Saturday, May 24, 2014
The Commencement Disinvitation Season is Almost Over
I blogged on May 3 about the fervent opposition to some commencement speakers. The first was when President Frederick Lawrence and trustees of Brandeis revoked the honorary degree to be bestowed upon Ayaan Hirsi Ali and withdrew her invitation as the commencement speaker. The Brandeis Administration showed a lack of intestinal fortitude. Next came Secretary Condoleezza Rice voluntarily withdrawing as the commencement speaker at Rutgers University. She withdrew with grace, which is more than can be said about the protestors. Rutgers’ Administration, to its credit, stood by their invitation to Secretary Rice until she withdrew. I referred to these wannabe thought police as academic Neanderthals. We understand that young adults can be very doctrinaire because they know all the answers. We were there once. They are quick to take offense. That doesn’t explain though the professors aiding and abetting the students. Faculty are supposed to open the minds of students – not close them. Sadly, these militants were emboldened by their earlier successes. Robert Birgeneau withdrew as Commencement Speaker at Haverford College. 46 students and a few faculty members protested because he was Chancellor of the University of California Berkeley in 2011 when campus police allegedly used excessive force in breaking up an Occupy Protest. These campus militants, like the French revolution, are beginning to devour their own. Chancellor Birgeneau is liberal. As Berkeley’s Chancellor he publicly supported affirmative action, gay marriage, and the Dream Act. That’s not enough for these academic pygmies. The replacement speaker was William Bowen, former President of Princeton, President Emeritus of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and one of the most highly regarded academic leaders in America. His speech was a cry for academic freedom and a condemnation of the militants. He called them “immature” and “arrogant.” He said Chancellor’s Birganeau’s withdrawal was a “defeat” for Haverford and its ideals. The students, families, friends, and faculty in attendance at the commencement gave President Bowen a standing ovation for his remarks, which is a tribute to the Haverford community. It also reinforces the reality that these academic Neanderthals are but a small minority. They do not warrant the attention or response they have been receiving. A few of the militants were upset. It detracted from the ceremony in their eyes in such a way that they could not speak up. They don’t object when President Obama in the State of the Union Addresses does that to the Supreme Court Justices, who cannot speak back. These academic Neanderthals act like schoolyard bullies. The next to back out was Christine Lagarde, the first woman named to head the managing director of the International monetary Fund. That should her attractive to Smith College. It was to the administration and trustees, but not to the 500 who signed a petition against her. They had no direct fault with Ms. Lagarde, but to the policies of the IMF. The radical left views the IMF as one of the chief villains in globalization and a means by which the ruch nations impoverish the poor countries. They don’t understand that only nations with severe problems come to the IMF for assistance and that they are not forced to obtain IMF funds and the attached conditions. She withdrew with the grace similar to Condoleezza Rice. That may not be the end of the disinvitation crusade. The graduation for the Harvard School of education is scheduled for May 28. The invited speaker is Colorado State Senator Michael Johnson, who is a graduate of Yale and the Harvard School of education. Dean James Ryan called him “a nationally recognized advocate for school finance reform, fair teacher evaluations, and education equity.” Senator Johnson joined Teach for America in Mississippi. He served as a teacher and a principle in Colorado. He was a cofounder of New Leaders for New Schools. That’s not good enough for some academic Neanderthals at Harvard. An on-line petition is available, asking the University to disinvite Senator Johnson because he “embraces a vision of education reform that relies heavily on test-based accountability while weakening the due process protections of teachers.” His crime is that he wants accountability from teachers. Senator Johnson supported in 2010 a Colorado law that would base 50% of the assessment of a teacher’s performance on standardized test scores. Senator Johnson realizes the current assessment methodology is failing our students. My view on the teachers and prospective teachers signing the petition is that they are too closed minded to be teaching our children and grandchildren. Senator Johnson’s commencement address at Harvard on May 28 is still scheduled, as far as I can determine from the internet. Let the commencements proceed.