Holding Educrats’ Feet to the Fire

David Acevedo

Editor's Note: This article was originally published under the name "John David," the former pseudonym of NAS Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To learn more about why David no longer writes under this name, click here.

CounterCurrent: Week of 3/29

If you’re anything like me, you’ve grown somewhat weary of hearing about the COVID-19 pandemic everywhere you look. At this point, we all know that it has affected everything, everywhere. And yet, the world has not stopped spinning. Other things continue to happen. That’s why I’ve decided to focus elsewhere for these next few weeks, barring some extra-breaking corona-news within higher education. If you are so inclined, you can find all of our pandemic-related coverage here; otherwise on to this week’s topic:

Last year, the South Dakota legislature passed H.B. 1087, a bill designed to promote free speech and intellectual diversity within the state’s public colleges and universities. The governor quickly followed suit and signed the bill into law—now it’s up to the South Dakota Board of Regents to implement the law into the schools under its jurisdiction. 

The response to this legislation has been fairly predictable: progressives line up on one side to insist that the bill isn’t necessary, while centrists and conservatives line up on the other side in support, arguing that it’s needed to create a healthy balance of viewpoints within a overwhelmingly left-leaning system. Intellectual diversity should not be a partisan issue, but it almost invariably becomes one thanks to the political motives of academia’s progressive rulers who don’t like to have their power questioned. 

One such response from a “reporter” in the former category comes from Jack Stripling of The Chronicle of Higher Education in his piece “How Far Will Higher Ed’s Culture Wars Go? South Dakota Is Running Previews” (“Reporter” is in scare quotes because Stripling does very little reporting and a whole lot of editorializing.) In his piece, Stripling provides some context surrounding the genesis of H.B. 1087, briefly describes the bill itself, and then interviews several members of South Dakota’s education establishment regarding their views on the bill. Perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone he interviews is against the bill and is doing what they can to temper its effects in their schools.

In this week’s featured article, NAS Director of Research David Randall uses Stripling’s article as a case study of how not to do journalism. Invoking Mr. Dooley’s famous adage “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” Randall argues that we ought to hold educrats’ feet to the fire if and when they resist intellectual diversity, not stroke their egos through biased journalism.  By “afflicting the comfortable,” true reform in higher education is possible. As Randall puts it: “A law encouraging intellectual diversity provides the smallest candle to illuminate the closed and musty minds of South Dakota’s education establishment.” Here’s hoping it does just that.

CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’  weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Research Associate David Acevedo. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.

Image: Courtnie Tosana, Public Domain

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