Latest News and Commentary: National

June 14, 2021
By Daniel Vock
Louisiana Illuminator

Excerpt: Teachers from Tennessee to Iowa are swept up in a wave of outrage led by GOP politicians nationwide over how schools teach kids about race in U.S. history. The changes have come so quickly, and with such ferocity, that many teachers were caught off guard. But now educators are under pressure and grappling with how to respond, whether with protests, potential lawsuits, a departure or early retirement from the profession, or just attempts to accommodate the new policies.

Anton Schulzki, a public high school teacher in Colorado Springs and the president-elect of the National Council for the Social Studies, says teachers’ options vary greatly depending on where they are and how secure they are in their jobs. “Teachers are part of the community. They have bills and mortgages to pay. They’ve got their own families to raise. So they may play it a little safe,” says Schulzki.

 

June 12, 2021
By Valerie Strauss
The Washington Post

Excerpt: On Saturday, thousands of educators and others gathered virtually and in person at historic locations in more than 20 cities to make clear that they would resist efforts in at least 15 Republican-led states to restrict what teachers can say in class about racism, sexism and oppression in America. Organized by local educators across the country in association with several social justice organizations, the National Day of Action is meant to raise public awareness about the legislation and to send a message that they will not lie to students about the country’s racist past and present.

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country, said the restrictions on teaching racism are dangerous. “No matter our color, background, or Zip code, we want our kids to have an education that imparts honesty about who we are, integrity in how we treat others, and courage to do what’s right.”

 

June 11, 2021
By Joe Killian
NC Policywatch

Excerpt: Attorneys for UNC-Chapel Hill will meet with the legal team of Nikole Hannah Jones Thursday to find “a potential resolution” to the tenure stand-off that has generated international headlines. But students, faculty and members of the university’s board of trustees say regardless of whether a resolution can be found, the damage has been done: to the school’s reputation, trust in university leadership and the norms under which the school has long operated.

Last week, the university saw the tangible cost of its inaction on Hannah-Jones’s tenure. Lisa Jones, a renowned chemistry professor UNC was attempting to recruit from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, decided against coming to the school. Jones, who is Black, had been eagerly recruited by the school’s chemistry department. But in a letter to the school she called the treatment of Hannah-Jones “very disheartening.”

 

June 10, 2021
By Glenn Reynolds
New York Post

Excerpt: Yale University appears to be in the midst of a meltdown. You may find that irrelevant, or even amusing, but you shouldn’t. Because Yale’s sad condition, unfortunately, is common to many of our most important institutions.

We see publishers where the staff successfully demand the banning of authors they don’t like. We see software companies where employees, instead of doing their jobs, spend hours talking politics and trying to politicize their companies. We see news organizations taken over by “woke” ideology. We see teenagers kicked out of school for tweets made years earlier. And now, in a place that is supposed to be all about the rule of law, we see anonymous mob rule. We hear a lot about justice, but anonymous accusations and power politics aren’t justice, and places that are ruled in such a fashion tend to do badly.

 

June 10, 2021
By PEN America

Excerpt: Yale University’s School of Medicine has decided to restrict access to a recording of a talk by psychiatrist Dr. Aruna Khilanani. The lecture, delivered online April 6 as part of the school’s “Grand Rounds” lecture series, generated public outcry over Khilanani’s discussion of racial stereotypes about white people, and some violent subject matter including fantasies of shooting them. The School of Medicine has said the talk was “antithetical to the values of the school” and cited the “extreme hostility, imagery of violence, and profanity expressed by the speaker” as grounds for overriding the considerations of freedom of expression. Khilanani has said that her words have been “taken out of context,” and that she prefaced her remarks as using “provocation as a tool for real engagement.”

“Free expression policies must not be discarded when provocative, offensive, or discomforting remarks are challenged—rather, those are the difficult times when free speech must be most robustly upheld.”

June 9, 2021
By Emily Levine, Associate Professor, Stanford University
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Academic freedom is front page news. The decision by the trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to refuse tenure to journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones sparked outrage among academics and UNC students, as well as Jones’s fellow journalists. It shined a spotlight on tenure, which protects scholars from dismissal except under extraordinary circumstances, and exposed the limitations of a system in which American academic freedom depends on tenure.

Yet, while academic freedom is a seemingly self-evident feature of American higher education today, it did not always exist and took years to be formalized. The unique and incomplete process by which it became codified produced a narrow definition that not only excludes many members of the academy but also refrains from advancing a positive vision of what exactly academics are free to do.

June 9, 2021
By Michael Farris
National Review

Excerpt: Parents don’t want their children taught that they are oppressors if they have the wrong skin color. Teaching little white kids that they are evil because of their race is wicked, just as it was when the worst schools of our past taught little black children that they were intellectually inferior because of their race. Vanishingly few parents want their children immersed in a one-sided racial vendetta seeking to blame seven-year-olds for the acts of some people with their same skin color from past generations.

In my own home county of Loudoun County, Va., the radicals have seized control and plunged with abandon in a radical direction, leaving much of our community gasping at the temerity of their tactics and shuddering at the implications for the future of our community and our nation should they succeed. Loudoun suspended its teacher, Tanner Cross, for having the audacity to speak for one minute at a recent school-board meeting in opposition to a proposed sexual/political mandate.

June 9, 2021
By Jennifer Kabbany
The College Fix

Excerpt: Teacher Dana Stangel-Plowe resigned from a preppy, private New Jersey school, saying that administrators enforce the anti-racism diversity, equity and inclusion narrative to such a degree that it stunts students’ intellectual growth.

In her resignation letter, she states, “In my classroom, I see up close how this orthodoxy hinders students’ ability to read, write, and think. I teach students who recoil from a poem because it was written by a man. I teach students who approach texts in search of the oppressor. I teach students who see inequities in texts that have nothing to do with power. Students have internalized the message that this is the way we read and think about the world, and as a result, they fixate on power and group identity. This fixation has stunted their ability to observe and engage with the full fabric of human experience in our literature.”

June 8, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Summary: Joyce Coleman, the Vice President of Santa Barbara City College (SBCC)’s School of Extended Learning has been placed on administrative leave for comments regarding Japanese internment during the Second World War. The comment in question occurred during a March 23rd SBCC Equal Opportunity Advisory Committee meeting regarding the formation of a new Asian American “affinity group” in response to the March shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, six of them Asian women. Coleman reportedly asked why Japanese victims of American internment camps “did not just leave,” considering how small the fences were at a camp she visited, and contrasted their experience with Black Americans who escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. While Coleman was supportive of this new affinity group, she appears to have been placed on leave due to the “harm” her comments caused.

 

June 8, 2021
By Sarah McLaughlin
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: To hone their writing skills, students are taught to consider their audience, whether that is a single professor, prospective employers, schoolchildren, or the general public. The audience determines the words writers use, the arguments they make, and the style they adopt.

But in today’s universities, another audience looms in the minds of students and professors — an audience they do not seek out, but who nevertheless is deeply interested in what they have to say. Between the ever-growing threat of global authoritarianism and the internet’s omnipresent role in higher education, the threat is severe. Professors teaching sensitive subjects walk a tightrope: their class material may be legal to discuss in the confines of their physical classrooms in Cambridge or Palo Alto, but may carry the risk of state investigation and imprisonment elsewhere. What is the state of higher education if the internet is the new campus and authoritarianism can extend everywhere?