During my time in this Vale of Tears I have listened to many commencement addresses, and I think I remember precisely one sentence from one address. Forgettable exercises in throwing platitudes to students eager to get to the post graduate party, and parents still numb from considering how much it has cost them for their offspring’s brief appearance on stage in cap and gown, most commencement addresses are as ephemeral as the youth of the audience being given yet another boring lecture. However, if Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter gave the commencement address below, a sharp satire on students not wanting to hear from speakers holding “heretical” views on politics, I would have been very attentive indeed:
The literary critic George Steiner, in a wonderful little book titled “Nostalgia for the Absolute,” long ago predicted this moment. We have an attraction, he contended, to higher truths that can sweep away complexity and nuance. We like systems that can explain everything. Intellectuals in the West are nostalgic for the tight grip religion once held on the Western imagination. They are attracted to modes of thought that are as comprehensive and authoritarian as the medieval church. You and your fellow students — and your professors as well; one mustn’t forget their role — are therefore to be congratulated for your involvement in the excellent work of bringing back the Middle Ages.
Now, before I close, I would like to address those members of the Class of 2014 who might think that it’s wrong to ban speakers whose views you reject. Your reactionary belief in tolerance and open-mindedness is truly distressing. I beg you to remember that every controversial question has only one answer. You have absolutely nothing to learn from people whose opinions you dislike.
And now, graduates, before things go too far — before you run the risk of being thought to be on the road to becoming responsible adults — please, rise to your feet, and, speaking with one voice, shout me down!
Thank you. Continue Reading
Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. I guess some public schools must not be quite clear on the First Amendment. Jerry Buell is a 22 year veteran social studies teacher at Mount Dora high school in Florida, and he was teacher of the year for his school district in 2010. However, after offending the gods of political correctness, he will not be in the classroom when school begins this year. On July 25, 2011 he posted these comments on his Facebook page:
“I’m watching the news, eating dinner when the story about New York okaying same-sex unions came on and I almost threw up. And now they showed two guys kissing after their announcement. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don’t insult a man and woman’s marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool of whatever. God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?”
“By the way, if one doesn’t like the most recently posted opinion based on biblical principles and God’s laws, then go ahead and unfriend me. I’ll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994. And I will never accept it because God will never accept it. Romans chapter one.”
The school district suspended Buell because they are afraid that a homosexual student might be frightened or intimated by him. Go here to see a video report of this farce.
Faithful readers of our blog will recall the case of Dr. Kenneth Howell at the University of Illinois. I have posted on his firing and subsequent rehiring here, here, here and here. Briefly, Dr. Howell taught a course on Catholicism at the University of Illinois under contract between the Newman Center at the University of Illinois and the University since 2001. Dr. Howell describes the events which led to his firing:
This past semester was unusual. In previous years, I had students who might have disagreed with the Church’s position but they did so respectfully and without incident. This semester (Spring 2010) I noticed the most vociferous reaction that I have ever had. It seemed out of proportion to all that I had known thus far. To help students understand better how this issue might be decided within competing moral systems, I sent them an email contrasting utilitarianism (in the populist sense) and natural moral law. If we take utilitarianism to be a kind of cost-benefit analysis, I tried to show them that under utilitarianism, homosexual acts would not be considered immoral whereas under natural moral law they would. This is because natural moral law, unlike utilitarianism, judges morality on the basis of the acts themselves.
After the semester was over, I was called into the office of Robert McKim, the chairman of the Department of Religion, who was in possession of this email. I was told that someone (I presume one of my students) sent this email to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns at the University. It was apparently sent to administrators in the University of Illinois and then forwarded on to Professor McKim. I was told that I would no longer be able to teach in the Department of Religion.
Professor McKim and I discussed the contents of the email and he was quite insistent that my days of teaching in the department were over. I offered that it would be more just to ask me not to address the subject of homosexuality in my class. In fact, the other class I regularly taught (Modern Catholic Thought) never dealt with that subject at all. I also averred that to dismiss me for teaching the Catholic position in a class on Catholicism was a violation of academic freedom and my first amendment rights of free speech. This made no difference. After that conversation and a couple of emails, Professor McKim insisted that this decision to dismiss me stood firm.
The Newman Center and the Diocese of Peoria did not stand behind Howell initially, seeming to want to avoid a conflict with the University. Dr. Howell contacted the Alliance Defense Fund which contacted the University and threatened to file suit. Catholic bloggers raised a huge hue and cry about the firing. Eventually the firing decision was reversed, and Dr. Howell was re- hired to teach Introduction to Catholicism in the fall semester of this year. However, the contract between the Newman Center and the University of Illinois was ended, and Dr. Howell would simply teach the course as a regular adjunct professor of the University.
The faculty committee has finished its examination of the firing of Dr. Howell. Inside Education has obtained a leaked copy of the report, and a story on the report may be read here, along with a link to the report. Continue Reading
Last week I wrote here about the firing of Dr. Kenneth Howell who had the audacity, in a class about the Catholicism, to actually state Catholic doctrine about homosexuality. There has been enough of a furor since that the University of Illinois is acting, according to this story in the Chicago Tribune:
A faculty group at the University of Illinois’ flagship campus will review the decision to fire an adjunct religion professor for saying he agreed with Catholic doctrine on homosexuality.
Urbana- Champaign campus Chancellor Robert Easter said Monday he hopes to have a decision on the firing of Kenneth Howell from the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure by the time fall classes start. The review is to determine whether Howell’s academic freedom was violated.
“We want to be able to reassure ourselves there was no infringement on academic freedom here,” new university President Michael Hogan told members of the Faculty Senate on Monday. “This is a very, very important, not to mention a touchy and sensitive, issue. Did this cross the line somehow?” Continue Reading
I am an alum of the U of I. I obtained my BA in 79 and my JD in 82. My wife is also an alum of the U of I, obtaining her MA in Spanish in 82. Our eldest son will be entering the U of I as a freshman in August. I therefore found the news that Professor Kenneth Howell, an adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois, has been fired for teaching in a course about Catholicism basic Catholic doctrine on homosexuality quite alarming: