Last weekend, I drove down from Wrightsville Beach, NC, to do a book signing at Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, SC (I have a hard life, by the way). Almost every customer that came to the book signing was from another part of the country. As such, the event provided a great chance to get a sense of what is on the minds of voters all around the nation, just before a crucial election.
Although the conversations varied, most of them ended up focusing on the politics of education. After all, that was what my book was about, not to mention 90% of my columns.
But interestingly, the discussions seemed to focus, not on certain groups (feminists, gay activists, etc.), but on the issue of campus speech codes. For example:
*a Democrat from Pennsylvania agreed that both parties must launch a unified effort to abolish speech codes at all public universities.
*an eighth grader from Alexandria, Virginia asked why campuses were becoming so Orwellian in their use of euphemisms. He had just finished reading 1984 and commented on how prescient Orwell had been.
*families from Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee all asked for advice on handling liberal professors who grade their children according to their political and religious convictions.
But the fun finally ended when a loud-mouthed woman came strutting up to the table to present me with the sophisticated argument that I needed to ?get a life.? It seems that the woman recognized my name from newspaper accounts of a controversy I had been involved in a few months ago at another university.
After an unpleasant exchange over that controversy, we somehow got on to the topic of affirmative action ?cookie bake sales.? Of course, she opposes such sales because (you guessed it) they are a form of ?hate speech.?
This enlightened love-speaking liberal informed me that it would be different if the people conducting the bake sales really wished to open a debate on affirmative action. But since they were all merely a) greedy people who only wanted to keep what was theirs and b) misled by Fox News (which she said wasn?t really news at all), students really don?t have a right to use the bake sale parody to mock affirmative action on a public university campus.
After her public display of willful constitutional ignorance (heard by everyone in Walden Books), I asked her the $64,000 question: what do you do for a living?
You probably guessed the answer. She is a professor in the UNC system.
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