Author’s Note: I’ll be speaking at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio on April 19. The event will start in Harrison Hall, room 111, at 6 p.m. The speech is called “Three Liberal Assaults on Free Speech (and Three Conservative Solutions)."Because it is about free speech in public forums, the speech is free and open to the public.
Tyranny is never more than a generation away. Those who wish to impose tyranny prey upon the ignorance of those they wish to subjugate. Knowing that it is easier to deprive people of their rights if they are unaware of their rights, academic elites often forsake their responsibilities in order to further their own political goals. In other words, they seek to preserve ignorance, rather than advance knowledge.
Against this backdrop, last spring I decided to dedicate an entire course to teaching the First Amendment. I’m writing this column to show one way it can be done and to show how it has been received by students. I hope other professors follow a similar path. Our students need to know what they risk losing if they remain indifferent to their God-given rights.
I originally intended (pun originally intended) to call my course “The First Amendment and Original Intent.” I also intended to use David Barton’s book Original Intent as a text. Additionally, I planned on covering 53 U.S. Supreme Court decisions. You can imagine how well that proposal went over. There was a predictable administrative “suggestion” that I change the title of the course. This was followed by a “suggestion” that I use a couple of texts written by avowed Marxists.
I successfully fought both the effort to change the course title and to “suggest” Marxist texts. In the wake of that success, I am left wondering whether a Marxist professor has ever had a capitalist administrator “suggest” that he teach using Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, or Thomas Sowell. These administrators are very predictable. Dripping with hypocritical condescension, they see academic freedom as a one way street.
But I prevailed – at least until a crisis emerged. An error in scheduling resulted in a request for me to cancel the First Amendment class and teach one of our senior seminars, which is required for graduation. The crux of the problem was that only one 25-student seminar was being offered - although there were fifty seniors graduating from our department. (Author’s note: I am not certain why we choose to call a class of 25 a “seminar” but that is beside the point).