…Here I am, stuck in the middle with you, you the sane ones. Can we just stop? I blame the middle for its quietude.
Extremism everywhere in all forums and locations seems to be the new norm if you merely scan social media. And the balance, the middle, is silent, gets no air time.
To the right most extreme we have banning books, dissemination of contraception information, health care advisory on certain procedures–abortion, for instance, or exploration of new research areas like stem cell, and, the latest, a Texas senator who would vote to keep women in the house where they can clean and care take. At the left most, we have trigger event warnings, micro aggressions, and the University of California regents censoring any coded anti-semitism in the form of anti-Zionist speech or acts on UC campuses.
Last week’s critique of this newly introduced policy by the California regents board is discussed in the article (Op Ed) by Saree Makdisi and Judith Butler in last week’s LA Times entitled “Suppressing Zionism on Campus is Catastrophic Censorship.” The policy seeks to root out anti-semitism disguised as anti-zionism on campuses. The UC committee charged with examining the purported rise in anti-semitism expressed on campuses (a vandal’s bathroom scribble about hating Zionist Jews, for example) sought to expose thinly disguised or coded prejudice in the form of an ostensible critique of an Israeli political faction.
Authors and UC professors Butler and Makdisi contend the hidden agenda behind the policy is motivated by suppressing anti-American sentiment fomented by growing criticism of Israeli-Palestinian relations/stand-off. The authors accuse the move as a thinly veiled censorship attempt aimed at suppressing criticism of American policy regarding Israel.
Whether these professors are correct or not, censorship does not belong on campuses–period. Students who vandalize bathrooms should be prosecuted for destruction of property. Students who commit or instigate violence should be counseled. People who hate others by reason of their color, creed, beliefs or practices, well, exposure to those types is the cost of living in society.
The purpose of colleges and universities is to prepare students for life, civic duty, employment and social existence. In particular, higher education should expose students to both practical and ideal considerations of living in society like earning wages and working in teams, understanding democratic responsibilities to vote and be informed as well as honing critical thinking skills vis a vis advertising, politicians and door to door salesmen let alone legal documents, medical treatment and military service. In other words, the primary responsibility for higher education is to teach students to think, to slot them into already established spots in society or to make new ones.
Thinking requires exposure to thoughts, principles, laws, behaviors and energies present, past and future, seen and unseen. There must be exposure to all that should and could be thought about, including beliefs and ideas that challenge existing beliefs and ideas. That’s called growth, and growing into citizens of a nation and the world.
And yes, restraint and constraint are also taught on campuses. You cannot say and do whatever you wish. There are laws against harassment, vandalism, assault and battery. There are laws forbidding lying about others such as defamation. Prosecution or expulsion for these crimes or torts is lesson learned for committing wrongs against society or specific others.
Regardless of the motivation or interpretation of UC policies regarding anti semitism or zionism, censorship does not belong on a college campus.