Latest News and Commentary: National

August 17, 2021
By Jason Kao
Texas Tribune

Excerpt: McKinney school officials long took pride in their students’ participation in the nationwide Youth and Government program, calling the district a “perennial standout.”


Every year, students researched current issues, proposed and debated their own public policy, and competed in a mock legislature and elections process for statewide offices. Since the program’s arrival at McKinney in 2005 as a club, seven of the district’s middle school students have been elected governor — the program’s top honor — at the statewide conference in Austin. In 2017, the district added an elective option: Seventh and eighth graders in two of the district’s middle schools could now receive course credit for participating in the program.

But in June, the district canceled the elective option in response to a social studies law passed during this year’s regular legislative session. The law is part of a nationwide movement to ban any teachings conservatives believe sow racial divisions and make white children believe they are racist. But the cancellation appears to be a misapplication. The new law only applies to required social studies classes, not electives like the McKinney class.

August 17, 2021
By Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: “Do no harm” is the foundational principle of medical ethics, but a public medical school is harming its students by attempting to sterilize their opinions. Edward Si, a student at Eastern Virginia Medical School, won’t let that happen. Today, backed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Si filed a lawsuit against interim EVMS President Alfred Abuhamad and other university officials.

Si wants to establish a chapter of Students for a National Health Program (the student branch of the national organization Physicians for a National Health Program) at EVMS. Recognized clubs at EVMS receive a variety of benefits, including funding eligibility, use of the school’s name and branding, and use of campus facilities.

But the Student Government Association denied the club’s application for recognition solely because the club is based on an “opinion” — despite recognizing other opinion-based groups like Medical Students for Choice and the Christian Medical and Dental Association.

August 17, 2021
By Samuel Abrams
The American Conservative

Excerpt: As high schools prepare to reopen and in-person teaching resumes, students will face many unknowns. One question that must be answered this fall is whether the cancel culture that has plagued the nation will continue in our education institutions. Sadly, new data suggest that the strong impulse to silence those who might be offensive to some will continue. High school communities should push back against current tendencies, however, and demand students have the chance to confront challenging ideas and experience the discomfort that is at the core of the educational enterprise.

At the university level, it is already well documented that conservative faculty regularly hide their views for fear of retaliation from students and administrators. Students are choosing to keep quiet on campuses and in their classrooms, too, for fear of retaliation from peers and developing a long-term reputation that may affect internships, careers, and social standing. These trends now extend to high schools, too.

August 16, 2021
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
American Enterprise Institute

Excerpt: It’s been five years since University of Chicago dean John Ellison made a splash with a letter to the school’s incoming freshmen. “Our commitment to academic freedom,” he wrote, “means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

In the years since, a number of schools have adopted the so-called Chicago statement, reaffirming a commitment to intellectual engagement and academic freedom on campus. But many more colleges remain mired in a kind of woke fog where neither students nor faculty know what will get them expelled or fired or just publicly shamed. Earlier this summer a center at Brandeis put the phrase “trigger warning” on a list of violent and oppressive language that could get those who utter it in trouble because of its association with gun violence. And the word “picnic” is now verboten because of its association with lynchings.

August 16, 2021
By Samuel J. Abrams
American Enterprise Institute

Excerpt: While the pandemic remains a real concern, another very worrisome issue will face our nation’s high-school students when they return to the classroom: whether conservative students will be treated fairly if their views and ideas do not comport with the overall zeitgeist of particular schools.

Healthy debate, based on a real diversity of ideas, rests at the very foundation of civil society and our educational system. But this core value is under threat today, with many Americans self-censoring and silencing themselves due to the rampant cancel-culture epidemic and other forms of discrimination based on ideology.
Students are choosing to keep quiet on campus and in their classrooms, fearing not only retaliation from peers but also long-term reputational consequences for internships, careers, and social standing. Woke mobs come after dissenters and “equity” and “inclusion” offices instruct students what and how to think. These forces have expanded from higher education to high schools. New data reveal how much more discrimination conservative high-school students face than their liberal peers do.

