While a Kansas City-area school district is allegedly teaching divisive and racist notions in the name of “equity,” it also appears to be falling decidedly short on teaching the First Amendment.
Some 60 students at Shawnee Mission North High School staged a walkout Wednesday to protest teacher Caedran Sullivan’s op-ed published here alerting parents and patrons to the “indoctrination” going on there.
That was absolutely the students’ right, of course. But expressing their own opinions wasn’t enough; they wanted Sullivan fired or disciplined for expressing hers.
“We are being manipulated and intimidated by a divisive ‘woke’ ideology that is creating a culture of contempt and disrespect,” Sullivan dared to write. “There is repeated white shaming and a preoccupation with white people as the ‘oppressor,’ including staff field trips with a focus on ‘systemic racism.’ …
“There is a strong anti-capitalism, anti-conservatism, and anti-American bias in the DEI curriculum, with an emphasis on “white fragility” …
“If parents knew what goes on in our schools, the majority would be appalled.”
Yet dozens of students were appalled at her saying so out loud, and some called for her head on a platter.
“It’s not acceptable that she’s still here, and that she can post all that stuff on the internet, and that’s OK,” one student told the media. In other words, she should not only be fired, but censored in public.
“I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when it’s so controversial like that, it can be uncomfortable for other people, especially if they’re teachers,” added another student – basically saying you’re entitled to your opinion, except if it’s overly “controversial” (whatever that means) or if it offends little old me.
This is frightening stuff these kids are spouting. What are they teaching in the Shawnee Mission School District – I mean, besides that whites are oppressors? The desire to have people with different opinions silenced, shunned and shown the door is the stuff of Bolshevism.
Even left-wing Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, while managing Olympian contortions to somehow tar the right with it, admits today’s “Marxist left” has “consolidated on the fringes of the Democratic Party — and sometimes not even on the fringes — as well as on campuses, where it polices the speech of its members, fights to prevent students from hearing opposing viewpoints, and teaches a dark, negative version of American history, one calculated to create doubts about democracy and to cast shadows on all political debate.”
Ah, but it has also seeped down into K-12 education.
Such are the buds of Bolshevism you see in impressionable high school students riding a heady wave of cancel culture to seek the “canceling” of a teacher who makes them feel “unsafe” by – gasp! – speaking her mind on her own time.
You have to love that antiseptic term “canceling,” by the way. How neat and clean – as if you’re merely ending a subscription or rescheduling an appointment. The term “canceling” does absolutely nothing to describe the true inhumane aim of the frothy-mouthed cancelers – which is to take away someone’s livelihood, perhaps leaving an ideological heretic impoverished as a delicious byproduct; to ruin her reputation; and to have society shun her for her thought crimes.
But she makes me feel unsafe! Off with her head!
God help us if this sort of thinking achieves even more power than it already has in both culture and government.
These students, exercising their First Amendment rights to obliviously call for the punishment of a teacher for exercising hers, appear to be the embodiment of Nat Hentoff’s book title, Free Speech for Me – But Not for Thee.
I’m just old enough to remember when free speech was a sacrament to the left. Today it appears to have turned into sacrilege. How utterly sad.
English philosopher John Stuart Mill’s concerns about intolerance for free speech, masterfully drawn in his book On Liberty, “remain timeless, commonsensical, and profound,” writes the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.
“Mill addressed one of the major rationales for imposing constraints on free speech on campuses today,” FIRE writes, “namely that speech should be ‘temperate’ and ‘fair’ – values enforced by today’s campus ‘civility’ codes. Mill observed that while people may claim they are not trying to ban others’ opinions but merely trying to banish ‘intemperate discussion’ … they never seek to punish this kind of speech unless it is used against ‘the prevailing opinion.’”
Precisely. It isn’t fashionable speech that needs protection. It’s speech that blows against the prevailing winds.
Yet FIRE reports its database on college speech codes “reveals most schools maintain policies that infringe on those rights”: 94 of the of the 486 schools in the database, or about 1 in 5, have earned an overall “red light” rating from FIRE for “policies that clearly and substantially restrict free speech.” Another 324 are given an overall yellow light for policies “that impose vague regulations on expression.” Just 60 schools get a green light for policies that don’t seriously inhibit free speech.
By that measure, at any rate, these kids are college-ready.
This is a vital teachable moment in our schools that, most likely, will pass the kids by – to the detriment of their future citizenship and to the republic.