Speak All You Want (But Get Away From Those Kids)

There isn’t a college professor alive who doesn’t believe, with all her heart and soul, in academic freedom. At least for her, because hate speech isn’t free speech, you know. But with the caveat that academic freedom must be exercised on the right side of orthodoxy, it must be protected. Even Jonathan Turley says so. At length.

The issue in this case is really not the merits but the threshold question of whether academics should be allowed to express their views on such issues regardless of their objectionable or questionable content. If not, it is difficult to see where the line is to be drawn between permissible and sanctionable speech. There are obviously a wide array of pro and anti speech related to Palestinians and Israeli policies or conduct. Much of this speech is heavily steeped in historical, religious, and political viewpoints. The emphasis should be on whether there is evidence of bias displayed toward students. Obviously, Oberlin is not a state school and thus does not fall under the rules government government parties. Yet, free speech is the coin of the academic realm. It is essential to learning that students and faculty feel free to exchange views as part of an open and robust debate.

Yup, you guessed it. Oberlin prof Joy Karega is back on the docket, but the focus has shifted from her exercise of free speech and academic freedom to the fact that she’s batshit crazy and needs help badly.  Who? Her:


Is it because she supports Palestinians? Nope. She’s allowed. Is it because she hates Israel? Nope. She’s allowed that too. So what distinguishes her speech from free, if hated, to insane?

Joy Karega, an assistant professor of “rhetoric and composition” at Oberlin College, claims the Jewish state secretly planned the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and that its national intelligence agency, the Mossad, formed the terror group.

The problem is that she has lost touch with reality. Put aside, for the moment, that her hatred is consistent with the social justice flavor du jour, and consider the situation if she was a “sovereign citizen,” who was teaching her students in her crim law class that judges in courtrooms with fringed flags had only maritime jurisdiction. Or that a UCC 1-308 is the magic trick that will save you from government control.

Absolutely batshit crazy? Of course. But what if some professor believes it anyway? What about her academic freedom? What about her right to free speech? What about her right to teach it to the children?

The question is whether there is a line between academics believing in far out things, things that are so palpably false that expressing them, teaching them, raises significant questions as to the academic’s intelligence or sanity, and refusing to adhere to the orthodoxy.  One is good. The other, not so much. How does one tell? Where is the line drawn?

Take, for example, a bedrock principle of our society (and our law), that there is no difference in intelligence based on race.  Charles Murray questioned whether this truism was true. He was not universally adored for his efforts.

Columnist Bob Herbert, writing for The New York Times, described the book as “a scabrous piece of racial pornography masquerading as serious scholarship.” “Mr. Murray can protest all he wants,” wrote Herbert; “his book is just a genteel way of calling somebody a nigger.

Resolving the distinction between what is a legitimate belief or area of inquiry and what is just totally off the wall isn’t nearly as easy as it would seem. At risk in the inquiry are students, those young, impressionable mush minds, waiting to be molded into something. Will they emerge smarter, better, more capable people? Will they be indoctrinated to believe some cockamamie nonsense?

What makes this question so difficult is that sometimes, cockamamie nonsense is correct, but current trends compel most of us to accept whatever passes for accepted objective truth. Sometimes it’s easier than others, like 2 + 2 = 4, and other times it’s not so easy, such as the earth is round when everyone knew that it was flat.

[Karega] added “This ain’t even hard. They unleashed Mossad on France and it’s clear why.” She explained that the massacre was part of a conspiracy to stop French support for Palestinians. She also posted a statement that Islamic State is not Islamic, but rather “a CIA and Mossad operation” and even frustration that “there’s too much information out here for the general public not to know this.”

The issue for Joy Karega is twofold. First, she’s entitled to express any view she wants, no matter how batshit crazy, because that’s how America rolls. But second, she is not entitled to hold a position of pedagogy if her views are either so dangerously wrong that she will teach her students to look for the fringes on flags, or she lacks the intellectual capacity to perform her function as an academic competently.

For most of us, the answer lies in our own beliefs. That which confirms us is not only acceptable, but mandatory. We’re right, and so people who agree with us are right too. Then there are beliefs with which we may not agree, but are within the realm of what we perceive to be reasonable possibilities. So even if we aren’t too thrilled with the idea that someone is spreading ideas we believe to be wrong, we’re hesitant to call them out and allow for them to be within the parameters of possibly justified scholarship.

And then, there are ideas that we deem so outside the realm of reality that we refuse to tolerate their being taught to students.  More importantly, because we believe them to be so obviously refuted by objective truth, anyone who holds these ideas must, by definition, be [ableist slur].

