American Elephants


Anti-Bullying Bill Infringes on Free Speech by The Elephant's Child

Being opposed to bullying is a currently righteous position. Who could possibly be in favor of bullying, being mean, offending, or cruel — offending? Where do you draw the line? How about right where the Bill of Rights does? Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The current flap is about celebrity Paula Deen apparently using the dreaded “N” word 20 or 30 years ago. I am not familiar with Ms. Deen, who I understand is a celebrity chef and writes cookbooks. What I have gleaned from the media is that decades ago, she used a forbidden word, and for that crime, she is to be shunned, disgraced, her business ruined, and her livelihood destroyed. Really?

This has gone too far. We have called it “political correctness” and don’t exactly know what to do with it. We cringe, try to laugh it off, and are embarrassed by those who insist on taking it seriously. If a male, in the workplace, touches a woman’s arm to get her attention, he may find himself in trouble with Human Resources for a sexual assault, or for that matter for telling a woman that she looks nice. The U.S. military has in recent years become politically correct. The increasing inclusion of women and homosexuals has added to the tension. The current military concern is about sexual assault. One would think it would be about winning wars, but that’s not on the agenda. Unfortunately it turns out that most of the victims of sexual assault — are men.

You must not offend. If you offend, you will be punished. What offends depends entirely on the person offended, not on your own judgment or intent. The punishment will be dire, because the object is to stamp out all offensive speech. Or to rephrase it’s about control.

Life is hard, bad things will happen. You will be offended, perhaps deeply. Your feelings will be hurt. You will be embarrassed, humiliated, and shamed.  There is no law that anyone can make that will protect you from offense. When you have the opportunity, you might remind people of the meaning of that precious First Amendment.

 



The Bill of Rights Was Ratified 222 Years Ago. How Come They Still Don’t Get It? by The Elephant's Child

“I was expelled from Syracuse University for comments that I posted on Facebook.”

Syracuse University School of Education graduate student Matthew Werenczak was just trying to finish his masters degree early when he decided to take a summer course that involved tutoring at a local middle school. But after a comment he posted on Facebook about an experience he had at the school caught the attention of the Syracuse administration, Werenczak would be lucky if he graduated at all.

On the first day of Werenczak’s tutoring program at Danforth Middle School, he and another Syracuse student were introduced to their students by a member of the Concerned Citizens Action Program (CCAP). They happened to be the only two white people in the room. Shortly after the introduction, in the presence of Werenczak and the other white student teacher, the CCAP member, who is black, said that he thought that the city schools should hire more teachers from historically black colleges.

“This [comment] offended me, as well as the other student teacher in the room,” says Werenczak in FIRE’s latest video. “It just seemed inappropriate considering that the two student teachers happened to be from Syracuse and a not a historically black college.”

So Werenczak took to Facebook to write about the incident.

“Just making sure we’re okay with racism,” wrote Werenczak. “It’s not enough I’m … tutoring in the worst school in the city, I suppose I oughta be black or stay in my own side of town.”

“I was kind of trying to see if my friends or other peers, classmates would have a similar reaction to what I had,” says Werenczak about the reason for his posting the comment.

One reaction Werenczak didn’t see coming was an expulsion from the School of Education for the Facebook comments, which the school described as “unprofessional, offensive, and insensitive.” The school told Werenczak he could avoid expulsion by voluntarily withdrawing, or he could fulfill several requirements in order to gain a chance of “re-admittance.”

When Werenczak fulfilled the requirements and was still not readmitted to the school, he contacted FIRE for help.

“Hours after FIRE took the case public, Syracuse University backed down and I was brought back [into the program] and later graduated.”

Why is it always the educators in our universities that don’ t grasp freedom of speech. Our colleges and universities are  hotbeds of attempting to censor speech that they don’t like. Thank goodness for FIRE.




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