Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ideas in the Academy

David Horowitz has been a gadfly for Higher Education for some time now with his Academic Bill of Rights and other efforts to promote intellectual or more correctly ideological diversity at colleges and universities. I have often found Horowitz to be somewhat overblown in his rhetoric and I find ideologues of all stripes to be rather tiresome.

He does have a point about the ideological purity on many campuses. As a conservative, if a somewhat moderate one, I understand that most of the people I work with disagree with me on many if not most issues. That in and of itself does not concern me, but when the singleness of mind takes shape to bring about action then it does worry me because there is very little in the ways of checks and balances.

Recently at Washington State University, an African American student wrote, directed and performed in a play entitled "Passion of the Musical" which was by all accounts offensive to many in content and presentation. Many in attendance, I was not one of them, protested the performance by interrupting and causing disruptions. The university president went so far as to support the protesters.

I did not see the play, and thus can not speak authoritatively about the content, if the descriptions in the school newspaper and elsewhere then it is not something that I am particularly interested in seeing. The commentary about the production has been mixed with many arguing that the student has the right to express himself under the Constitution's guarantee of Free Speech. Many more though including several in the university's administration have suggested that need to outlaw "Hate Speech" is more important.

My response to those who would silence unpopular or offensive speech is that that is what the First Amendment is there for. To protect offensvie speech in particular. When the KKK wanted to march through largely Jewish neighborhoods in Illinois, they were given a permit. Why? Not because the local officials agreed with them or secretly wanted to promote their message, but because it was their right.

In this country people have the right be stupid and to say stupid things and to be offensive. There is however, no protection against being offended. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that you can not offend me or that I can not offend you. Universities, and in particular public universities, have no business attempting to regulate speech on their campuses or within the student bodies. To do so in Unconstitutional and Unamerican.

Horowitz may be an annoying gadfly who sometimes gets in his own way with the bambastic nature of his rhetoric. But, he might just be right on some of his points.


Anonymous Brad said...

I agree, mostly. There's an issue when taxpayer dollars go to pay for it, but hey. My response to the people protesting -- "write your own play!" Marketplace of ideas, and so forth.

A great quote from my communications torts casebook: "Against a large part of the frictions and irritations and clashing of temperaments incident to participation in a community life, a certain toughening of the mental hide is a better protection than the law ever could be." -- Judge Magruder. Perhaps we should add "and university speech codes" after law.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Mental Meanderings said...

Amen to that. It is the assumption that any offense, whether intential or not, must be punished formally that really bugs me. I often want to tell people to "Grow the Hell Up!" but usually restrain myself.

12:31 AM  

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