Free speech on campus

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So much to laugh/cringe at in this story: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/01/22/not-every-opinion-is-valid-activist-censors-peers-by-tearing-down-universitys-free-speech-wall/ Even the idea a university needs a ‘free speech’ wall tells us something about how little free speech is respected on university campuses today. CoKehyeng got it absolutely right when he said free speech is the friend of minorities, and that it only works when it’s extended to all.

Attempts to curb free speech in the name of protecting minority rights is predicated on the idea political power will always be on the side of protecting minorities. As soon as public opinion, courts and politicians move away from sympathizing with a minority viewpoint – or at least allowing it a voice – that minority will find itself banned, outlawed and silenced unless the culture has in place a robust respect for dissent and the free expression of minority viewpoints.

Those who would limit free speech make the dangerous assumption government, the media and majority opinion will always be fairly moderate and open-minded and will always side with “good” as defined by those looking to limit speech.

I don’t smoke, but I think the lengths to which government is attempting to limit public smoking are clear examples of government overreach: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/01/22/jesse-kline-b-c-crusade-seeks-more-restrictions-on-outdoor-smokers/

What’s funny is that a colleague of mine who smokes actually argues the other side. But as a non-smoker I am utterly skeptical of the health risks associated with brief exposure to second-hand smoke. I don’t think for a moment having someone smoking 20 feet away from me hurts me, nor do I feel the need to scowl when a pedestrian ahead of me on the sidewalk lights up. Yes, I can smell it, yes cigarettes are bad for you, and yes, the people who make cigarettes are unscrupulous.

But it’s a smell and it’s a bit of smoke. Just think of it as a miniature mouth campfire.

Looks like these guys are doing good work: http://democracywatch.ca/20130122-obama-government-allows-scientists-to-speak-freely-while-federal-conservatives-muzzle-them-like-bush-did/

Not that familiar with them, so I’ll hold back on a total endorsement. But as regular readers will know, government secrecy drives me nuts. It’s so transparently an attempt to hide from public criticism and so obviously the opposite of what good government should be.

We can debate the merits of armed guards at schools – I think it makes sense in the States, at least – but what I really like about this story (http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/Mom-pays-for-deputy-to-patrol-child-s-school/-/11788162/18223064/-/kgf69x/-/index.html) is the willingness of a parent with resources (in this case, money) to contribute directly to the school environment, and the willingness of a school board to do something very simple and smart: say yes.

Parents should be looking for ways to contribute to their child’s school. Sometimes that will mean contributing resources that cost money, sometimes it will mean volunteering. What I fear, though, is that our rules-laden education system (lots of bureaucracy, vocal unions) would severely limit the ways in which parents could help. My guess is unions and administrators would be very touchy about protecting their turf, and fearful that parents doing work for free would reduce the number of people getting paid in the system.

They’re probably right, too, but I think that’s a good thing. One of the ways we can reduce budgets, a little anyway, is by parents embracing a bigger role in the education of their children. It’s not always possible, of course. But surely the schools teaching our own kids should be on any parent's shortlist of worthy charity causes?

How many stars are there in the Milky Way Galaxy? Oh, probably 100 billion or more: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/01/22/planet-hunting/

I’d say the case for ETs gets stronger and stronger every day. Jason Rowe, a Canadian scientist based at a NASA research centre: “When you want to ask about the implications for life out there, your mind just wanders toward, it’s got to be true.” (source: Maclean’s).

 

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