New training from the University of Oklahoma obtained by the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) shows the school actively encourages instructors to censor and indoctrinate students who don’t subscribe to Leftist orthodoxy.
FIRE reported that a recording of a workshop titled “Anti-Racist Rhetoric & Pedagogies” raises serious First Amendment concerns by training “instructors on how to eliminate disfavored but constitutionally protected expression from the classroom and guide assignments and discussion into preferred areas — all for unambiguously ideological and viewpoint-based reasons.”
In video of the training posted to FIRE’s website, one workshop leader, Kelli Pyron Alvarez, can be seen claiming that undergraduate students are “a little bit more emboldened to be racist.” She said she bans “derogatory remarks, critiques, and hate speech,” from her classroom, as well as “white supremacist ideas or sources,” unless they are used to condemn racism.
But as FIRE notes, what Pyron Alvarez considers to fall into these categories is never explained, yet she still said, “If they use any of those things, if any of those come through in their writing or in their comments, I will call them out on it.” If they make a mistake a second time, she told attendees they should “report them.”
The training obtained by FIRE also showed instructors “how they might lead students not only to topics the instructors find appropriate, but also to the side of the argument that the instructors prefer” in a class that’s supposed to allow students to choose their own research topics.
Pyron Alvarez acknowledges that instructors might be worried about getting in trouble for suppressing student speech.
“Like we can’t tell students that they can’t say something in class. But we can! And let me tell you how,” she said.
Another workshop leader, Kasey Woody, told instructors that they can “steer” students away from “problematic territory.”
“I, in this case, usually look for my students who might be, like, entertaining the idea of listening to a problematic argument. Then I say, ‘we don’t have to listen to that,’” she said.
Woody also reassured attendees that they wouldn’t be punished for violating students’ First Amendment rights.
“You do not need to worry about repercussions at any degree in the university if you are responding to a student who is using problematic language in the classroom,” she said.
Pyron Alvarez claimed the Supreme Court gave instructors the right to censor students.
“The Supreme Court has actually upheld that hate speech, derogatory speech, any of the -isms do not apply in the classroom because they do not foster a productive learning environment. And so, as instructors we can tell our students: ‘no, you do not have the right to say that. Stop talking right now’, right?” she said.
Professors cannot abuse their power to require students to personally adhere to a particular viewpoint or ideology. As the AAUP has written, instructors have academic freedom of “instruction, not indoctrination.” It can be hard to define precisely where this line falls, but there’s no question that a significant amount of this workshop teaches participants how to indoctrinate instead of how to instruct.
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