Emory University’s ideological indoctrination of its students and its hedging about free speech

Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia reports that, at the urging of students and by a big majority of faculty, it has instituted a general education requirement that “focuses specifically on the histories and experiences of people of color.” This will be a required course for all students, though there may be different courses in different departments that meet the requirements approved the College Senate (the resolution to create this course was passed by 73% of voting faculty). You can read about this in the article below, from Emory’s independent student newspaper (click on screenshot):

The Wheel notes that there were predecessor courses in the 1990s about diversity, though I suspect from the description of those in the proposal that these were far less political, focusing mostly on the different groups that made up America: not only blacks, but Native Americans, Jews, Italians, Asians, Irish, Germans, and so on. (This is just my guess, but I remember such courses when I was a child. But of course those courses downplayed ethnic and nationalistic tensions.)  Now, of course, the national diversity of People of No Color will be neglected, though we all know that the Irish, Jews, and Italians were also subject to discrimination in our history. As were the poor.

The idea for these courses arose after the group Black Students at Emory demanded such a course in 2015:

The proposal stated the 2015 Black Students at Emory demands occurred in light of “sudden political tumult that had occurred in November of that year,” and was also a “reflection of the continued and intensified alienation and precarity that black students and students of color have experienced on Emory’s campus.”

The demands brought a “conversation already ongoing within the faculty” to the fore and was the driving force behind the proposal, the proposal reads.

In fact, I have no objection to a course outlining the way America became a “melting pot,” nor how the different groups met diverse obstacles to acceptance. What I object to in this course is that it’s specifically about groups that have pigmented skin (presumably including those from the Middle East, who were historically considered Caucasian), and, especially, that it seems designed to push an ideological point of view—that of Critical Race Theory. Will there be freedom of speech in this course? Will people be able to question affirmative action or the idea of reparations? I doubt it.

And of course there are the issues of class differences in America, which are profound and pervasive. Any kind of social issues beyond discrimination based on race is neglected, and I suspect there are no required courses for those. But I object to any course that tries to force students think in a certain way, and to discourage their exploring thinking in other ways. If you think these courses welcome diverse opinions, you think wrong.

For example, here is a list of what must be the objectives of the new courses taken from the proposal passed by the Emory Faculty:

This seems to me more like teaching and forcing adherence to a certain point of view (for example, that of the New York Times’s 1619 Project), than an “educational” experience. In other words, you learn to think in a certain way and to adopt certain viewpoints—those of the Authoritarian Left—rather than to absorb information and discuss it openly. These seem more to me to be thinking objectives rather than “learning objectives”. Critical thinking won’t be especially prized. Note the emphasis on intersectionality and respectful communication, the latter being a worthwhile goal but sometimes contravened by valuable and necessary free speech (i.e., discussions of affirmative action).

UPDATE: In a comment below, reader Historian notes that the article is 11 years old (my bad for not noticing the date), and a FIRE update shows that Emory gets green lights (the “best” rating) for most of its free-expression policies.

Indeed, as this article from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) suggests, Emory is not particularly interested in diversity of thought or speech. This is one of several articles in which FIRE evaluates the commitment to free expression of the U.S. News & World Report list of America’s 25 best schools (click on screenshot). However it gets low ratings (“D” and “C” respectively for due process for non-sexual misconduct and sexual misconduct respectively). So ignore most of what is written below the following headline and pay attention to the material above.

FIRE has given Emory its worst rating for free speech—a “red light” rating, for the following reasons:

  • Despite Emory’s official commitment to “the widest possible scope for the free circulation of ideas”, it restricts speech in several ways.
  • Students in Emory’s residence halls are prohibited from “acts of intolerance”, which are defined so loosely that they could prohibit parody, satire, and other socially valuable forms of speech
  • Emory prohibits electronic communication “that is perceived by its recipient as sexual or discriminatory harassment”, which defines harassment as based solely on perception, though legally it must also be based on objective evaluation to be considered impermissible under the First Amendment.

There are other objectionable policies of Emory as well.  All in all, abrogation of free speech nearly always goes hand in hand with ideologically-based courses such as the one above, for both are premised on offending as few people as possible. And that strategy is directly inimical to the way education should work.

