Censoring Our Educators

Political views in the United States are heavily divided, with
each side worrying that the other is corrupting today’s youth. And
who has more access to fresh, young minds than teachers? That’s why
the latest argument about when and where free speech flies is
taking place in the classroom.

According to an article by Saxon Burns in the
Tucson Weekly, conservative groups are
fed up with a perceived leftist bias among university
professors. David Horowitz, a right-wing political pundit who
penned the
‘Academic Bill of Rights’ as a guideline to
intellectual freedom for students, is leading the movement and
driving a number of legislative bills that would prevent
instructors from voicing potentially controversial opinions.

The Arizona legislation, Senate Bill 1542, would forbid school
district employees from advocating ‘one side of a social,
political, or cultural issue that is a matter of partisan
controversy.’ Those who take up such stances would face a fine of
up to $500. The bill has already been voted down once by the
Senate’s Education K-12 Committee, Tucson Weekly reports,
but ‘a strike-everything amendment’ brought it back to life in the
Government Committee, where it remains ‘in limbo’ pending further
committee attention.

A similar bill in Missouri, House Bill 213, would require that
higher education institutions report on steps they’ve taken to
‘ensure intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas.’
Universities would be required to report on efforts to, among other
things, incorporate intellectual diversity concerns into their
teaching guidelines, student course evaluations, and hiring,
tenure, and promotion policies. Silas Allen writes in the
University of Missouri-Columbia’s
Missourian that the bill, which is also
called the ‘Emily Brooker Intellectual Diversity Act,’ was
inspired by a Christian student who refused to write an assigned
paper in support of gay adoption. The matter ended up in court,
with the college eventually reaching an out-of-court settlement
in November. The bill is set to appear before members of the
House of Higher Education this week.

According to Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition dedicated
to protecting ‘the free exchange of speech and ideas on campus,’
‘intellectual diversity’ bills in states such as Georgia, Kentucky,
and New York are in the works, but few are passing. The group
recently celebrated defeat of Montana’s House Bill 525 on Feb. 21.
The measure sought to encourage ‘intellectual diversity,
transparency, and accountability in the university system’ through
annual reports submitted to a legislative committee. As Gwen Florio
writes in the
Great Falls Tribune, ‘Opponents
criticized the bill as both unconstitutional — because the
state Constitution gives the Board of Regents authority over
universities — and unnecessary.’

Small victories, though, have given hope to Horowitz and his
supporters. Horowitz announced on his
FrontPage
blog
in November that ‘two of the three major universities in
[Pennsylvania] — Temple and Penn State — have now adopted
‘student-specific’ bills of rights.’ The Academic Freedom Policy
HR64 on Penn State’s
website states that, ‘It is not the function of
a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his/her students
with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects.’ Temple
University also lists similar guidelines.

Horowitz still has a long way to go. Folks at Free Exchange on
Campus say ‘censoring what can and cannot be taught and discussed
in the classroom — as the misleadingly titled ‘Academic Bill of
Rights’ and so-called ‘intellectual diversity’ proposals attempt to
do — curbs campus debate and limits learning.’ They don’t buy his
claims that professors want to push their own agendas. And neither
do some lawmakers. As state Rep. Eve Franklin mused to the
Great Falls Tribune, if university professors are so
liberal, ‘why are there so many conservatives and
constitutionalists in Montana who have attended our universities?’
Perhaps Horowitz could lend some insight; after all, he went to
Berkeley.

Go there >>
Watch Your Mouth

Go there, too >>
Are the Classrooms Truly Balanced?

And there >>
House Shoots Down ‘Extremist’
Intellectual-Diversity Proposal

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