23.11.16

REDISCOVERING LEHRFREIHEIT.

An organization called Turning Point USA has been soliciting nominations for its Professor Watchlist, which appears to be a way of identifying faculty whose methods of teaching come off as biased toward leftist ideas.  The front page features the usual rogues' gallery of promulgators of PC atrocities.  Susan Kruth of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education invites professors who are nominated for the list to seek assistance, should the nominations trample on protected speech.  "TPUSA’s Watchlist appears to have multiple goals, including promoting free expression and pushing back against 'leftist' views. The former is, of course, consistent with FIRE’s mission; the latter is outside the scope of FIRE’s work."

The problem, dear reader, is that such lists are the predictable response to the environment of progressive intolerance that has accompanied the long march through the institutions.
Free speech advocates are right to be on the lookout. Historically, creating a list of disfavored viewpoints or of people who hold them has often been a first step towards official sanction. The American Association of University Professors also expressed concern about the Watchlist; in a 1985 statement regarding a similar effort, it said that such “[e]xternal monitoring of in-class statements” is “likely to have a chilling effect and result in self-censorship.” FIRE hopes neither of these results come to pass, but if any college or university takes action or attempts to restrict expression based on the Watchlist—or any similar list—we will employ all of the resources at our disposal in response.
Once upon a time, there was something called good manners, and something called scholarly integrity, under which, inter alia, a professor would teach the New Deal in such a way that a student would not be sure whether Franklin Roosevelt is Savior or Destroyer.  But that was so Fifties, and now we have people self-censoring because Student Affairs suggests they do so, or because they fear they will trigger people in a bad way.

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