Florida, Politics, Universities

At the Forefront of Being Backward

Friday, 5th February 2021


Florida, at the forefront of being backward. There’s so much wrong with the position taken in the quote below, but for starters, the assumption that public universities must have politicians involved in surveilling for whether conservative positions are being represented is outrageous. The problem is not that conservative positions aren’t considered, it is that they are considered and can’t stand up to disciplined scrutiny. Case in point: the recently released 1776 Project, which makes a hash out of American history.

So, rather than providing a level playing field for the consideration of all ideas, this is propping up bad and discredited ideas using political power.

Necessary disclaimer: Not every idea thought up by a conservative person is a bad idea. Not every question asked is a bad question. Some in fact are very good ones. But those are not the ideas and questions being protected here. They don’t need protecting, they do fine on their own. People in universities really do take a full range of questions and ideas seriously, and the few exceptions to this that one might cite are just that – few.

The ones being protected are retrograde ideas on gender, race, and other categories. They are ideas about privilege and responsibility, about culture and voice and moral standing. They are the importation of religious positions, not as perspectives one might hold (which is fine) but as predominant and required guiding principles for public culture. They are ideas immune from any real discussion, because they are immune from evidence and critique.

“The Florida bill, approved last week by the Florida Senate’s education committee, would require state colleges to regularly survey students, faculty, and staff on intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity. The university’s board, which is almost entirely appointed and confirmed by Republicans, would need to publish those assessments.

“Ray Rodrigues, the Republican state senator from Florida who filed the bill, told The Chronicle that the proposal was partially motivated by his conversations with conservative students who expressed concerns about campus climate. Instead of assuming that potentially isolated incidents are the norm, he said, the survey aims to determine whether these are anomalies.

“If the results show that colleges do not have viewpoint diversity, he said, “that would trigger a conversation about whether there needs to be action taken.” He declined to speculate on what that action could entail.

“Does such a survey represent a political intrusion into the classroom? Rodrigues said he doesn’t believe that’s the case, because these campuses are funded by the public. “If those who are running these universities don’t want politicians involved, they can say, ‘Please don’t send us appropriations,’” he said, adding that the state must ensure “the money they’re appropriating is going to be spent wisely.””

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