This is downtown Custer, South Dakota, a most wonderful town of 2,067 people (as of the 2010 census). I could easily live there, though winters must be harsh. Perhaps Katherine and I could spend every winter in Fort Worth and every summer in Custer. Click to enlarge.
First, the title of the law—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—is shameless Orwellian doublespeak. The people of Indiana have not been deprived of their “religious freedom.” Fortunately, the First Amendment to the federal Constitution guarantees that freedom.
And in seeking to defend the new law, Gov. Mike Pence wonders, “The issue here is, you know, is tolerance a two-way street or not?” The governor is confused. Vulnerable minorities, like gays and lesbians, do not have an obligation to tolerate others’ intolerance of them.
Note from KBJ: Two can play this game. Those who believe that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered condition (see paragraph 2357 of this document) and that homosexual sex is depraved and immoral do not have an obligation to tolerate homosexuals' intolerance of them.
Note 2 from KBJ: Leftists love forcing Christians to act against their religious beliefs. What will they do when a Muslim refuses to cater a gay wedding, on the ground that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with Islamic teaching? There will be two victim classes pitted against one another. Which victim class has priority?
In the last two decades in America, there has indeed been a precipitous decline in academic standards and scholarship. In classrooms across the country, ideological indoctrination has supplanted intellectual inquiry as academic discipline. Marxism, a theory long consigned with flat-earthism to the intellectual mausoleum, has been raised from the dead to a place of respect in the university curriculum. Racial and gender discrimination against Asians and white males has been institutionalized as enlightened academic policy. Professional associations once devoted to the promotion of scholarship have been turned into political lobbies for totalitarian causes and terrorist elites.
I had a good month on the bike. I rode 13 times for a total of 397.8 miles (including 153 miles in the past eight days). That gives me 1,009.8 miles in 2015. I'm on my way to having my second-best mileage year ever (of 35). I've been riding since 1981. Today's ride was great fun. The weather was warm; the wind was moderate; I felt good; and I had a respectable average speed (17.45 miles per hour for 30.6 miles). I listened to Rush Limbaugh for the first hour and switched to music for the remainder of the ride.
I have seen two mentions in The Chronicle that stated California has one year’s worth of water left. I have seen nothing about state government making any effort toward obtaining more water, mainly at this point desalinization. Yet, we will be spending a huge amount for flood control, in case monster storms come. Though that money and plan were probably part of some bond approved years ago, perhaps we ought to fast-forward and switch that money toward somehow getting more water.
A pipeline a la Keystone (which I am against) from the frozen and then flooded Northeast and Midwestern United States would not be hard to build, and building it means jobs for many. Is everybody in state government tying our economic survival (the economy will collapse without water) and our lives to hopes and prayers for rain? Hard to believe, but I haven’t heard a word about anything else.
Judith Kirk, Redwood City
Note from KBJ: Good luck trying to get Great Lakes water.
Call me old-fashioned (I've been called far worse), but I want a physical instantiation or realization of my music. I began with eight-track tapes, moved my collection to cassette tape, and, beginning in the late 1980s, migrated to compact discs. (I think I've owned one or two vinyl albums in my life. I consider vinyl the worst possible music medium.) Yes, I have my music collection (more than 9,000 songs) in the cloud (iTunes Match, to be precise), for use with my iPhone and iPad, but I wouldn't want it just there. I want to know that, if the cloud stops working, I have my music here in my house, ready for use.
The Final Four is set: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, and Michigan State. Two of the teams (Kentucky and Wisconsin) are holdovers from 2014. There will be a new champion this year, since Connecticut won a year ago. Three of the Final Four teams are #1 seeds. Michigan State is a #7 seed. Two of the teams are from the South and two from the Midwest. All four head coaches are white. I say that not because I'm a racist (though, to some idiots, every white person, simply by virtue of being white, is a racist) but because it's remarkable. Basketball is a black sport, in the sense that most players in the collegiate and professional ranks are black. (Okay, Division I collegiate rank.) There are black head coaches in Division I, to be sure, but this year none of them made it to the Final Four. I'm in a large NCAA pool this year. I correctly picked three of the Final Four teams. (I had Villanova instead of Michigan State in the East regional.) Look for a classic Kentucky-Duke final (sorry, Steve), with Kentucky winning. The Wildcats, now 38-0, will finish 40-0. People who are sick to death of seeing Kentucky, Duke, and Michigan State in the Final Four will root for Wisconsin, I'm sure. As for me, a native Michigander, I can't bring myself to root for Cheeseheads, so I'll be watching dispassionately.
Addendum: Kentucky has won eight NCAA titles, most recently in 2012. Duke has won four titles, most recently in 2010. Michigan State has won two titles, most recently in 2000. Wisconsin has won one title, in 1941.
I haven't watched MSNBC in years. There is no balance, or even a pretense thereof. Chris Matthews is a sputtering, race-baiting fool—a one-trick pony. Lawrence O'Donnell, not to put too fine a point on it, is psychopathic. (He would have made a good Nazi.) Rachel Maddow is a sneering elitist who wouldn't know a fair argument if it hit her in her butchy face. I'm pleased to see that the network's ratings are plummeting. The network adds nothing to our national discourse on any important topic. Its sole aim appears to be to increase tension between the races. There is a special place in hell for such people.
