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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 10, 2021 5 days ago

A response to a response

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Letter writer’s thoughtful letter raised questions that challenged whether our objections to CRT were hypocritical, given our laissez-faire, free-market leanings. We felt compelled to respond.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

When we published the May 27 editorial, “Misguided obsession with race,” the intent was to inform our readers of some of the activities occurring in Florida’s taxpayer-supported universities with respect to the controversial issue of critical race theory.

Frankly, prior to that, we hadn’t heard much about it. But as more and more stories aired on news programs and in newspapers, we were exposed to the website CriticalRace.org, which has documented how critical race theory is being promulgated in more than 200 U.S. universities and colleges.

Curiosity got us. What about Florida’s public universities? Surely some taxpayers and, in particular, parents and grandparents who are paying thousands of dollars for their children to attend these schools might want to know.

Sure enough, there was information people would want to know — should know.

Granted, the editorial provided only slices of how our public university administrators have engaged their institutions in this arena. But based on our limited research, there was enough information to prompt us to conclude the taxpayer-funded universities are promoting “the false, destructive, divisive, narrative that the U.S. is systemically racist.”

Well, that did it.

That comment triggered a response from Sarasota resident, Terry Hynes, former dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida (1994 to 2006).

We seldom do this, but Hynes’ thoughtful letter raised questions that challenged whether our objections to CRT were hypocritical, given our laissez-faire, free-market leanings. We felt compelled to respond:

  • “[I]t is at least surprising that a person who supports a free marketplace for commerce would oppose analyzing critical race theory by applying the classical, libertarian concept of a ‘free marketplace of ideas,’ which assumes that, in a fight between truth and falsehood, ‘truth will out.’”

We are all for a free marketplace of ideas. But we need convincing that is what exists at our universities, especially when all of the CEOs of the universities come across in their actions that they are believers that our nation is systemically racist.

What’s more, when anyone peruses the courses and curricula at, say, the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, just to name two, you can’t help but develop the strong impression and thought that these universities are not free marketplaces of ideas. They’re more one-sided.

Maybe it’s just us, but what is one to think when you see that UF’s College of Arts & Sciences offers 35 courses on gender, sexualities and women’s studies? It offers 25 courses on African-American studies. It offers eight courses on Latin American studies. Hispanic students, meanwhile, comprise 19.5% of the UF undergraduate student body; black students comprise 5.6% of the undergrad population.

The College of Arts & Sciences also has a link to what it calls “a comprehensive list” of courses — 192 in all — on race and racism, social justice and social inequalities.

Even the USF College of Engineering has its own division of diversity and inclusion, including a program whose top objective is developing the “advancement of minority women in STEM as faculty.” And, to be expected, in the USF Department of Economics, you’ll find these elective courses: Economics of Inequality.

Maybe these courses are all legitimate subject matters. But help us out: Where are the counter-balancing courses about men, heterosexual people, the virtues of capitalism or, heaven forbid, a course that explores the legions of Americans who contributed remarkable inventions that have made this country and the world a better place? God forbid there be a course or two that celebrates the goodness of the greatest nation on earth.

  • “CRT is … an alternative approach to understanding the politics, economy, culture and — especially with CRT — the legal system.”

“An alternative approach to understanding”? How can there be rational understanding when CRT’s proponents have a foundational belief that U.S. laws and institutions are inherently racist and function to maintain social, economic and political inequalities between white people and nonwhite people, especially black people?

  • “CRT aims to provide a corrective lens to the ‘great [white] man’ theory.”

Hmm. Never heard that theory before. Do tell. White men: always the bad guys.

  • “[H]e fails to identify sources in a fair and balanced way (one right-leaning website does not suffice) or sort out the evidence he would need to make a reasoned and reasonable case against it.”

We know a toad when we see one. Any theory that requires training sessions for white government employees to stand up and denounce themselves for being white doesn’t need evidence of “fair and balanced.” That isn’t fair and balanced.

  • “Why should parents … fear students being exposed to issues related to diversity and inclusion?”

As they say on Madison Avenue, “it’s all in the presentation.” What is “inclusion”? Quotas based on skin color? On skills? On merit? How does “inclusion” square with a society historically based on merit, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s admonition not to judge by the color of your skin but by the content of your character? Sorry, diversity and inclusion always smack of quotas.

  • “Does the editor really think we have eliminated from our schools or other institutions the inequities of racism, sexism and other biases that damage our ability to govern ourselves?”

No. Sadly, they will always exist, some more than others. There will always be bad people; prejudiced people. Sure, we need to continue to strive to improve. But compared to most other countries, where would you rather be — Saudi Arabia?

  • “Does the editor who flourishes in a country that supports freedom of expression as a foundational value really think students suffer from exploring ideas that show us where our historical aspirations fall short? I would like to think not.”

We do not. But in the interest of fair and balanced, do our universities ever explore the ideas and examples that show our nation’s historical achievements in a positive light vis-a-vis, say, China and Russia’s genocidal regimes? All we hear is how awful we are.

  • “A search for truth … is best achieved by exposing students and others to a wholistic exploration of issues, ideas, events — supported with relevant evidence — that will enable them to reach fair and balanced conclusions.”

Indeed. “Wholistic” is the key. But how is it “wholistic” when the university presidents and their generals embrace the claim and beat the drum that we are prima-facie systemically racist?

Just as we try to remain neutral and present both, or multiple sides, in our news reporting, it would be far more helpful to the health of our nation if our institutions of higher learning strived for similar balance.

Today, it sure doesn’t appear to be there.

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