Free speech for professors is gone

Tenure is supposed to protect professors from retaliation for expressing controversial views.  But apparently that is not the case, witness the formation of the Academic Freedom Alliance, a group of 200 scholars whose aim is to defend the right of professors to speak out (“More Defenders of Campus Speech,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 10). 

It’s a sad commentary that the AFA has to exist because there is tremendous pressure exerted on those who do not toe the party line. Events at Princeton and Stanford are evidence that tenure is not enough to allow the open expression of unpopular views.

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Are segregated schools good for Black children?

Until I read “What Black Schools Mean to Black Kids” by Jamilah Lemieux (The Nation, Mar. 9), I thought that schools with almost all Black children and all Black teachers were opposed by most Blacks because they were a sign of segregation.  But Lemieux maintains that they can make all the difference in the world.

She writes that Black children are a unique population.  They need teachers and administrators who understand them as such.  If they constitute a minority, they are subject to bullying, confusion and self-loathing.  But what about racial diversity?  Is that not also indispensable for their development?

The all-Black schools that Lemieux wants once existed in this country until Brown v. Board of Education.  I doubt they provided what Black children deserved.  If I’m wrong, then all our efforts to integrate schools are a waste of time, energy and money.

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Sex education at the proper time

Twenty-two states lack a statewide sex-education mandate.  As a result, local school districts are free to decide how to approach the subject (“Now NY progressives want to teach kindergarteners about gender ‘fluidity,’ “ New York Post, March 9). 

The debate is over what should be taught and most importantly when.  Teaching children too young about different kinds of sex runs the risk of confusing them.  Yet New York State is considering teaching eight-year-olds about fluid gender choices and other controversial topics in line with the program laid out in the National Sex Education Standards.

There was a time when the family played a greater role in educating children about sexual matters.  But those days are gone, which is one reason why some parents are enrolling their children in religious schools whose values reflect theirs.

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Teachers unions have gone too far

As readers of this column know, I support teachers unions, having participated in three strikes during the 28 years I taught in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  But the United Teachers Los Angeles’s opposition until a few days ago to reopening classrooms until all teachers and staff have been able to get both shots of the vaccine will lose them popular support (“Teachers Union Privilege,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 4). 

When Covid19 first surfaced and little was known about it, I understood why UTLA was adamantly against teachers returning to their classrooms.  But the experience of private and religious schools that have never closed undermines the union’s argument.  If non-public schools can operate safely, then why can’t public schools?

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Racial ideology infects private schools

The obsession with instilling white guilt into students is not limited to public schools anymore.  It has now permeated private schools as well (“Dividing by Race Comes to Grade School,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 8).

What is so disturbing is that parents who disagree with the trend are often asked to consider withdrawing their children despite having spent thousands of dollars to enroll them.  Yes, parents can always enroll them in the nearest public school, but they’re even worse in this regard.

There was a time when private schools resisted the latest educational craze by remaining devoted to traditional values.  But apparently even they have fallen victim to racial conformity.

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Tenure in academia is an anachronism

The rationale for tenure in colleges and universities is that it allows faculty to speak out on controversial issues without the fear of retaliation.  But despite its existence, there is no real academic freedom (“Academic Freedom Is Withering,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 1) 

That should be apparent when the National Association of Scholars reported 65 instances of professors being disciplined or fired for what they assumed was protected speech – a five-fold increase from the year before.  Not surprisingly, those cases involved conservative faculty.  That’s why 7 in 10 conservative academics engage in self-censorship.

Since that is the case, then why have tenure in the first place?  I doubt eliminating it would make matters even worse.  In fact, it would likely allow deadwood liberal professors to be fired for engaging in indoctrination, rather than in education.

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School superintendents can do only so much

Although school superintendents or chancellors have fancy titles, in truth they can do little to improve education quality.  But they most certainly can do a lot to degrade whatever quality exists.  I’m referring now to Richard Carranza, who announced his resignation as the chancellor of the New York City system (“Good riddance to Richard Carranza – the worst schools chancellor in NYC history,” New York Post, Feb. 27).

From the start, Carranza was obsessed with seeing racism in everything.  For example, his campaign to undermine the city’s exam schools that are the pride of the system would have been a disaster if he was successful. Students who lack the wherewithal would soon find themselves over their head. They would then either drop out or their teachers would have to lower standards to accommodate them.  Given Carranza’s agenda, it’s the latter that would follow.

New York City’s schools may not reflect the racial diversity of the city at large, but that does not mean they are segregated.  Many non-legal factors determine the racial enrollment of public schools.  It’s time to accept that reality.

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Three cheers for the University of Chicago

It’s exceedingly rare to find a college president like Robert Zimmer willing to stand up to students.  But that is what is happening at the University of Chicago, where he refuses to support trigger-warnings, does not cancel controversial speakers, and does not create intellectual safe spaces (“No Speech Coddling in Chicago,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24).

The whole purpose of higher education is to confront and challenge deeply-held beliefs.  That’s why tenure exists.  Without it, faculty would be reluctant to speak out.  The arrival on campus of Chicago Thinker, published by conservative and libertarian students, is a refreshing event because the president will not cancel it regardless of student or faculty opposition.

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Asian-American students expose inconvenient truths

Although no ethnic group is a monolith, when it comes to education Asian-Americans consistently outperform all others (“The Woke ‘Model Minority’ Myth,” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 23).  Their achievement calls into question the assertion that success is the result of white oppression.

If that were true, then Asian-American students should lag far behind their peers because of the blatant bigotry of laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW II.  Yet they overcame such prejudice by hard work and reverence for education.

Nevertheless, progressives refuse to acknowledge the facts, instead preferring to see everything in education as white oppression.  Public schools that teach such things are why so many parents are enrolling their children in private and religious schools.

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The Equity Lab calls into question stereotype threat

The impressive performance by more than 300 11th and 12th graders from high- poverty high schools in 11 cities across the country in a Harvard course under the auspices of the Equity Lab should serve as evidence that disadvantaged Black and Hispanic students can achieve on a par with their white counterparts (“A College Program for Disadvantaged Teens Could Shake Up Elite Admissions,” The New York Times, Feb. 19).

If stereotype threat indeed plays as powerful a role in determining academic outcomes as widely believed, then these students would never have been able to post the results they did.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist at all.  What I submit is that talent is unevenly distributed among all races.  The stress of racism fortunately can be overcome

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