Readers discuss whether colleges should be protecting students from distressing ideas.
To the Editor:
Re “Hiding From Scary Ideas” (Sunday Review, March 22): Judith Shulevitz’s ridicule of “safe spaces” on college campuses is misguided. Students at Brown did not muzzle free speech during a debate about sexual assault; they merely created a place where some could retreat if they needed to. Shouldn’t students have the freedom to speak with their feet and leave? They have been doing that forever, but in Ms. Shulevitz’s view, it’s now a sign of coddled young people increasingly afraid to confront unpopular opinions.
In the good old days, when students, according to her, were “hardier souls,” sexual harassment and abuse were rampant on campuses, practiced openly by male professors without fear of consequence. Making college spaces safe from this predatory behavior—as well as from racist and homophobic attacks—is a moral and legal imperative. While it is not easy to balance safety with freedom of speech, mutual respect goes a long way toward solving the problem. I don’t need to pronounce the n-word to have a productive discussion about racism. Obsessing over my right to hurt and offend seems especially myopic at a time when black men face far graver threats to their lives and security.
KIRK SAVAGE Pittsburgh
The writer is a professor of art history at the University of Pittsburgh.
To the Editor:
Thank you! Finally someone has the courage and insight to question the hypersensitization and infantilization of the young American female, something that, as a woman and a strident feminist when in college in the early ’90s, I abhor.
JENNIFER EDWARDS Boston
To the Editor:
Judith Shulevitz says “self-infantilization” has permeated today’s universities, but doesn’t mention a crucial fact. Today’s student populations are far more diverse than generations past when measured by gender, race and ethnicity, religious background and open sexual orientation. In a diverse population we need to understand that not only will different views and arguments surface, but so will different experiences of receiving and interpreting the words and gestures of others.
This is a balance that all courts struggle with in diverse democratic societies. We have to strike a balance between positive freedoms, such as the freedom of speaking your mind, and negative freedoms, such as the freedom from being hurt by the words or conduct of others. This applies to our university settings. The issue is not so much whether free speech is being curtailed for members of a younger generation who are not willing to expand their minds or question their beliefs. Rather, it is the recognition of the moral duties and obligations to protect individuals in a diverse environment without compromising what universities essentially stand for: the free expression and expansion of minds.
RAJESH SAMPATH Waltham, Mass.
The writer is an assistant professor of the philosophy of justice, rights and social change at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.
To the Editor:
Reading Judith Shulevitz’s article, I experienced an updated version of déjà vu. We’ve apparently come full circle. In the 1950s and early ’60s, colleges assumed that they were charged to act in loco parentis, keeping their young female students “safe” with curfews. Today, have we merely exchanged the philosophy of in loco parentis for hovering “helicopter” parents and nervous university presidents and deans? While we should strive to teach respectful discourse, even if adversarial, and to promote an environment conducive to growth, we all know what lies beyond a university’s gates.
Within those gates lies the perfect opportunity to learn how to handle real-life challenges and not to muzzle uncomfortable, even vile, speech.
BARBARA L. CULLEN Watertown, Mass.
To the Editor:
Judith Shulevitz’s article about safe spaces on college campuses is a direct assault on my generation and what we find important. My generation has embraced the ideas of safe spaces and safe language. Without these, many victims of trauma or discrimination would be excluded from campus discussions that seek to cultivate and strengthen campus intellectual life. Truly open-minded intellectual growth desperately needs the participation of these groups.
Not all ideas are created equal. Some ought to be unreservedly condemned; consideration of such ideas is not at all helpful in bolstering campus intellectual life. The current generation of college students has denied validity to the failed ideas of the past. We have embraced the knowledge and empathy of the present. We are shaping the wisdom of the future.
ANDREW MEERWARTH Stony Brook, N.Y.
The writer is a senior at Stony Brook University.
To the Editor:
I am dismayed by Judith Shulevitz’s belittling response to student trauma. I teach an undergraduate class on “Sexualities and Race.” We discuss challenging issues like campus rape, human trafficking, pornography and sex work. “Scary ideas” certainly. Tragically, for some students these ideas are also scary realities. My students engage these issues with intellectual rigor and great courage. Yes, I give trigger warnings, and try to make my class a safe space.
Five students in my class were recently raped. One sits at the back so she has walls behind her, close to the door in case panic overwhelms her. I wonder how Ms. Shulevitz would deal with a student triggered into a major panic attack. Or a student whose friend was murdered by a cop. Making cheap jibes at a safe room with “cookies” and “Play-Doh” infantilizes the real-life traumas these students face too young, and belittles their right to face these intellectual and personal challenges in safe ways.
ANNE McCLINTOCK Madison, Wis.
The writer is a professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
To the Editor:
“Hiding From Scary Ideas” reproduces a common, and unnecessary, dichotomy between intellectual engagement and safe space. In educational contexts, free expression should promote not only intellectual but also social and emotional learning. Why not consider safe spaces places where people both get offended, upset, hurt or otherwise struggle, and are supported in processing those inevitabilities? We have seen that kind of thinking transform classroom dialogues so we all learn to avoid talking past one another.
Dr. Torosyan is director of teaching and learning at Bridgewater State University. Dr. Cook-Sather is a professor of education at Bryn Mawr College and director of the Teaching and Learning Institute at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.