No doubt some are nuts. No doubt some lack the intellectual capacity to be allowed anywhere near impressionable young people. But it’s not nearly as easy to decide who they are as one would think. Unless, of course, the solution is that any academic who doesn’t adhere to whatever prevails as common wisdom be deemed crazy and wrong. But if so, then we’ll never break out of the box of the moment’s orthodoxy. So yeah, it’s a problem. And Karega is still nuts.

20 thoughts on “Speak All You Want (But Get Away From Those Kids)

  1. ShelbyC

    Most professors have batshit crazy beliefs. If you let schools decide which belief are batshit, they just feed the students their own flavor of batshit. (Hell, they do that already.) The students will eventually figure out that some of what they are being taught it batshit. The sooner that they learn that some of the people they have to deal with in life are completely nuts, the better.

  2. JAV

    At this point, the most workable solution is debate. If there is “too much information out here for the general public not to know this”, then prof Karega should be able to provide such information as evidence, and have to live with the fact that it will be challenged, and hopefully debunked by the students themselves.

    I say hopefully because the weakest part of my argument is assuming that the students are skilled in critical thinking and would be able to sift the good from the BS in any argument. Recent times have dimmed my hopes.

    1. SHG Post author

      Debate doesn’t take Karega out of the classroom where she’s teaching her students her truths, or at least to have mad critical thinking skillz like her.

  3. DaveL

    Do we know Karega is indeed teaching these beliefs as facts to her students? She is, after all, an “assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition”, not history, international relations, political science, etc. It is often a useful teaching tool in the study of rhetoric to find ways to argue persuasively for propositions that are utterly bonkers. Likewise, some of our greatest literature revels in complete nonsense, just ask Lewis Carrol.

  4. KP

    I don’t see a problem.. Are we to believe the Govt, that some untrained young Muslims left their passports in a bar then flew planes into the WTC and caused them to collapse, even after they were built to withstand exactly that problem??

    Believing the official Govt narrative is no stranger than believing the other side, they both ignore the arguments that punch holes in their story.

    Besides, should every student of economics believe in Keyne’s theories, even though they are currently flavour de jour and have bought world trade to its knees? Should every science student embrace global warming because that’s how their Prof gets his research paid for? Should every law studnt believe the Govt is always correct because they make the laws, and to hell with the Constitution?

    Let her rip SHG, the more batshit crazy there is, the greater the chance of the truth being accidently told…

    1. SHG Post author

      The “more batshit crazy there is, the greater the chance of the truth being accidently told,” is idiotic. But hey, if that’s who you want to be, and you aren’t teaching kids, whatever.

  5. Scott Jacobs

    If the suggestion that the attacks in France were a false flag, and it is Israel pretending to be ISIS, shouldn’t the image be of Netanyahu pulling an ISIS mask over his face, not the other way around?

    Or is she suggesting that Israel is a front for ISIS?

  6. JimEd

    Pedagogy is a pretty expensive word to throw around. Although a google search reveals your fondness for it.

    I’ve been trying to come up with an actual response to your latest installment of “Another thing you can’t fix.” It is bothersome.

      1. JimEd

        Thank you for deleting my frankly terrible third paragraph. Even if it means Ken looks like he is drunk.

        Sorry Ken.

  7. albeed

    Somehow, that Joy has bat-shit ideas and may present these ideas to her students does not disturb me so much as this is just an extreme end of an everyday continuum (just look at the media). I hope that at the age of eighteen, most students are beginning to think critically. If not, our whole education system is a failure.

    As an engineer, I consider everyday legal concepts as taught at Law Schools to also be bat-shit crazy (honoring precedent to the exclusion of reason, the infallibility of the Supremes because they are final, acceptance of sham-forensic science statements, dog scent probable cause, mistaking legality for justice, etc.). I just look at what I have to do and do my best, even if just to throw up my hands in disgust and trying not to spread more bat-shit crazy ideas.

    Understanding human nature in its fullest is hard.

  8. Dave Seeder

    So this person, whose speech you don’t agree with, should lose her job because of the children. Have you thought of a hashtag yet for your campaign?

    I expected you to end the post with “Nothing you can do folks, the 1st Amendment people, maybe, I don’t know”, to make sure nobody misambiguated your satire.

  9. John Rew

    I would have thought that teachers, being paid, would be required to teach factual information and accepted theories. Free speech would be most important for students who should be encouraged to question and research what they are being taught . Unfortunately this seems, in practice, to be the other way around. The trouble with mainstream theories is not that they are taught to people but that they are treated like religious beliefs that should not be questioned . I have this problem with global warming . I can quite believe that it may be happening but once the term “global warming denialist” became popular I knew that it was impossible to trust any further theories because to question them was now considered an immoral act. It is important for students to have the latitude to question accepted beliefs and theories in the classroom but surely for the sake of consistency and to avoid confusion all teachers should be teaching much the same thing.

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