August 16, 2021
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: University of Nebraska system Board of Regents voted down on August 13 a proposal to ban the "imposition" of critical race theory in the classroom. Unlike many states' legislative bans on mandatory critical race theory training, the Nebraska proposal explicitly opposed the "imposition" of critical race theory via the curriculum.

The proposal, written by Regent Jim Pillen, said: "America is the best country in the world and anyone can achieve the American Dream here. Critical race theory seeks to silence opposing views and disparage important American ideals.”

The 3-5 vote against the proposal followed hours of discussion. Students, faculty members, deans, the board and its four non-voting student members, plus Ted Carter, system president all weighed in. All but a handful of their comments were against the resolution, echoing sentiments of numerous student and faculty groups who opposed it prior to the vote.

 

August 15, 2021
By David Randall
National Association of Scholars

Excerpt: Only in the last months have civics reformers begun to fight back against action civics and Critical Race Theory. The Civics Alliance was founded just this March. Now we have reached August, when most state legislatures are out of session, and even the U.S. Congress moves more slowly. It’s time for a progress report. How have reform bills fared? How have reformers succeeded by means other than state laws?

I’ll also mention how recent efforts to impose action civics, radical identity politics, and CRT by statute have progressed. The radical establishment will push ahead with or without authorizing laws to impose action civics and CRT, unless reformers pass laws to restrain them.

[The rest of the article discusses legislative actions in Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and South Dakota., and notes that 20 state attorneys general have written the U.S. Education Department to express their opposition to Critical Race Theory.]

August 15, 2021
By Robert Schmad
Campus Reform

Excerpt: Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit Christian legal advocacy group, just scored a significant victory for students' freedom of speech at Montclair State University.

ADF attorneys claimed that several policies enforced by the university violated student’s rights under the 1st and 14th amendments. Rather than taking the case to trial, both parties reached a settlement this summer that will result in the effective repeal of the rules the ADF took issue with.

There were three university rules that the ADF said the New Jersey school was unconstitutionally imposing within the context of it being a public institution. In one rule, the university required students to obtain permission from university staff two weeks prior to holding an event in which they would speak publicly. In a second, the university maintained a “Bias Education Response Taskforce” to punish speech determined to be “motivated by bias or prejudice.” In a third rule, Montclair’s student government association created a "class" system for student organizations that could be used to inhibit the ability of clubs to obtain funding, according to the lawsuit.

August 13, 2021
By Beth McMurtrie
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: Brian D. Behnken, an associate professor of history at Iowa State University, says the controversy that has enveloped the nation over teaching “divisive” concepts has had a notable effect on his campus.

In June, Iowa’s governor signed a bill prohibiting public schools and colleges from requiring any training that teaches that the United States or Iowa “are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist,” among other concepts.

The university responded quickly. The provost initially rejected proposed revisions of an undergraduate diversity requirement that Behnken and others had spent months developing, suggesting that some of the new learning outcomes could violate the new law. Then, the administration came out with a controversial set of guidelines for how to avoid violating the state’s strictures on racism and sexism training, and on diversity and inclusion efforts.

A black assistant professor at another school, who declined to be identified, said that “someone could attempt to get you fired” and that her advice for colleges on protecting their professors would be: “Be paranoid. I hate to use that word, but what it means is constant vigilance.”

 

August 12, 2021
By Graham Piro
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Speech criticizing the military has a long and controversial history in American discourse. The Fresno State College Republicans are beginning to discover the firestorm that is unleashed when one takes aim at members of the United States military. In this case, that firestorm is protected counterspeech. In contrast to the criticism on social media and beyond, however, the administration of Fresno State has gone too far in announcing a “review” of the group’s protected speech. FIRE wrote to the university this afternoon reminding Fresno State that it may not punish students for protected speech — even speech many find offensive.

It started when Patrick Loller, a military veteran who has become an online comedian, posted a video on TikTok (which was later posted on Twitter) in February lambasting people who decline to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic as cowards. The Fresno State College Republicans responded by mocking Loller’s post-traumatic stress disorder and some other members of the military.