(Tribune Syndicate, Sept. 23) Raise your hand if you believe government has too little involvement in our lives. Put down your hands, members of the Obama administration.
During a previous political uprising in the 1980s, academic institutions managed to fend off conservative attacks on some of the subjects taught on their campuses — from “peace studies” to kinky sexual practices, to bad history — with cries of “academic freedom.” Where are those cries now that the federal government is on the verge of regulating the content of subject matter on college campuses and changing the way these institutions are accredited?
According to a Centennial Institute policy brief, a proposed new rule by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) “would place private colleges and universities under the ultimate control of state governments, rather than independent accrediting agencies. The notice of proposed rulemaking was posted in the Federal Register on June 18 for a public comment period ending Aug. 2. It could take effect as soon as November.”
Former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, now president of Colorado Christian University, wrote a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan on July 30. In it, he warned of an “all-out politicization of American higher education, endangering academic freedom, due process and First Amendment rights.”
The American Council on Education, in a letter of its own, warned of “heavy compliance burdens” and “regulations that appear to overrule state law.”
Armstrong says the attempt by the government to regulate curricula “is part of an unprecedented power grab in which government has already moved to dominate such industries as automobiles, energy, health care, banking, home loans and student loans — and now seeks dominance over the colleges and universities themselves.”
Two Colorado Republican congressmen, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman, have also sent letters to DOE in which they noted the proposed ruling would undermine “long-established independent accrediting agencies” (Lamborn) and potentially involve the government “in setting course requirements, quality measures, faculty qualifications and various mandates about how and what to teach.” (Coffman).
Imagine the outcry if someone identified with the tea party movement had made similar demands of a Republican administration concerning what is taught at Harvard or UC Berkeley. There would be protests in the quads and a lawsuit by the ACLU.
Conservatives have long believed that most universities are part of an “iron triangle” (along with big media and government) that keeps liberals and secularists in power. Controlling what is taught in schools, rather than encouraging true academic freedom, has been a successful strategy for shaping — some would say twisting — young minds and directing them in accordance with what statists and “living constitution” advocates believe.
If imposing outside agendas — from textbook content to course selection — is supposedly bad when conservatives do it (mostly in reaction to the liberal assault on any ideas that conflict with theirs), why is it not equally onerous when liberals push for state control and the dictation of course content at private colleges and universities?
It’s going to take more than one college president and two congressmen writing a letter to the secretary of education about this latest attempted government power grab. More members of Congress, other college presidents and newspaper editorialists must express opposition to this attack on the right of educators to teach what they believe to be essential courses that will result in a properly educated student who is fit for the real world.
This should not be confused with the liberal-secularist view of the world, which is what those behind this regulation apparently want to impose on students and their parents who, in many cases, are footing the bill and too often contributing to the destruction of young minds.
(CCU Faculty) The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (UC Hastings). This case concerns the claim by the Christian Legal Society, a national group of Christian lawyers and law students, that they have been denied their First Amendment guarantees of freedom of association and free exercise of religious faith.
The Christian Legal Society had an organized chapter on the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law campus in San Francisco. In 2004, the group was told by school administrators that they would no longer be recognized as an official campus group, thereby losing their eligibility for school funding and other benefits, including the ability to reserve campus space to hold meetings. The reason for this decision: the Christian Legal Society required that voting members and club officers sign a statement of faith and agree to a personal conduct code. This code includes the statement that “Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
The law school argued that all campus groups must not discriminate against people because of their religious faith or sexual orientation. Groups that exclude individuals from membership are denied official recognition and school funding.
In Federal District Court, as well as in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Christian Legal Society was unsuccessful in their claim that the school’s decision violated their First Amendment rights. Attorneys for the Christian Legal Society argued that the First Amendment guarantees a right of “expressive association.” As such, a group must be able to adhere to their core religious views and make governing decisions based upon them. The denial of this by the lower courts allows for the school’s ban on discrimination to trump a religious group’s right to exercise their faith freely.
We must hope that the US Supreme Court will overturn these lower court decisions and recognize the significant right of religious groups to maintain the central tenets and teachings of their faith.