First Amendment Heroes

November 5, 2007

My last column, “Brave Newark World” was part of a smashing First Amendment success. Thanks, in part, to hundreds of loyal readers – those who took the time to write the University of Delaware — the university’s unconstitutional re-education program is now history. I hope the same readers will take the time to write the university again – this time to thank them for doing the right thing. And I hope my readers will join me in this first installment of a new column series recognizing First Amendment heroes who are helping us turn the tide against thought control on our nation’s college campuses. The first half-dozen honorees follow:
 
Steve Balch, President of the National Association of Scholars, or NAS. (see www.NAS.org). The Delaware Association of Scholars is the group that collected much of the information I used in my column on Delaware’s re-education program. As a part of the NAS, one of its goals is to bring attention to the decline of academic standards in higher education. A part of that decline is the result of the interjection of race and gender politics in virtually every aspect of academic life. The NAS recognizes the danger of programs like the one at Delaware that seeks (or sought) to use government resources to force students to accept a radical re-definition of racism. The organization is also one of the few (perhaps only) that understands the link between radical identity politics and the decline of civility in higher education.


Today, there are many strong state chapters of the NAS. That is mostly because of the hard work of NAS President Steve Balch. Take the time to log on to the NAS website to learn more about the organization. And feel free to call Steve to let him know his work is appreciated. I plan to show my appreciation by re-joining the NAS this week. I encourage other concerned professors to do the same.
 
Alan Kors, Harvey Silverglate, and Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. (see www.TheFire.org). I seldom get a chance to speak with Alan and Harvey, co-founders of the FIRE. When I do, it is usually a brief e-mail. But I speak with Greg on a regular basis. Put simply, I would not have a career were it not for this fine organization. They bailed me out of a situation at UNCW that really shows how petty and willfully ignorant college administrators can remain when it comes to the principles of free expression. Since then, I have become a free speech advocate in columns, books, and speeches. Much of my material comes from the leg work of the FIRE. They deserve the credit for nearly every significant free speech victory won on a college campus in this young century.
 
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the FIRE is the political composition of its staff. One co-founder is a liberal, the other is a conservative. Of its last two presidents, one is a liberal, the other is a conservative. People who claim the FIRE is a “right-wing” organization are wrong. It only appears that way because conservative speech is under attack in higher education far more often than is liberal speech. If that ever changes, it won’t matter to the good people at FIRE. They will keep doing what they do in the name of principle, not identity politics.
 
Neal Boortz. (see www.Boortz.com). I want to be just like Neal Boortz when (if) I ever grow up. In order to do so, I am going to have to remain very angry for a very long time. That’s what I like about Neal. He recognizes the Marxist underpinnings of many of our threats to free speech such as speech codes and mandatory diversity re-education. And it makes him very angry. And he simply refuses to cool down no matter how long he covers these issues on his widely-heard radio show.
 
I should not have been at all surprised when I made an appearance on his show last week to talk about the free speech problem at the University of Delaware. As soon as I started to talk about the case I learned that Neal had been discussing it on the air for two days. Neal regularly fires up his millions of listeners who, in turn, help apply the pressure to college administrators across the nation.


Last week, a list of the 100 most influential conservatives in America was released with no mention of Neal. He deserves to be high on that list as well as this one.
 
Dinesh D’Souza.  Sometimes we forget that Dinesh D’Souza was one of the first to write about the effects of political correctness on university free speech. His early 1990s book, Illiberal Education is a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. And, for those who don’t know it, his sometimes-overlooked Letters to a Young Conservative is loaded with practical (and fun) advice on how to fight back against campus political correctness.
 
Recently, I realized that I would not be doing what I am doing without Dinesh’s influence. Shortly thereafter, I wrote to thank him for being, not just a great influence but, perhaps, the greatest political mind of our time. I hope some of you will take the time to write and thank him for his role in starting this great free speech revolution in higher education.
 
When I first started writing about the insanity on our campuses even my own family and friends did not believe the stories. But because of all the people I’ve mentioned today, they do believe me now. And, whenever I get a chance, I tell them “See, I told you so.”
 
Next week, I will write about young First Amendment heroes who are still in school. You won’t believe how great these kids are when I first tell you. But, later, when they become household names, you will. And, then, I will write again to tell you “See, I told you so.”
 
Until then, enjoy your precious liberties. Our toughest battles may be still to come. 
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