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E-Pluribus | October 25, 2021
Vaccine mandates, freedom and personal choice; do present day public schools violate the constitution; and another professor is in trouble for... lack of outrage.
A round up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Nick Gillespie: No, Biden, This Is About Freedom and Personal Choice
Though some wish to make vaccine mandates out to simply be common sense public health measures, Nick Gillespie at Reason says it still comes down to an issue of personal choice. Gillespie argues that the inclination to surrender to broad, open-ended executive branch “emergency” declarations is anathema to the legacy of individual liberty upon which the nation was founded.
The courts will almost certainly strike down this executive branch overreach and the sweeping new rules that wave away longstanding distinctions between public and private spheres of activity. This is what happened to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium. It's foundational to American life that the president is not a king who can subject citizens to his whims.
Yet the most important passage in Biden's remarks reveals a governing philosophy that should give all Americans pause, especially in light of the massive and ongoing expansion of the federal government over the past several decades. After duly noting the "progress" made in terms of vaccinations, Biden pulled up short to say that we the people are just not doing what he wants when he wants[.]
Contra Biden, everything is always (or should be) about freedom and personal choice. That libertarian sentiment defines America's ethos and can't simply be written out of the script because it gets in the way of what this or any other president wants. There are legitimate moments when rights can be abrogated due to actual existential threats, but this is certainly not one of them.
Read the whole thing.
Philip Hamburger: Is the Public School System Constitutional?
While the basic concept of public education does not violate constitutional principles, Philip Hamburger writes at the Wall Street Journal, the modern implementation of the system in the U.S. raises legitimate concerns. Not only are parents subject to taxation that funds the schools, there is increasing pressure to exclude those same parents from the process that determines what their children will be taught, calling into question how the rights of those parents are (or are not) being considered.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia, said in a Sept. 28 debate. The National School Boards Association seems to agree: In a Sept. 29 letter to President Biden, its leaders asked for federal intervention to stop “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” against public school officials. Attorney General Merrick Garland obliged, issuing an Oct. 4 memo directing law-enforcement agents and prosecutors to develop “strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Mr. Garland’s memo did acknowledge that “spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution.” That is true but doesn’t go nearly far enough. Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination.
The public school system, by design, pressures parents to substitute government educational speech for their own. Public education is a benefit tied to an unconstitutional condition. Parents get subsidized education on the condition that they accept government educational speech in lieu of home or private schooling.
There is nothing unconstitutional about taxation in support of government speech. Thus taxpayers have no generic right against public-school messages they find objectionable.
But parents are in a different situation. They aren’t merely subsidizing speech they find objectionable. They are being pushed into accepting government speech for their children in place of their own. Government requires parents to educate their children and offers education free of charge. For most parents, the economic pressure to accept this educational speech in place of their own is nearly irresistible.
Read it all here.
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: A theater professor wasn’t sufficiently outraged about a list of names on a whiteboard. The college’s next act: probable termination.
In the current climate on some college campuses, even “racist” incidents that turn out to be complete misunderstandings can impact the futures of those who do not respond in the “right” way. Via the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a professor at Coastal Carolina University finds his job in jeopardy after such a debunking because he expressed disappointment over the “hurt feelings” of students.
After discussion with the students and faculty involved, the Department of Theatre’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee determined that the names on the board had been presented “as a resource for newer students who are looking to be in community with other BIPOC students.” Nonetheless, the DEI committee apologized to the offended students, writing in an email to the theater department that the “faculty and students involved as well as the Theatre Department as a whole are deeply sorry to anyone who was affected by this incident.” The visiting artist who helped create the list of names also apologized profusely, calling her participation “thoughtless and careless.”
Earnest did not agree. He responded to the email, stating (as written): “Sorry but I dont think its a big deal. I’m just sad people get their feelings hurt so easily. And they are going into Theatre?” He received several responses criticizing his remark, and responded again to clarify that he was “just defending our guest artist.”
Students critical of Earnest’s emails accused him of being racially insensitive and dismissive of students of color. Several also called for Earnest to be fired and protested by boycotting theater classes.
“It was upsetting to be accused of racism by students and others with whom I have never interacted,” said Earnest. “But it was even more upsetting to have these false accusations ratified by a university that I have called home for over fifteen years.”
On Sept. 20, Claudia Bornholdt, the dean of Coastal Carolina’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts, told Earnest not to come to his classes and to send her his syllabus, effectively suspending him from his teaching duties.
Read it all.
Glenn Greenwald and Zaid Jilani on games social media activists play:
A thought-provoking back and forth between Nicholas Grossman and Robert Tracinski
Finally, some advice from Peter Boghossian on a practical way for donors to universities to counter “woke” institutions: