SAF: Mumper's 'academic bill of rights' should get an 'F' · 20 February 2005

By Elizabeth Schuett | Cox News Service 02/21/05

GIBSONBURG -- It recently has been discovered that some university professors have opinions and ideas that are not in sync with some of their students' budding belief systems. Gee! What a surprise.

Institutions of higher learning are exactly that -- a place where young people go to be challenged and to learn. There's a world of difference between a university and a community-supported high school where parents seem to have a notion that they can run a better school than the professionals.

Educators (most of them who understand the true meaning of the word "education") will push back at the intruding parents -- and so let the melee begin.

Let time and money be wasted on non-teaching issues such as whether or not, according to Johnny's family's belief system, the curriculum should be twisted and censored into a reflection of their thinking. If indeed, they do think.

If I were a parent who objected to the teachings of biology and wanted to ensure my student knew that he or she was created by God -- period -- end of discussion, then I would enroll my student in a private school that taught to my liking. And a plea of poverty won't work because most private schools I've known offer a variety of scholarships.

Education is the imparting of knowledge. Math is not taught as an extension of philosophy, just as history should not be subject to alteration by special interest groups.

The big question we're facing today is the question of adopting a belief that allows education to become a dirty word. Often by those who have received less than their fair share of it.

Somewhere along about the sixth century B.C., Pythagoras hypothesized that the earth was not really flat. The notion of a round earth did not rest well with some folks who pointed at the famed mathematician and yelled, "Heretic!"

Pythagoras carried on, making no changes but never insisting that everyone believe as he did -- even though he might have had good reason to.

Now, except for a few folks participating in a fascinating lark called "The Flat Earth Society," most anyone would agree that the earth is, indeed, round.

From the Columbus Dispatch: "Legislation that would restrict what university professors could say in their classrooms was introduced yesterday in Ohio."

Please, world, do not think of Ohio as a backward, backlash, knee-jerk reactionary state. We may act this way sometimes, but eventually we get it sorted out.

Sen. Larry A. Mumper, R-Marion, has introduced an "academic bill of rights for higher education" that would prohibit instructors at public or private universities from discussing "controversial" issues in class because "eighty percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists who attempt to indoctrinate students." The word according to Mumper.

Good grief and shades of HUAC and Old Joe McCarthy.

What's wrong with controversy? Socrates taught by means of questioning and debate and by hearing all sides of an argument. Is that bad?

The language in Mumper's bill comes directly from a 2003 booklet by conservative commentator David Horowitz. The book insists it is "dedicated to restoring academic freedom and educational values to America's institutions of higher learning."

A lofty intent, I'm sure, but I don't believe a word of it.

It's rhetoric, folks. To suggest that education be parsed for the advancement of academic freedom would be as ironic as inviting bin Laden to draw us a map of his neighborhood.

The "family values" Sen. Mumper and his cohorts keep harping on are the antithesis of education. Family values should be exactly what the name implies: values taught by the family.

And keep it simple. I taught my son the values of love and honesty, period, and although he spent many years in academia, he came out whole, loving, honest and equipped with a "head well made" rather than a "head well filled."

Education provides our young not with the ability to parrot someone else's dearly held indoctrination, but with the ability to reason and to think for themselves. I ask you, what more could a parent ask of education?

It is unfair and unenlightened to teach our children "what" to think as opposed to "how" to think. As parents, our prejudices, superstitions, fears and hatreds should remain our own and not be passed on to our children.

Mr. Mumper, if you really want to encourage education in the state of Ohio, then go back to your musty halls and vote it some support.

If you're just showing off for your constituents, get over it. We're not that stupid.

Elizabeth Schuett writes for Cox News Service. Mail: 320 W. Madison or email: eschuett@woh.rr.com.