FROM THE OPINION PAGE Political correctness is one of many serious higher education problems – Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Posted: September 16, 2021 at 6:07 am

Today, higher education has serious problems. Between political correctness, wokeness, equity and diversity issues, there are now many problems in classrooms and administrative offices.

Professors, who are the source of many of the classroom problems, are sometimes on the receiving end of political correctness and wokeness mania.

One such example involves veteran University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) law professor Jason Kilborn.

Just before the first class on the first day of the spring semester this year, UICs administration abruptly suspended Kilborn from teaching. He said the administration would not explain what the basis for the indefinite suspension was when he asked.

This hits you like a ton of bricks, he said. It was totally unexpected. Youre totally isolated.

When he finally learned the reason behind this extreme administrative action, Kilborn learned that UIC had violated his rights to academic freedom.

On an exam the preceding semester he had posed a hypothetical matter to which the law students were to respond. That issue set off alarms among some hypersensitive members of a student organization. Without discussing their concerns with their teacher, they complained to the law school dean, the university administration, and the media, calling his use of certain language inexcusable.

Just what momentous transgression had Kilborn committed? He had employed a long-used hypothetical issue in the law school exam that contained two redacted slurs.But even redacting the terms didnt save Kilborn from being targeted by his university.

Undergrad teaches students to think, but law schools, medical schools they have to teach students how to do, Kilborn said. As someone who has taught law for 21 years, he understands that concept, and had structured his curriculum to accomplish that goal.

Explaining his technique, he said, In virtually every one of my law classes, I try to put that scalpel in my students hands and ask them: What do you do? These hypotheticals, he explained, really force students, future lawyers, to be confronted with the messy reality theyll be faced with in the outside world.

Kilborn was eventually reinstated through action by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), but this occurrence paints a very clear picture of some of what has driven higher education at many institutions in our country from being a valuable asset, to being a politically-driven wasteland.

This is not the only case where a professor has been targeted for controversial expression. FIRE research into the rise in collegiate scholars punished for their constitutionally protected speech reveals that fully 74 percent of targeting incidents are successful. What that means is that the target professor ends up with some type of punishment, such as investigations or suspension. And FIRE noted that one in four targeted scholars lose their job.

Working hard to not upset students while trying to help them learn how to deal with the real world they are preparing to enter has become, in far too many cases, more important than the actual process of preparing them to survive and prosper after college.

Another professor trying to cope with this new upside-down campus environment was not suspended. Instead, he decided he had had enough.

Professor Peter Boghossian had taught philosophy at Portland State University for the last decade. He quit his teaching post, submitting his letter of resignation to the schools provost, and also publishing that letter.

His problems began, he explained, because he started asking critical questions. Unlike my colleagues, I asked these questions out loud and in public. The more he spoke out, the more push-back he got. So, he began publishing articles with two other people demonstrating how critical thinking had gradually faded from importance at Portland.

These articles resulted in him being attacked and verbally harassed by both students and faculty. This harassment included being spit on, and being threatened as he walked to and from classes.

When he went to Portland, he believed he was joining a group of professional people that were committed to growing critical thinkers, not machines. He believed his job was not to tell students what to think, but to teach them how to think, he said. But Portland no longer pursues its original mission.

In his letter to the universitys provost, Boghossian, explained, But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

He continued, Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions based on rigorous research, critical thinking and listening to diverse voices.

The education and degrees so many have sought and benefitted from for so long have, in many institutions, become little more than a certification of successful adopting of a political attitude that challenges Americas fundamental principles.

Helping young adults grow intellectually and gain needed skills isnt their goal. Turning America into another socialist failure is their goal. And the movement is expanding.

James H. Smokey Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist. Contact him at

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FROM THE OPINION PAGE Political correctness is one of many serious higher education problems - Bluefield Daily Telegraph

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