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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

We are raising a generation of kids who are afraid of ideas

Mao Zedong the former president of the Chinese Communist Party once said that “to read too many books is harmful.” 

It appears that many in American higher education agree. Not only are writers and intellectuals now supporting blacklisting authors, but universities regularly see speakers banned or canceled on campuses. 

Certain views are now viewed as “harmful” and thus intolerable. The latest example is perhaps the most tragically ironic. 

Associated Students of Whitworth University voted 9-4 to bar Chinese dissident Xi Van Fleet from coming to campus to share her experience as a survivor of Maoist China. Her criticism of “woke” culture in the United States was deemed too harmful for any student to hear.

CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY BLOCKS MAOIST CHINA SURVIVOR FROM SPEAKING OVER ANTI-WOKE VIEWS: ‘EXTRA CONCERNING’

Students objected to Van Fleet’s tweets on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community and “environmental justice” among other social justice initiatives.

In its university mission statement, Whitworth declares a deep commitment to free speech on campus: “Whitworth affirms freedom of expression for its students, staff and faculty. Our commitment to free expression is grounded in our faith … We take Jesus Christ as the model for engagement in public discourse and for exploration and expression of ideas.” 

Students who may have come to the university with that assurance are now being told that some views are simply too harmful to be heard.

Survivor of Mao's Revolution on the need to teach about the danger of communism in America Video

It may be a familiar moment for Van Fleet from her own experience in the Cultural Revolution. In February 1957, Mao issued a surprising speech titled “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” in which he encouraged intellectual debate and criticism.

Intellectuals were leery and did not come forward, prompting Mao to take measures to induce their speech. When some then criticized party orthodoxy or corruption, Moa had the speech retroactively changed and cracked down on dissenters as spreading harmful thoughts.

I SURVIVED MAO’S REGIME. NOW CHINA IS USING TIKTOK TO POISON OUR KIDS

Mao rounded up the intellectuals and told citizens that the government would protect them from the ‘fragrant flowers’ of healthy debate and the ‘poisonous weeds’ of noxious capitalism. What is noteworthy is how close the rhetoric of Mao is to that of many anti-free speech advocates today on our campuses. 

We are raising a generation of speech phobics who believe that they have a right to silence others. 

Mao declared “words and actions should help to unite, not divide, the people of our various nationalities; They should be beneficial, not harmful, to socialist construction; They should help to consolidate, not weaken, the people’s democratic dictatorship; They should help to consolidate, not weaken, democratic centralism.”

The notion that free speech is harmful now permeates our higher education institutions

Headshot of Xi Van Fleet

Xi Van Fleet, a survivor of Mao Zedong’s revolution, discusses the dangers of socialism. (Fox News)

Both students and some faculty have maintained the position that they have a right to silence those with harmful speech and student newspapers have declared opposing views to be outside of the protections of free speech.  Even Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll denounced the “weaponization” of free speech.

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At Washington & Lee University, faculty signed a petition to bar a conservative speaker and anyone with “harmful ideologies.”

At Emory University, the law review rescinded a publication offer to an author questioning systemic racism theories as “hurtful and unnecessarily divisive.” Other Emory students barred a free speech group from being recognized because there are no apparent safeguards in place to prevent potential and real harm that could result from these discussions[.]”

In the recent outrageous cancelling of a federal judge by Stanford law students, Stanford DEI Dean Tirien Steinbach rose condemned Judge Duncan for speaking when his views were considered harmful for many. She asked “‘even in this time. And again I still ask: Is the juice worth the squeeze?” Later, while Stanford reaffirmed its commitment to free speech, it refused to punish any of the students that prevented Duncan from speaking.

Portland State University professor Jennifer Ruth defended the canceling of the judge as an “existential threat” to students and even higher education. 

Stanford DEI dean looks on as protesters shout down Trump judge Video

These views fuel the sense of license even for violence. University of Rhode Island Professor Erik Loomis, who defended the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence.  On the University of California (Santa Barbara) campus, professors rallied around a professor who physically assaulted pro-life advocates and tore down their display. 

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The anti-free speech values on our campuses are liberating in rationalizing the silencing of others. There is no need to respond to opposing views when they are deemed too dangerous to be heard.

In other words, conservative, religious, and libertarian views are now “poisonous weeds” that must be removed from the garden of “fragrant flowers” of approved viewpoints in higher education.

Chinese communist

FILE – Mao Zedong, chair of the Chinese Communist Party (Getty Images)

The irony is that the effort to bar Xi Van Fleet is all students need to know about the dangers of this type of cultural revolution and free speech limits.

We are raising a generation of speech phobics who believe that they have a right to silence others. 

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They have been told since elementary school that speech is harmful and that they should not be expected to hear views that they find offensive. Those “poisonous” elements are now being pruned from higher education through speech codes, cancel campaigns, and faculties purged of conservative or libertarian professors. What remains is the “fragrant” smell of academic orthodoxy.

It is all enough to make Mao blush.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM JONATHAN TURLEY

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