As in dozens Among other states, the Ohio General Assembly is considering a bill defining a list of “dividing concepts” that cannot be “promoted” by colleges. As a professor of ethnic studies, I feared this moment and the restrictions it will place on my teaching. Substitute for Ohio HB 327the Act to Promote Education, Not Indoctrination, orders each university to rewrite its tenure rules to incorporate these prohibitions, putting teeth behind its censorship.
Some of the seven ideas prohibited from being promoted by HB 327 seem like common sense: no one should teach that “individuals of any race…are inherently superior or inferior” – indeed, ethnic studies was founded on the mission of dispel these ideas. But other forbidden concepts are so broad that they encompass well-established areas of research and debate. Prohibiting discussion that “an individual…is inherently racist…whether consciously or unconsciously” runs counter to a rich stream of psychological research on cognitive biases. To prohibit debate on whether “individuals should be treated unfavorably or favorably…on the basis of their race” effectively prohibits consideration of any possible remedy for racial prejudice.
For the first time in Ohio’s history, HB 327 would define what “promoting” a concept means for higher education. Promotion is “seeking to advance or encourage the support of a partisan philosophy or religion by indoctrination, coercion, coercion, or teaching an individual or group of individuals to accepting a set of beliefs in a unilateral, biased and uncritical way”.
When I first read this sentence, I was offended, as any conscientious educator would be. Throughout my career, I have strived to create an atmosphere in which students can feel comfortable expressing their views and experimenting with their ideas, no matter how misguided they may be. Countless times I’ve held my nose and given an essay claiming race is inherently biological an A because it was well written and cited relevant sources, even though it was Murray, Rushton and Davenport – on the margins of academia. I have often bragged about completing an entire semester without my students having any idea of my personal politics.
Walking across campus after a particularly disappointing introductory ethnic studies class in which two brothers had fun trying to rattle me with their occasional racism, I suddenly realized: This bill is not my oppressor. . He is my liberator! HB 327 would not prohibit indoctrination, coercion, coercion, or unilateral teaching in general! Our wise legislators don’t just pass a useless bill saying that college professors shouldn’t engage in such teaching behavior in any case. They are forbidden to do so only to promote these concepts, not to suppress them!
In a democracy, what is not prohibited is permitted, and prohibiting a restricted activity implies condoning similar activities outside the law. Moreover, if these “dividing concepts” are so dangerous and destructive that the State of Ohio has a compelling interest in banning them, then I must certainly have the right to use the tools at my disposal to eradicate them from my class.
The GOP is about to free me from the stupidity and insolence of the brothers. They gave me back my mace and my shield. I can embrace the principles set out in this bill and stand in for their champion, and woe to any undergraduates who dare to mess with them!
When the next suburban Susan tells the class that it’s okay for white people to use the N-word because “everyone is a little bit racist” (Forbidden Concept #3, “That an individual… is inherently racist”), I’ll pounce. When a small-town Travis blurts out his stereotypical characterization of a minority group (a violation of Concept #7, “that an individual’s moral character or worth is necessarily determined by the individual’s race” ), I will rally every particle of my decade of advanced training and every book and article that I have read and written to break their resistance until they beg me to fill their heads with true, government-approved knowledge. State that I own. If anyone in my class dares claim that America is the greatest country in the world (a clear violation of the first prohibition against the belief that “individuals of any…national origin are inherently superior”), I ‘ll drive their beliefs into the ground like Sherman crossed Georgia. I will make all these students cry, and when they do, their tears will be the glorious victory of Lincoln’s party.
Some may argue that by launching my own little cultural revolution to eradicate those who secretly harbor any of the seven deviant and forbidden concepts, I am in violation of Principle #4, that everyone should be held accountable for actions committed in the past by someone of his own race. Obviously, I’m not, because I make my students feel guilt and shame for their clean racism, not someone else’s.
There is another great unforeseen opportunity offered by the blank check that professors receive to enforce these thoughtcrimes. If faculty members across the country do like me and reject all racists, there will be a lot more opportunity for people of color, because they express forbidden beliefs much less often. Who needs the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in admissions when our anti-racism inquisition will free up so many seats?
I finally made peace with Big Brother, and I have President Trump’s party to thank for my release. Or should I say, comrade Asset.