Latest News and Commentary: National

May 21, 2021
By Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic

Excerpt: Last week, the journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who led The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, was named the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Faculty at its Hussman School of Journalism and Media recommended her for tenure too. But the university’s board of trustees didn’t approve the faculty recommendation. Instead, UNC appointed her to a five-year contract with the option of a tenure review.

That appointment may still strike many Americans as a great gig, even without the dream of lifetime job security. But many in academia and journalism see it as a politicized assault on academic autonomy and the First Amendment. If antipathy toward the perspective of the 1619 Project motivated the denial of tenure—and I fear that it did—that would be a clear example of a government body unconstitutionally punishing someone for her views.

May 21, 2021
By Sarah McLaughlin
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: It can be tempting to look at censorship in other countries and conclude that it’s troubling, but far away, and we should save our worrying for what happens here. Most people are, for good reason, much more concerned about the impact of the laws in the country in which they live. But this attitude can fail to account for how censorship functions, especially in an era in which the internet, digital surveillance, frequent international travel, and global industries have made some foreign laws less constrained by borders and more difficult to combat.

Students from UC San Diego’s Hong Kong Cultural Society expressed concerns that their activism on campus would result in legal trouble after they return home, citing Hong Kong’s national security law. These students are not alone in fearing that the national security law will be used as a cudgel to punish campus speech critical of China.

May 21, 2021
By Emily Walkenhorst
WRAL

Excerpt: The Durham Public Schools Board of Education drafted a resolution Thursday opposing North Carolina House Bill 324, which would limit how school teachers can address race and sex in class. The bill would “restrict and prohibit honest conversations about race, conflict with the existing state and local education standards, and infringe free speech rights of students, educators and staff,” the board wrote in its resolution.

Durham Public Schools recently adopted new social studies standards to include more diverse perspectives and more discussions of inequities and discrimination.
Many Republicans favor the bill, concerned that some teachings about racism or sexism might make some children feel bad about themselves or their country. Many Democrats oppose the bill, concerned that it will impede educators’ ability to discuss the realities of racism and sexism.

May 19, 2021
By Joe Killian and Kyle Ingram
NC Policywatch

Excerpt: In her career in journalism, Nikole Hannah-Jones has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.” But despite support from the UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor and faculty, she won’t be getting a tenured teaching position at her alma mater. At least not yet.

Following political pressure from conservatives who object to her work on “The 1619 Project” for The New York Times Magazine, the school changed its plan to offer her tenure — which amounts to a career-long appointment. Instead, she will start July 1 for a fixed five-year term as Professor of the Practice, with the option of being reviewed for tenure at the end of that time period.

“It’s disappointing, it’s not what we wanted and I am afraid it will have a chilling effect,” said Susan King, dean of UNC Hussman.

 

May 19, 2021
By David R. Hoffman
Indystar.com

Excerpt: Several years ago, when I was in law school, I took a course called “Race Relations and the Constitution.”

Suffice to say, despite conservative vituperations to the contrary, I did not walk away hating America or feeling indoctrinated, nor did I suddenly dedicate my life to unending devotion for Karl Marx.

One fundamental flaw in the arguments often given for banning the teaching of critical race theory is the presumption that it is being taught in a vacuum.

Regardless of whether they will admit it, politicians throughout American history have frequently, both covertly and overtly, viewed the exploitation of racial animus as a convenient way to get votes; thus, any attempt to examine and reduce the roots of this animus is anathema.

History has taught that the loss of freedom often begins with the banning of ideas that people, often through intimidation, are reluctant to defend.

 

May 18, 2021
By Steven Mintz
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: If there’s any obvious generational or political divide within the academy, it involves free speech and academic freedom.

The standard liberal view was summed up by Yale University’s 1974 Woodward Report, which stated that the university is the place to “think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.”

But that view has received pushback from those who emphasize the power of words to inflict pain, induce trauma and create a hostile learning environment. In their opinion, free speech is often wielded as a weapon by the privileged to silence others.

Even as we believe that faculty should be able to teach without fear of censorship or reprimand, we also feel that hectoring, insults, slurs, demeaning language or insensitive comments have no place in classroom settings.

 

May 18, 2021
By William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection

Excerpt: There is bad news and good news coming out of the Cornell University Faculty Senate vote on Critical Race Theory mandates for faculty and students.

First, the bad news. The Faculty Senate nominally voted for some forms of Critical Race Theory mandates on faculty and students.

Second, the good news. The margins were surprisingly thin, there was suprisingly substantial opposition, and some of the six resolutions contradicted others, leaving a muddled mess that has to be viewed as a loss for proponents who must have expected overwhelming support.

The only thing that is clear is that there is no clear mandate from the Faculty Senate as the issue moves from the merely advisory Faculty Senate to the President of the University. If the President, and possibly the Board of Trustees, want to implement these anti-educational initiatives, they are going to have to own the issue.

 

May 17, 2021
By Peter Wood
National Association of Scholars

Excerpt: The 1619 Project. Black Lives Matter. Antiracism. Critical Race Theory. America’s institutions of higher education gave birth to these critiques, all of which present America as a self-perpetuating system of racial oppression. Radical activists now confront America with this host of radical critiques of who we are as a nation, accompanied by equally radical proposals to remake our basic institutions.

The activists who lead these movements have targeted America’s schools as the means by which to impose a revolutionary transformation on our country. These activists believe not only that our schools are the linchpin of our apparatus of racial injustice and oppression but also the means by which to force their so-called “liberation” on America. They will seize our children’s minds to seize America’s future.

There is no awakening in woke. It is the sleep of reason that produces monsters, and it poses a profound peril to our republic.

 

May 17, 2021
By Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic

Excerpt: Erin McLaughlin, an educator in Pennsylvania, believes that, in school and in life, people should study what others think and why. But in her estimation, many educational institutions that purport to value diversity and inclusion fail to treat viewpoint diversity—which she defines as “the recognition that nobody’s worldview is complete, and that no one marker of identity actually defines the way we see the world around us”—as a vital part of civic education.
McLaughlin strives to do just that in her job as a high-school English teacher. While working on a master’s degree in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, she began to build a theoretical and practical framework around her ideas. She has developed what she calls the Viewpoint Diversity Curriculum, which poses questions such as “Can I go beyond my personal experience?”

 

May 16, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: Mark Twain once said that “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” Professor Hannah Berliner Fischthal may have cause to question that pearl of wisdom after she was sacked by St. John’s University after reading a Twain passage using the n-word. The adjunct instructor had explained to the class that the word would be used in the context of the work and hoped it would not offend anyone.

She was then fired on April 29th.

The university denies that the reading itself was the reason for the termination. Brian Browne, a spokesman for St. John’s, told the media that “If your assertion is that she was fired for reading aloud from a Mark Twain novel, that is incorrect.” However, the university did not explain the basis for the termination. The case has been taken up by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.