Want to be on a school board? Move to New Jersey.
You might think that the First Amendment applies with full force on state campuses. State universities are a branch of the government, which can’t suppress free speech under the Constitution. They’re not like elementary or high schools, where students’ free-speech rights are balanced against the school’s interest in maintaining discipline and order.
Yet the law as it now stands treats universities not like public forums, but more like workplaces, where anti-discrimination laws can restrict certain forms of speech. Pursuant to those laws, universities adopt conduct codes that can punish speech that would almost certainly be protected if uttered in public forums like streets or parks.
Other students expressed similar frustration with the university’s expectation that they keep up with their schoolwork during the protests, saying that some professors refused to grant extensions on homework and tests.
There is no end to Harvard’s offenders — or Yale’s or Princeton’s or, for that matter, most American institutions with a history. Few entities can withstand the scrutiny of the modern conscience, and physically disassembling the artifacts of the past, attacking its symbols and its ghosts, is a fool’s errand — no matter how lofty the cause. It illuminates little and is a feel-good distraction that comes at the expense of today’s very real crises. And picking and choosing which ancient offenses warrant purging creates the danger of prioritizing one historically disadvantaged group over another, inadvertently importing into our own age the very toxins of bigotry that activists now seek to condemn.
We can endlessly denounce the long-departed and disavow the already-discredited, but to what end? What we should do instead is devote ourselves to living our lives in a way that allows our descendants to take pride in the history we leave behind.
Chad Aldeman, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, says this notion that the federal government “must stop” Common Core runs contrary to the long-held Republican position that governance of public schools is a state issue.
“It’s a little bit ironic that they’ve been sounding the alarm about federal control and now the leading Republican presidential candidates all want to take federal action against a state initiative,” Aldeman said in an interview. “There’s really nothing that they could do to stop Common Core other than using the bully pulpit to try to convince states to back out of their own commitments.”
Do we worship too much at the altar of p values? Sally Jewell wants to get kids outside. What to do about struggling schools? Lost in all the political back and forth about John King is his remarkable life story.