Free speech has become a boiling issue on American college campuses this election cycle, as academic administrations responded to the loose-tongued President-Elect by doubling down on language restrictions, while conservative think tanks faught for continued free-thinking. Generally speaking, Republicans have been known for their vocal stance on protecting speech, but New York Times contributor Donald Moynihan is here to (unsuccessfully) shatter that stereotype.
In a long-winded rant for the Times, Moynihan blames campus conservatives, not liberals, for posing the greater threat to academic freedom. Moynihan cites GOP legislation threatening to defund academic institutions over classroom indoctrination, conservative ‘watchlists’ for left-wing professors, and the overall scrutiny of college instructors by the media, as evidence of Republican censorship.
A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the past 14 years, Moynihan says he heard more talk about the dangers of ‘PC culture’ than he felt was necessary. He continues by framing Republicans’ commitment to academic freedom as a double standard because of their scrutiny of state-employed college instructors.
“At least three times in the past six months, state legislators have threatened to cut the budget of the University of Wisconsin at Madison for teaching about homosexuality, gender and race,” he writes.
The problem with Moynihan’s argument is that it considers scrutiny of government-funded classroom material as a free speech restriction. In fact, the cartoon image at the top of his column shows a daunting giant figure to represent the United States government hovering over a small, shaky college professor as the professor writes his syllabus a chalkboard. He outlines how public school professors are seeing less tenure opportunities and are fearing legislation that might allow students to bring guns into their classrooms.
Thus, Moynihan attempts to frame the issue as one of the GOP-backed government versus the vulnerable college professor. But it’s not. Republicans hate government. Republicans’ issue with classroom indoctrination at state-funded schools is just so: liberal instructors and administrators using government resources to push their own political agendas on students.
And the liberal indoctrination is quite glaringly there, in both private and public institutions. You’ll never find a college course titled, “The Problem of Blackness,” or “Global Anti-Whiteness.” You’ll never read a course objective dedicated to “rape, slavery, and genocide in atheist culture” or to proving God exists. You’ll never find a Campus Diversity and Inclusion program featuring a ‘deconstruction’ of femininity and feminism.
But you will find the equivalent of these courses on the leftist viewpoint — and professors like Moynihan will likely not bat an eyelash, because they fit the polarized leftist narrative. Courses such as “The Problem of Whiteness,” and “Rape, Slavery, and Genocide in Bible and Culture,” would be written off as neutral ‘gender’ and ‘race’ courses in Moynihan’s book. And, this is beyond classroom bans on gender-binary language, ‘free speech zones’ selectively targeting Christian prayer, and the administration-led hysteria over any sort of culturally ‘appropriating’ food or attire on campus.
With the growing reach of government in higher education systems, the power struggle becomes less about Republicans and professors, and more about the government and the consumer — which, in this case, is the tax- and tuition-paying college student who is promised a free range of ideas to choose from.
The image at the top of Moynihan’s column should replace the college professor with a muzzled student.