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E-Pluribus | January 30, 2023
One university looks to buck the trend; limiting government on 'misinformation' control; and taxpayers get no bang for their DEI bucks.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: UNC Takes on the University Echo Chamber
One doesn’t amount to a trend, but a move by the University of North Carolina could signal a sea change in higher education if others follow suit. The Wall Street Journal editorial board highlights a new program a unanimous UNC board of trustees is instituting to try to get political and ideological bias out of the way universities are run.
Progressive politics has dominated elite universities since before the term woke was coined. But one university is trying to revive the academic ideal of a campus as a haven for free inquiry and debate. On Thursday the University of North Carolina board of trustees voted 12-0 to create a new school committed to free expression in higher education.
UNC will establish the School of Civic Life and Leadership and plans to hire professors from across the ideological spectrum to teach in such academic departments as history, literature, philosophy, political science and religion. These disciplines have become enforcers of ideological uniformity at most schools. Board Chair David Boliek and Vice Chair John Preyer tell us that the idea is to end “political constraints on what can be taught in university classes.”
Rather than replacing current professors or creating faculty turf battles, UNC plans to create a discrete program with its own dean and at least 20 new professors to build a syllabus free from ideological enforcers. Students will be able to choose the new classes to fulfill university core requirements. Those who aren’t interested can stay in the existing courses.
Read it all here.
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Jacob Sullum: A Federal Judge Blocks California's Ban on Medical Advice That Promotes COVID-19 'Misinformation'
Everyone wants to prevent “misinformation,” but agreeing on what constitutes misinformation isn’t so simple. Last week, a federal judge told California its attempt doesn’t clear the First Amendment bar, reports Jacob Sullum of Reason.
On Wednesday night, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a new California law that makes physicians subject to professional discipline for sharing COVID-19 "misinformation" with their patients. . .
A.B. 2098, which took effect on January 1, redefines the "unprofessional conduct" policed by state regulators to include medical advice that promotes "misinformation" about COVID-19, such as "false or misleading information regarding the nature and risks of the virus," "its prevention and treatment," and "the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines." The law defines "misinformation" as "false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care."
What does that mean? The plaintiffs in Høeg v. Newsom, who include several California doctors represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), complained that they had no way of knowing. Shubb agrees, saying the state's definition of misinformation "fails to provide a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice of what is prohibited" and "is so standardless that it authorizes or encourages seriously discriminatory enforcement."
The central problem, Shubb says, is that the phrase "contemporary scientific consensus" has no clear meaning, especially in the context of COVID-19, a new disease that has generated conflicting and evolving scientific opinions. "It appears that the primary term at issue—'contemporary scientific consensus'—does not have an established technical meaning in the medical community," he writes. "Defendants provide no evidence that 'scientific consensus' has any established technical meaning."
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Jonathan Butcher: DEI Doesn’t Work — Taxpayers Shouldn’t Pay for It
Government has enough trouble satisfying taxpayers that its core function are being adequately performed, so if something as far afield as “diversity, equity and inclusion” isn’t paying off, there’s little reason to continue. National Review’s Jonathan Butcher has the details.
[A] growing volume of research demonstrates that professional-development programs and other trainings in DEI are abject failures.
The evidence is so strong that even the home of the racially obsessed 1619 Project, and mainstream outlets that have published Kendi’s commentary, are printing critiques of DEI. Last week, Jesse Singal asked in the New York Times if diversity trainings are “doing more harm than good”: “The specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may have a net negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.”
Singal has long pointed out the problems with so-called antibias efforts. In 2017, he wrote in New York magazine that the “implicit association test,” launched in association with researchers at Harvard to measure test-takers’ levels of implicit bias, was not reliable. “A pile of scholarly work, some of it published in top psychology journals and most of it ignored by the media, suggests that the IAT falls far short of the quality-control standards normally expected of psychological instruments,” Singal said.
In the Washington Post, which has featured Kendi’s condemnation of federal civil-rights laws and the civil-rights movement, writer Jena McGregor also argued, back in 2016, that DEI training programs “do more harm than good.” In 2020, Education Week lamented DEI’s failings in a headline that read “Training Bias Out of Teachers: Research Shows Little Promise so Far.” In 2022, the corporate consultants at McKinsey & Co. warned executives with an article titled “Don’t Train Your Employees on DE&I. Build Their Capabilities.”
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Via Will Saletan, Senator Mark Warner on authoritarian China’s impact on capitalism:
Thomas Chatterton Williams and Jonah Goldberg on the “white supremacy” explanation for the horrific police killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis:
And finally, this ending might not be child-friendly, but certainly more realistic in the modern age: