Tax dollars in the State of Florida are being used to teach Kids that freedom of speech only applies to domestic terrorists.
Florida State University, a school largely funded by state tax dollars, paid domestic terrorist (and just a guy from President-elect Obama’s neighborhood) Bill Ayers $5,000 to speak at the school. School administrators invited the terrorist because they believe he is a “education reformer.” I guess they feel that setting bombs and murdering people is an effective method of education (Ayers and his fellow terrorists planted bombs on the Capitol, Pentagon and other government buildings to protest U.S. policy, on 9/11/01 he was interviewed by the New York Times and said they didn’t do enough).
As if inviting this criminal to speak on campus wasn’t enough, they forbade protesters. The school shielded the terrorist by ordering campus police to usher protesters away to a “free speech zone” far removed from the auditorium where he spoke. What ever happened to academic freedom? I guess it only applies to terrorists:
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Bill Ayers’ Tallahassee stopover has done at least some good by exposing the flimsiness of that doctrine that calls itself “campus free speech.”
We know the facts about Ayers: He told the New York Times — in an article published on Sept. 11, 2001, no less — that he didn’t “regret setting bombs” in police stations, at the Capitol and at the Pentagon in the 1970s, when he was a member of the Weather Underground. Ayers continued: “I feel we didn’t do enough.”
We know all that. We also know that Ayers is an “education reformer,” ostensibly for which reason he was invited to speak this week at Florida State University. And yet Sol Stern, an education scholar at the conservative Manhattan Institute, has written that “Calling Bill Ayers a school reformer is a bit like calling Joseph Stalin an agricultural reformer.” The analogy is confirmed by even a cursory investigation of Ayers’ stated beliefs (and his class syllabi), which have little to do with traditional education and — with their emphasis on teaching about societal unfairness and oppression — are more likely to destroy schools than help them.
If there’s one thing America’s students (especially disadvantaged ones) do not need, it’s to be inundated in classrooms with noxious notions about revolution, violence and tyranny. Every real education reformer worth his salt, whether conservative or liberal, agrees that the ideology of victimization that Ayers preaches is toxic. Pupils learn best when taught reading, writing and math in disciplined environments by teachers who accept no excuses for failure.
So: The harmful and flawed educational notions of a man who hid from the law after bombing buildings in which served our nation’s police, elected officials and military personnel is, according to FSU, protected speech that public money should fund.
But protestations against Ayers’ ideas apparently do not deserve similar protection. The Democrat reported that two men — one dressed as Osama bin Laden, the other as Timothy McVeigh — attempted to make evident their disapproval of Ayers’ views and actions by distributing, outside the student union, fliers mockingly described as “from the terrorist community.” The men were removed to Landis Green, a designated “free-speech zone” that has the considerable drawback of being nowhere near the ballroom where Ayers spoke and, thus, allowing only the free speech that nobody is free to hear. Oh well: At least neither was tased.
The university’s actions are discordant. They are especially so because FSU President T.K. Wetherell defended the invitation to Ayers in part by writing, “Danger lies not in some speaker’s ideas. Danger lies in teaching students that ideas they don’t agree with are not important.”
Wetherell’s first sentence is baseless: History offers innumerable examples of danger lying in the ignoble ideas that certain speakers advance. Wetherell’s second sentence is unobjectionable but was pointedly violated at the Ayers event when FSU police unaccountably transported protesters to campus Siberia.
Taken together, though, his two sentences are superfluous.
For no matter one’s position on Ayers’ ideas, they are not, as Wetherell suggests, “important.” The sole reason anyone outside Chicago gives a hoot about Ayers is because he planted bombs and, decades later, had fleeting contact with the president-elect. When, in 2007, Columbia University hosted the racist Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, its administration could at least justify the invitation by noting that Ahmadinejad, for all his ranting, was a national leader. Ayers has no such clout.
What, then, about protecting campus free speech at FSU? Whether Ayers should have visited campus is less a matter of free speech than of taste and discernment. To civilized and intelligent people, Ayers’ ideas are (should be) plainly foolish; his actions and associations are (should be) plainly revolting. Certainly Ayers can say what he wishes. But the question for FSU’s administration was whether to assent to pay him thousands of dollars to do so in the university’s environs. The administration’s acquiescence, then, signaled not that Ayers’ ideas merited free-speech protection (which they already have) but that his ideas merited promulgation on FSU’s dime.
And — the irony! — at the same time FSU was furthering the disbursement of shoddy thinking under the guise of protecting free speech, it was actively suppressing free speech by banishing protesters to an Orwellian-sounding “free-speech zone.”
Should Ayers have come to FSU or not? Let the debate continue if it must, but let us not pretend the argument is one about the free exchange of important ideas.