on to say, the student must “be able to hear [the arguments] from people who actually believe them, who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

If you follow this thought, you’ll see that it is not just the side that is excluded that suffers.  In fact, the side that does the excluding suffers the most intellectually.  A political monoculture sooner or later always degenerates into extremism and incoherence, because it needs an opposition to keep it healthy.  Only your intellectual enemies have the motivation to pick off your weaker arguments and keep you intellectually sharp.  The proof of this proposition is there for anyone to see.  The general public has a very low opinion of the campus political culture, and that is exactly what we should expect to be the fate of any political monoculture.  A lack of intellectual diversity hurts both left and right.

Due to the lack of intellectual diversity, Professor Ellis went on to describe the University of California system as “the most degraded campus climate I have seen in my lifetime.”  Given that Professor Ellis has been teaching at UC Santa Cruz since 1966, that says something.

Georgia Tech: four years later

March 16, 2010

Four years ago today, Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar took a stand for liberty at their public university, or in this case, their Institute.  While students at Georgia Institute of Technology, Malhotra and Sklar were subject to discrimination because of their religious and conservative views.  Their experiences were not isolated, but designed by an administration hostile to free speech.  Georgia Tech policy prohibited “acts of intolerance,” limited student free speech to the small amphitheater on campus, preferred some religious denominations to others in campus training programs, and prohibited religious students from gaining equal access to student fees (even though the student fees were mandatory).  When these policies and their experiences became intolerable, they sued. 

The lawsuit eventually ended, but not until the speech code was removed, the student speech zone eliminated, and the religious discrimination stopped.  Along the way, did the campus community rally to their support in favor of free speech?  No.  Instead, people sent death threats, students started a group to intimidate Malhotra, and the administration created a council called “Finding Common Ground” to dialogue about diversity and criticize the efforts of these two women. 

Four years later, Malhotra and Sklar will speak tonight about their experiences and the success of their lawsuit at Georgia Tech.  Much was accomplished by these women, but there is still work to be done.  Despite Supreme Court case law to the contrary, Georgia Tech still believes it can exclude religious activities from student fee funding.  Who will be the next person to stand for liberty at Tech?

Leaving Home v. Lurching Left

March 1, 2010

In the face of growing proof that college students drift left politically and abandon their faith during their college years, the defenders of academia often put forward a series of hollow excuses.  Cloaked in various guises, these excuses often boil down to variations on three themes.

1.    College student move left because all smart people are leftists.

While some may find it comforting to think that all conservatives (or all Christians) are either evil or stupid, this notion is hardly reasonable.  It overlooks the host of serious, respected Christian and conservative scholars, people like Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Paul Johnson, Francis Collins, Ravi Zacharias, and C.S. Lewis.  And even the ISI study shows that as students understand America’s institutions better, their respect for our heritage and ideals increases. 

2.    Christians have no right to complain about university indoctrination because they do the same thing.

This argument ignores the vast chasm that separates private citizens advancing their values from government imposing its values on those citizens.  Within the church, individual citizens try to pass along their values to their children and other citizens (just like secular individuals and organizations), and they do it in the context of an increasingly hostile culture.  But at public universities, government officials (i.e., professors and administrators) impose their preferred values on citizens, and as they silence all dissenting voices, they do so in an increasingly uniform monoculture on campus. 

Thankfully, the Constitution does not ignore this chasm between private persuasion and government indoctrination.  It explicitly protects Christians’ freedom to hold, practice, and express their religious views, and even their freedom to persuade others to share their convictions.  But, to quote the Supreme Court’s landmark 1943 holding, the Constitution expressly prohibits the government from “prescrib[ing] what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

3.    College students move left as they hear leftist ideas for the first time after leaving home.

Of all the excuses, this one would have most merit except that it primarily relies a faulty assumption:  that students are merely following the evidence after hearing both sides of the debate.  Yet this is simply not the case.  Leftists outnumber conservative faculty by eight-to-one or nine-to-one in most departments (and thirty-to-one in some).  Half of them inject politics into the classroom, often conditioning grades on whether students parrot back the professor’s politics.  And when it comes to hiring, tenure, or promotion, universities routinely discriminate against conservative faculty members, thus preserving the leftist monopoly.  In the classroom, dissenting students face abuse from professors.  Outside the classroom, they face a gauntlet of vague, selectively enforced speech codes and Star Chamber style disciplinary charges.  If they hold events on campus, they face intrusive investigations and threats of expulsion.  And if they form a Christian student organization, they risk getting kicked off campus

So universities are neither dispassionately presenting “just the facts” nor allowing differing perspective to compete in an unfettered “marketplace of ideas.”  Instead, they are putting a thumb on the scale by promoting their preferred viewpoints and silencing all others.  Hence, the shift in student opinions merely reflects the campus environment, not the merits of leftist ideology.

According to the Supreme Court’s 1967 Keyishian decision, the purpose of higher education is to train the next generation of America’s leaders through the “robust exchange of ideas.”  But today, the ideological monopoly on campus produces college students that fail basic American civics but regurgitate university- and faculty-endorsed values.  Sadly, higher education is more concerned with teaching people what to think, not how to think.

The Evidence Just Keeps On Coming

February 19, 2010

On this blog, our website, and elsewhere, we have written frequently of the ideological atmosphere on campus, one that is far removed from the “marketplace of ideas” ideal.  From professors who dislike Evangelical Christians, to professors who try to indoctrinate students, to an incredibly hedonistic and increasingly leftist culture, the campus atmosphere is particularly noxious to Christian and conservative ideas.  Nevertheless, the skeptics continue to doubt.

Well, the evidence continues to roll in, this time from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s recent study entitled The Shaping of the American Mind.  The first major conclusion from this study is hardly surprising:

American colleges generally fail to significantly increase civic knowledge among their students, but they do influence student opinion on a narrow set of polarizing social issues.

When quizzed on basic civics, college graduates only answered four more questions correctly than high school graduates.  But a college education does make a person more likely to favor same-sex “marriage,” more likely to support abortion on demand, less likely to believe that people can succeed through hard work, less likely to favor school prayer, and less likely to believe the Bible is God’s Word. 

And this shift does not just occur among students.  If a person has taught at the college level, he is more likely to think that America corrupts otherwise good people, that the Ten Commandments are irrelevant today, and that homeschooling is bad than someone who has not.

In short, on far too many campuses today, education is out, and indoctrination is in.  In an environment that fosters a leftward creep among students and faculty, it is vitally important that Christian students and professors remain free to advocate their viewpoints openly and willing to do so boldly.

Thought Reform at the University of Minnesota?

November 24, 2009

If you attend a public university or work for a public employer, and you ever hear the term “cultural competence,” it’s time to get your favorite constitutional lawyers on speed dial. Thought reform is incoming.

Faced with stubborn educational achievement gaps, it looks like the University of Minnesota’s “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group” believes the answer lies in forcing teachers to adopt a radically Leftist view of society

Continue reading “Thought Reform at the University of Minnesota?”
By David French

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