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Wednesday, June 08, 2005What's behind the Student Bill of Rights?
Santa Rosa, CA - An older generation of teachers may remember the days of California's loyalty oaths and red scares. During the cold-war, McCarthyite era of the early 1950s, educators accused of being Communists or harboring left-wing views were driven from the school system.
Today, witchhunts seem once again on the rise. The latest attempt to return to the era of red-baiting is called, ironically, the Student Bill of Rights. That has a fine, democratic ring to it. The phrase, however, is being used to restrict the ability of teachers to introduce controversial or provocative ideas into their classrooms. The argument goes like this: Conservative students are offended when "liberal" faculty try to force them to consider ideas with which they don't agree. Political science or sociology instructors, for instance, who support the benefits of minimum or living wage ordinances for workers, should be prevented from advancing such liberal biases in class.
If this sounds far-fetched, consider the fact that 13 states have introduced legislation that would prohibit such "indoctrination." These bills, a project of ultra-conservative ideologue David Horowitz, aren't aimed at the many prestigious business schools around the country. There, instructors not only teach students that making profit is necessary and virtuous, but insist students learn to do so as efficiently as possible. Instead, these measures are directed against teachers who question such established ideas.