Latest News and Commentary: National

January 11, 2023
By Jay Bhattacharya
Tablet Magazine

Excerpt: We live in an age when a high public health bureaucrat can, without irony, announce to the world that if you criticize him, you are not simply criticizing a man. You are criticizing “the science” itself. The irony in this idea of “science” as a set of sacred doctrines and beliefs is that the Age of Enlightenment, which gave us our modern definitions of scientific methodology, was a reaction against a religious clerisy that claimed for itself the sole ability to distinguish truth from untruth.

Top universities, like Stanford, where I have been both student and professor since 1986, are supposed to protect against such orthodoxies, creating a safe space for scientists to think and to test their ideas. Sadly, Stanford has failed in this crucial aspect of its mission, as I can attest from personal experience.

 

January 11, 2023
By Josh Moody
Inside Higher Ed

Commentary: In his first term as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis sought to reshape higher education at the state level, pushing changes to accreditation requirements and tenure while requiring widely criticized intellectual diversity surveys and limiting diversity, equity and inclusion instruction in public colleges.

Freshly re-elected, he’s now shaking up higher ed at the campus level, aiming to transform the state’s public liberal arts college in the image of one of the country’s most visible private Christian colleges. “It is our hope that New College of Florida will become Florida’s classical college, more along the lines of a Hillsdale of the South,” DeSantis chief of staff James Uthmeier told The Daily Caller.

January 10, 2023
By Stanford Alumni for Free Speech and Critical Thinking

Excerpt: Stanford's IT community created the website, "Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative," which was reported on by the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. The controversial website was subsequently made unavailable to those who didn't have a Stanford log-in account.  And shortly after, the website was removed.

Examples of harmful words and phrases listed at the website included American, basket case, black box, blind review, brown bag, chief (even though the CIO’s official title is still Chief Information Officer), freshman, gentlemen, grandfathered, he, immigrant, ladies, master list, prisoner, prostitute, sanity check, she, submit, survivor, tone deaf, trigger warning, walk-in, webmaster. . . and nearly 100 more.

 

January 9, 2023
By Tom Bartlett
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: Heterodox Academy is starting a new program that will provide support for a network of groups on college campuses to further the organization’s mission of promoting “open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement.” The first 23 campuses in the program, called Campus Communities, will receive funding over the next three years to host events and bring in speakers with the goal of affecting “campus culture and policy.”

January 6, 2023
By Sabrina Conza
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: The dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School has refused to approve the fellowship of the man — hailed as the “godfather” of human rights work — because he disagrees with his stance on Israel. 

HKS, one of the top public policy institutions in the world, has violated Harvard’s clear commitments to free expression by denying former Human Rights Watch executive Kenneth Roth a fellowship because of his purported “anti-Israel bias.” As always, FIRE is neutral on Roth’s views on Israel, as well as the underlying Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has defended individuals on every side of the issue.

January 5, 2023
By Daniel Drezner
Drezner's World, Substack

Excerpt: The past few years have been hard in the ivory tower. The growing bureaucratization of the academy has been a cognitive drag. In order to appease every university directive, my course syllabi are beginning to resemble the terms-of-service agreements that folks never read when they are updated. The push for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), while well-intentioned, has been institutionalized in such a way as to make it seem more like an exercise in performativity than anything else.

All of the trends I identified in The Ideas Industry — the erosion of trust in expertise, the polarization of public attitudes, and the rise of a plutocratic class that believes in disruption über alles — are still there in one form or another. My point is, I agree with a lot of what economist and blogger Tyler Cowen says in his latest Bloomberg column — but I am not entirely sold on his conclusion:

January 5, 2023
By Judd Legum
Popular Info, Substack

Excerpt: In March 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed into law the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. DeSantis angrily accused the media of promoting a "false narrative," insisting the bill does not prohibit mentioning LGBTQ people in Florida schools.

But despite these protestations, Florida schools are using the law to justify the erasure of LGBTQ people. Public records obtained by Popular Information through the Florida Freedom to Read Project reveal that several Florida schools have already removed books with LGBTQ characters from their libraries, citing the Parental Rights in Education Act. Further, training materials produced by the Florida Department of Education for librarians reveal that the DeSantis administration is encouraging this expansive interpretation of the law. 

January 4, 2023
By Tyler Cowen
Bloomberg

Excerpt: The various “political correctness” scandals on college campuses, such as a group at Stanford recommending against the use of the words “American” and “immigrant,” get a lot of headlines. But there are more gradual, less visible changes that also contribute to the declining status of the US system of higher education.

January 3, 2023
By Daniel Golden
ProPublica

Excerpt: Jonathan Cox faced an agonizing decision. He was scheduled to teach two classes this past fall at the University of Central Florida that would explore colorblind racism, the concept that ostensibly race-neutral practices can have a discriminatory impact. The first, “Race and Social Media,” featured a unit on “racial ideology and color-blindness.” The second, “Race and Ethnicity,” included a reading on “the myth of a color-blind society.”

Whatever one thinks of critical race theory, the state’s interference limits the freedom of professors who are experts in their fields to decide what to teach their students. Cox worried, not without reason, that the law effectively banned him from discussing his ideas in class, and that teaching the courses could cost him his livelihood.

January 3, 2023
By Emma Pettit
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: At least one Florida university has been asked to report its “expenditure of state resources” on programs and courses related to critical race theory and to diversity, equity, and inclusion, at the behest of Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican governor, according to an email obtained by The Chronicle. The move is likely to heighten fears among advocates of academic freedom in the state who worry that DeSantis is bent on curtailing professors’ speech in the classroom.