Mob Censorship on Campus

 

In today’s political climate, there are sharp divisions of opinion over a range of issues, from health care and climate change to education and labor law. Ideally, a civil debate undertaken with mutual respect could ease tension and advance knowledge. Politics, however, often takes a very different turn.

One of the landmark decisions of the United States Supreme Court, New York Times v. Sullivan, was decided in 1964 at the height of civil rights movement. Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan insisted that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech rested on “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” He then concluded that the First Amendment offered extensive protection to the media from defamation suits brought by private individuals—a principle that was later extended to apply to public figures as well. Defamation suits in his view could chill public debate.

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FIRE’s 2017 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech

 

Unfortunately, it isn’t an easy undertaking deciding which schools belong on FIRE’s “10 worst colleges for free speech” list every year. This year was no exception.

This morning, we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) published our annual “worst of the worst” list, which can be read with detailed descriptions of each school’s misdeeds at The Huffington Post.

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Drain the Real Swamp: Academia

 

Suppose for the past half century or so you’ve been forced to pay the Acme Swamp Company to engorge all lakes, caverns, rivers, streams, and puddles with effluents, along with enough reptiles to put Jurassic Park to shame. Then, after you’ve discovered that the Acme Company has also supplied Wile E. Coyote with Roadrunner-catching equipment since the Truman Administration, you decide to “drain the swamp.” And then—surprise! surprise! —you’re devastated to learn that the swamp you tried to drain simply filled up again from tributaries that cannot be shut off. And you’ve been paying for those tributaries, too, for a long, long time. In fact, you’ve discovered that these streams are not only exorbitantly pricey, but frequently destructive, parasitic, and virtually impregnable. Question is, what can you do?

The “swamp” in question of course is Washington DC, but also includes much of the bureaucracy, judiciary, and cultural command posts of the country, such as the media and entertainment industries. The tributaries comprise America’s educational system, long dominated by the radical left and protected by tenure and union power. It is this ideological effluent center that has done so much to poison the discourse of American politics, smearing every institution that contributed to the country’s greatness, and radiating hatred of all things most citizens hold dear—family, patriotism, free enterprise, free speech, freedom of religion, the Bill of Rights generally, and of course America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

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DeVos Nomination Is the Most Contested Because It’s About the Future

 

The Betsy DeVos nomination proved to be the most contentious; the hill Democrats have chosen to die on. Why? Because it’s about the future:

  • The future of the teachers’ unions, who had much of their power stripped from them in Wisconsin with the passage of Act 10, and who barely survived losing power in California due to 4-4 Supreme Court tie in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et. al.
  • The future of the Department of Education in whether it will be greatly scaled back or allowed to remain largely intact and in the future return to its practice of “Dear Colleague” letters to universities, school districts, etc. dictating the abandonment of due process for the accused and imposing radical social policy with the threat of federal lawsuits.
  • The future of whether states, municipalities, and most importantly parents will have the freedom to determine the opportunities available to children — charter schools, school choice, home schooling, in addition to public schools — or fewer choices due to further and further regulations dictated by federal bureaucrats in Washington beholden to the interests of teachers’ unions.
  • The future of what is taught to children — does the federal government know better than you what your children should learn in school? A federally determined curriculum reaches more students if more students are forced to remain in the public schools. Progressive ideology must be taught to the next generation. A DeVos-run Department of Education will hopefully abandon central planning style Common Core curricula and return that power to the states.

Betsy DeVos has the opportunity to do so much good and bring to an end so much Education departmental overreach and abuse of power. The Democrats were desperate to prevent this from happening. It’s all about the future.

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Ask Me Anything About School Choice

 

It’s National School Choice Week, which means there’s lots of buzz about expanding educational options — 2017 presents some great opportunities for doing so — but also a lot of “alternative facts” about choice policies being peddled by groups interested in protecting their bread and butter the district schooling status quo.

That’s why, in the tradition of previous reddit-style #AskMeAnything forums on Ricochet, I will be available until about 5:00pm EST today to (hopefully) answer any question you have related to school choice policies, such as charter schools, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and education savings accounts. (I’ll come back Sunday if there are some remaining questions.)

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Unions vs. Children

 

By and large, teachers are wonderful people who dedicate their lives to helping children achieve their full potential. Their unions, by contrast, have a very different mission.

Take the Great Chicago Library Lockout of 2017, for example. As a parent recently described in the Wall Street Journal, Pritzker Elementary in Chicago had to lay off its librarian due to a combination of budget cuts and lower-than-expected enrollment, so parents volunteered to help out to keep the library open. According to Michael Hendershot, whose daughter attends Prtizker, “There was so much interest that the parent-teacher organization created a rotating schedule of regular volunteers to help out.” That’s when the Chicago Teachers Union (and affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers) intervened:

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DeVos, Detroit, and a False Media Narrative

 

In advance of today’s confirmation hearings for Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education, defenders of the status quo have been spinning a narrative about her reform efforts in Detroit that runs contrary to all available evidence.

In op-eds, editorials, and editorials veiled as news, the New York Times has pushed the narrative that in Detroit, “charter schools often perform no better than traditional schools, and sometimes worse.” However, as Max Eden and I show at Education Next today, all the available data show that charter schools in Detroit significantly outperform their traditional district counterparts.

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