10 Comments

  1. Historian
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    The FIRE article on free speech at Emory is from 2009. I have no idea of whether things have gotten better or worse in more than a decade, but the article is worthless as to how things stand now.

    On the other hand, a FIRE article from December 2017 notes that the organization has now given Emory a green light rating, its highest in regard to free speech.

    https://www.thefire.org/emory-university-earns-fires-highest-rating-for-free-speech/

    Also, on another page at its site, FIRE gave Emory green lights in all categories regarding free speech. This is as of February 2020.

    https://www.thefire.org/schools/emory-university/

    However, it is in areas of how the university handles non-sexual and sexual allegations that it falls down according to FIRE. In non-sexual misconduct it is rated a D and for sexual misconduct a C.

    https://www.thefire.org/schools/emory-university/#due-process-tab

    • Posted May 25, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      My bad for not checking dates, but the course information is up to date. I’ll correct the rating and link to your comment, thanks.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    … focusing mostly on the different groups that made up America: not only blacks, but Native Americans, Jews, Italians, Asians, Irish, Germans, and so on.

    “and so on” — nice euphemism for us bohunks, boss. 🙂

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Maybe today you can get by with this and not detract or put people off going to your school. I am no expert on this stuff but it seems heavy handed to me. If the class was elective then fine, but mandatory?

  4. Posted May 25, 2020 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of the date of this event, it seems to me that a great course would be immigration into America (meaning both of them). I know my ancestors came from Ireland, Wales, France and other European countries, usually to escape religious prosecution.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    … groups that have pigmented skin (presumably including those from the Middle East, who were historically considered Caucasian) …

    They certainly come from a helluva lot closer to the Caucasus mountains than any WASP I ever met.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Maybe Emory’s determination to instill righteous Left-think in its patients is comparable to the situation at its counterpart and competitor in the South Atlantic region ivory league, Duke University. I speculate (from the other end of the continent) that Emory and Duke tend to imitate one another.

    Duke was at one time (and maybe still?) an epicenter of postmodernism and faux-Marxism. It enjoyed the services of Fredric Jameson since neolithic times, and was graced by the presence of Stanley Fish from 1986-98, until Stanley found more lucrative employment elsewhere. It was Duke which housed “Social Text”, the beacon of “Critical Theory” which
    accepted and published Alan Sokal’s wonderful nonsense paper, an exercise that deftly exposed the journal’s intellectual character.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    Will there be freedom of speech in this course? Will people be able to question affirmative action or the idea of reparations?

    Chrissake, I hope so. These are two large, unresolved issues in American society, much in need of full, frank, and open discussion. If not there, where?

  8. dd
    Posted May 25, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “respectful communication”

    Since I am gay, whenever I hear the word “respectful” before the word “communication” or “question”, I think about religious authorities that until recent years would require that they be asked only “respectful” question. In other words, not trenchant ones that question authority or reveal deep contradiction.

    “Respectful communication” is simply a dainty phrase for coercive self-censorship.

    Emory is signaling that only soft-ball questions and objections will carry no penalty. Does the university have a “hate speech” code? I wonder if “interrogating” the very basis of the course and its presumptions fall under the category of “respectful communication”.

  9. mrclaw69
    Posted May 26, 2020 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Yikes! Those course objectives are full of equivocal/Trojan Horse terms.

    “…Develop a critical awareness” = adopt a Critical Race Theory mindset where the conclusion is reached beforehand and then the evidence must fit or be rejected.

    “…through individual, institutional and cultural forces” = the US is a white supremacist society and every institution and individual works to uphold this.

    “…racial and ethnic power dynamics shape and may be reflected in intellectual inquiry across disciplines.” = Everything is about the maintenance of white privilege and all claims to ‘knowledge’ are white supremacist constructs; subjective standpoint epistemology must rule over any claims to objectivity.

    “…Recognize the ways in which race and ethnicity intersect with other group identifications” = Intersetionality is taken as the absolute and unassailable Truth – questioning will not be permitted – even if the the theory hasn’t been tested and its claims are often massively contradictory or impossible to verify.

    “…Adopt tools to communicate more effectively and respectfully with others from various racial and ethnic perspectives” = shut up and listen like a good child. You have been told.

    Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian would have a field day….

    https://newdiscourses.com/translations-from-the-wokish/


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