In November 2020, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) memorably yawped, “Now we take Georgia – then we change America!” For once, it seemed, the Democratic left was honestly speaking “truth to power,” as the sheer velocity at which these changes are happening has created a cultural sonic boom. Americans trying to keep up with the pace of the progressives’ breakneck social experiments may be forgiven for suffering a national whiplash.
One of the deep-seated changes has been in play for years – an academia sleeper cell that has gestated patiently in our universities and colleges since the late 1960s. That was when radical baby boomers cut their hair, put on tweed coats, and began taking jobs in higher education. Their subliminal manifesto wasn’t as clearly discerned then as it is today: indoctrination.
The vast majority of professors identify as progressive or on the left. The ratio of liberal to conservative professors used to be 4 to 1. Now it is 17 to 1. That means that impressionable students are, by and large, being exposed overwhelmingly to viewpoints from one side of the political aisle.
A 2019 poll showed that 73% of conservative university and college students felt they had to keep quiet and suppress their viewpoints for fear of backlash. The stories of conservative students being called out, cast out, ridiculed, and marginalized by their partisan professors are legion. So, too, does the number of conservative professors being drummed out of their jobs for challenging the groupthink of their young charges grow by the month. It even happens to liberal professors such as Bret Weinstein, formerly of Evergreen State College, who refused to leave campus on an absence day dedicated to honoring the suffering of minority groups by requiring all whites to exit the school for a day. Weinstein was forced to resign. The new fascism had won the day.
Now legislators in Florida have proposed a bill that would allow students to record their professors’ lectures, as evidence of political bias if needed. The recordings would be forbidden to be shared publicly without a professor’s express consent. But the bill codifies the effort to safeguard intellectual freedom and the right to viewpoint diversity defined as “exposure of students, faculty, and staff to, and the encouragement of their exploration of, a variety of ideological and political perspectives.”
Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “whenever one body exerts a force on a second body, the first body experiences a force that is equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the force that it exerts.”
Here comes the pushback.
It is heartening to see Sir Isaac Newton relevant today on such an important issue, particularly since we learned just a month ago that he was being dropped from the curricula of certain elite prep schools for being (take a wild guess?) racist. But regardless of Newton’s alleged failings as a person who lived more than 300 years ago and his fortunes regarding the Western canon, his Third Law, simply put, states that for every action, there is a reaction of equal force or power. That is highly relevant now when an attempt to create a monoculture of uniform thought is sweeping the land. Has the push for ideological purity in higher education finally gone too far, forcing a pendulum swing back?
The Florida bill also proposes a survey element that would account for:
“The extent to which competing ideas and perspectives are presented and members of the college community, including students, faculty, and staff, feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
Code of Conduct
To prevent the rights listed in this bill from being weaponized by students against professors they don’t like, take exception to, or disagree with, a code of conduct is established with penalties for violations of rules and regulations. This seems like a proper counterweight to possible abuses of a system that would allow professors to be held to their word, verbatim, by a student recording the lecture. Previously, it would have been considered a gross violation of academic freedom to record educators for the purpose of picking over every word in order to potentially hold them accountable. But after a year during which teachers across the globe were being listened in on by billions of parents, teachers may be somewhat acclimated to a bit of surveillance.
According to a group that seeks to promote free speech on campus called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, nine public universities have policies that proscribe the right of free expression. In Governor Ron DeSantis’ Florida, that number is too high by a factor of nine. As State Representative Spencer Roach (R), who authored the bill and shepherded it through the legislature to passage earlier this month, said:
“Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, despite what Marxist professors and students think.”
In the war to stop the indoctrination of young minds into a single set of prescribed and “acceptable” viewpoints, Florida just took off its coat, rolled up its shirt sleeves, and squared its stance.
Is the corrective at hand?
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