Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Free Speach Under Direct Attack by GOP in Ohio

Hi Folks,

This is making the rounds of the blogsphere and since I'm from Ohio I thought I would comment here. The Daily Kos website (see sidebar link to the right) has a good stream going on this subject.

It seems that some Republican in the Ohio State Senate have introduced a bill (SB 24) called the "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education." Like many pieces of conservative legislation you can tell what it does by assuming the opposite of its title (like the "Freedom to Work" legislation that restricts workers' ability to unionize etc). Check out the legislation...its positively Orwellian!

Some highlights:

(B) "Students shall be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study and shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs. Faculty and instructors shall not use their courses or their positions for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or antireligious inndocrtination."

(C) "Faculty and instructors shall not infringe the academic freedom and quality of education of their students by persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relations to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose."

(F) "Faculty and instructors shall be free to pursue and discuss their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, but they shall make their students aware of serious scholarly viewpoints other than their own through classroom discussion or dissemination of written materials, and they shall encourage intellectual honesty, civil debate, and the critical analysis of ideas in the persuit of knowledge and truth."

This is positively a direct attack on free speach. The language is designed to sound like its protective of individual rights but think about how these prospcriptions will be interpreted? Is it obvious what any of this actually permits or forbids?

Could LTG look into this type of law and let us know if anything like this has been struck down by the Federal courts in the past? Are there similar laws already on the books in other states?

The sponsors of this bill are Republicans from small towns in Ohio. The language in the bill hints strongly at the persecution complex of the Christian Right.

How might one arrange a compromise with the sponsors of this bill? I would say compromise on this type of issue is imposible. However, it does underscore the potential for cooperation between progressives and libertarians that Dr. Strangelove and myself have suggested.

If this isn't another bit of evidence that the Republican Party, and especially the Christian conservative movement which dominates that party, has gone completely mad with power I don't know what is.


Raised By Republicans said...

I just found out that this bill in Ohio is part of a national campaign that includes similar proposals in Colorado and Indiana. In the Colorado and Indiana cases the bills' content were traced back to David Horowitz, a Los Angeles based conservative activist.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"Students shall be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers... and shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their political, ideological, or religious beliefs."

The trouble comes when people believe, for ideological or religious reasons, something that isn't true (to the extent that anything in the physical world can be disproved). Like the idea that Iraq had WMDs, or that Saddam Hussein had some connection to 9/11 (both of which most Republican voters still believe!) Or the idea that the human race began 6008 years ago on a balmy October 23rd.

Well I've got a better, much shorter, and much more accurately titled "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education" for you: "The State shall not attempt to dicate what is taught in higher education."

Raised By Republicans said...

Amen to that brother!

And now that we're talking about this, I can't see how this bill is anything other than an attempt to mandate what EVERYONE hears not just about preventing offending conservatives. Think about it. In most universities there are lots of electives and substitutes for the required courses and multiple professors teaching different sections of each course. So if there is some professor who is too far to the left, too far to the right, too easy a grader or too hard a grader for your tastes you can take someone elese. In other words as it stands right now, conservatives would have very little trouble avoiding overtly leftist professors. The problem from the Republican party's point of view is that the students aren't avoiding the leftist professors. The market forces of ideas in the university work against conservative ideology - so they want to abolish the "invisible hand" of academic choice!

I told a friend of mine about this bill and his reaction was "How can an American even propose such a thing!?"

The Law Talking Guy said...

I can get to legal research later, but here are the highlights. Forcing professors to disclose "other scholarly ideas contrary to their own" is forced speech, which is generally struck down. This differs from, say, being asked to teach a particular curriculum, which is the job description. The prohibition on introducing "controversial" matters is nothing but a restriction on speech.

Plainly, the law is overbroad (prohibiting all kinds of acceptable speech).

Also, academic freedom and free speech are not normally regarded as antipodes, as they are here. In a contest, free speech usually wins.

Such laws will not survive serious judicial scrutiny, but the question is who will give it to them.

The Law Talking Guy said...

The real legal problem is that academic freedom is not a right asserted by the state, rather it is asserted by the university or professor against the state. That is how it has always been handled. For the state to advance "academic freedom" in the interest of actually stifling the freedom of the academy and academics, as here, is indeed Orwellian. But smart courts will see through this. Academic freedom leads courts to accord deference to academic institutions in their curriculum -- not the state.