BLACK: Free speech must prevail for real learning to work

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I wrote in the first installment to this article about the suppression of speech in America: “It is getting worse.”

Of all places where the exercise of free speech should be championed, academic institutions should be at the top of the list. Colleges and universities should be defending, not denigrating the First Amendment of the Constitution.

For any college or university to espouse only one side of the political spectrum results in a student being denied a full and impartial education. The result is that an entire student body may not know how to deal with an idea that conflicts with their indoctrinations. I accuse both the left- and right-leaning institutions of this perversity, but the recent examples took place at left-leaning universities.

Recently, Betsy DeVoss, the United States Secretary of Education, was shouted down while she was attempting to give a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a “historically black university” noted for its left-leaning views.

Ann Coulter’s planned speech at the University of California, Berkeley was called off because of student protests at this famous institution of higher learning.

To be fair, I was also going to cite examples of right-leaning campuses shouting down speakers, but I could not find any in the current media. It could be that right-leaning colleges invite only right-leaning speakers.

Think what you will of DeVoss and Coulter, or for that matter, the American Civil Liberties Union. Even the ACLU voiced its disgust with the cancellation of Ms. Coulter’s speech.

Fear of Dissenting Views

Times have changed in the last few years. While I am ignoring a long history of violent protests in a past America, the recent protests have become less tolerant and more dangerous. As David French (in NationalReview.com) puts it:

Police in Berkeley, Calif., were overwhelmed when hundreds of leftist “antifa” (anti-facist) protesters battled pro-Trump “Oath Keepers,” bikers, and “alt-right goons,” with people on both sides being punched, kicked, and stomped. …Far-left campus activists…believe it is their right and indeed duty to suppress the speech of Trump supporters…even to the point of physically attacking them….

A reader might conclude I am piling on the collegiate left wing of America’s political spectrum about the issue of free speech. That conclusion is correct. When the suppression of free speech and associated political correctness reaches the following level of absurdity and Orwellian surrealism, count this writer as an opponent of these pedagogical demigods:

A Catholic college in Kansas is renaming its yoga classes to avoid promoting “eastern mysticism.” Benedictine College said alumni and faculty had complained that yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice not in keeping with Catholic teaching. The classes well be rebranded “lifestyle fitness,” but will be taught the same way. “We’re changing the name,” a spokesman said.

The practice remains the same but the name changes? This action makes no sense. The complaint was about the “spiritual practice,” not the name of the practice! If these college administrators had any spine at all, they could have banned the practice of yoga, not its name. After all, they claimed the problem was the practice itself.

What’s next? Will Uyless Black eventually have to change his last name? If so, like Benedictine College, I hope I can continue the practice of being a member of my “Black” family.

• • •

Uyless Black of Hayden is the author of more than 40 books. His opinion and analysis pieces appear frequently in The Press.

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