1.29.2005

Neo-McCarthyism is alive and well and living in Ohio (among other places)

The Columbus Dispatch reports on a pending bill in the Ohio legislature that would curtail academic freedom in the interest of protecting impressionable young minds from their teachers' insidious left-wing propaganda. Deceptively styled as the "Academic Bill of Rights for Higher Education", the measure targets "instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to their subject of study and that serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose."

As any of my first-year law students could readily explain at length, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional. Most obviously, the prohibition would infringe on the First Amendment right of free speech. In addition, the operative terms--"persistently", "controversial", etc. -- are impermissibly vague, amounting to a deprivation of due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Ohio legislation is based on a model bill being pushed nationwide by "Students for Academic Freedom", a project of aging reactionary crank David Horowitz, who evidently suffers from a neurotic impulse to atone for his youthful indiscretions by engaging in a crusade to stamp out what he imagines to be an academic red menace. Ohio is but the most recent state to consider the measure, which has previously come before the state legislatures in Colorado and Indiana, as well as the U.S. Congress.

(cross-posted from Red Harvest)


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