Academic Freedom

State Lawmakers Can't Ban Critical Race Theory on College Campuses

State legislatures have leeway to regulate K-12 curriculum, but attempting the same on college campuses is a violation of academic freedom.

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Legislators in at least 10 states have introduced bills to regulate speech by professors on college campuses, according to a recent report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Bills introduced in Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, and South Carolina "contain unconstitutional bans on what can be taught in college classrooms," writes FIRE's Joe Cohn, who adds that "they must not be enacted in their current form." 

While legislators have "broader (but not unlimited) authority to set K-12 curriculum," Cohn writes, "the First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom prevent the government from banning ideas from collegiate classrooms." 

Iowa's House File 222 and Oklahoma's House Bill 2988 would reduce state funding to public universities that teach American history with the use of The 1619 Project, a controversial collection of essays that attempts to "reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the United States' national narrative," John McWhorter wrote for Reason.  

"The general assembly has a strong interest in promoting an accurate account of this nation's history through public schools and forming young people into knowledgeable and patriotic citizens," H.F. 222 reads. 

Although Oklahoma already passed a bill that regulated speech regarding race and gender in educational settings in 2021, Rep. Jim Olsen (R–Roland) claims that it wasn't as effective as intended. "I think one thing that we learned in that bill, is that we didn't have any teeth to it," he said to ABC News (KTUL)

Schools in Oklahoma that include The 1619 Project in the curriculum would face up to a 10 percent reduction in state funding.

In a move similar to Oklahoma, South Carolina's state legislature wants to ban teaching "any of the tenets" of critical race theory in colleges. The bill, H4799, would also ban the use of The 1619 Project in teaching. 

Alabama's House Bill 11 would prohibit colleges from teaching certain concepts regarding race or sex, such as critical race theory. "This bill would also require public K-12 schools and public institutions of higher education to terminate the employment of any employees who violate its provisions," the legislation reads. 

Kentucky Republicans introduced House Bill 18 on January 4. The bill prohibits "classroom instruction or discussion that promotes designated concepts related to race, sex, and religion." H.B. 18 extends the regulation of race-related concepts to higher education that was originally restricted to K-12 in House Bill 14. 

"It has been decades since there was any question that government bans on what can be taught in college classes are unconstitutional," FIRE's Cohn writes. He points to the landmark 1957 case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire, in which the Supreme Court affirmed the right of academic freedom in higher education. 

"To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation," the opinion reads. "No field of education is so thoroughly comprehended by man that new discoveries cannot yet be made. Particularly is that true in the social sciences, where few, if any, principles are accepted as absolutes. Scholarship cannot flourish in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust."

While there are numerous reasons to not treat The 1619 Project as a stand-alone source for American history, students do not need to be protected from its ideas. Academia is, in fact, an ideal setting to engage critically with its claims. As for "promoting an accurate account of this nation's history," as Iowa's bill and several others claim to do, that requires acknowledging and respecting the constitutional protections afforded to speakers on college campuses.

NEXT: New York Restricts Free Legal Advice. Now It Faces a First Amendment Lawsuit

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  1. Your right. They should follow the lefts footsteps and simply deny all public funds and accreditation to any institution that teaches crt, as well as paying a law giving students explicit cause to sue any school that teaches it for causing a hostile learning environment. There is a very clear road map already helpfully laid out by the left on how to do these things.

    1. This is why libertarians can't ally with the modern right (or the left). While we may agree that CRT is garbage, we're not willing to sacrifice our principles to win some silly culture war. We're ok allowing adults to hear things which we don't agree with, because that's what freedom actually is.

      1. We're ok allowing adults to hear things which we don't agree with,

        This does not describe everything objectionable to CRT.

      2. Considering the ubiquity, intensity and longevity to which the left has manufactured and preserved both implicit and explicit intolerance of any smidgen of philosophical dissent in State university systems, it's almost cute when libertarians think they are equating their abhorrence by including "[and the left]" as an afterthought.

        I don't like it when anyone stifles free expression/thought at an adult level. Silly legislation to be sure, but let's not pretend that that idea isn't borne out of frustration to draw a line on a field of play where the other side occupies a 99-1 strategic advantage, dictates if you can play, provides all the refs and commentary, and owns the field and the concession stands. Putting away the knife may be good in principle, but it only works when both people do it.

        1. That's right. It's Always Team Blue's Fault
          When Team Blue behaves badly, it's their fault.
          When Team Red behaves badly, it's only because Team Blue made them do it.

          1. Missed you in Robbie’s story about CRT being taught in schools Lying Jeffy.

    2. Ug this is what I get for not reading the comments before posting.

    3. Came to the comment section to offer exactly the comment Illocust makes above. It's long past time for state legislatures to start using the power of the purse that legislatures control. Courts have difficulty ordering the legislature to "spend" or "fund" a particular expenditure, and they have a lot more difficulty enforcing whatever such rulings they are foolish enough to issue. A state legislature with some principle accompanied by just a tad of backbone can defy even a federal judge on spending, though it can provoke an improvident judge into issuing rulings that might even wake up lemmings.

  2. I guess it’s progress that the defenders of CRT now admit it actually exists.

    1. "It's happening, but it's a good thing" is the current status.

    2. Yeah, but it's now just defined as "teaching history". On the same scale that Fort Hood was "workplace violence".

  3. Stop using the "CRT" label.
    Defund racism from any point of view.

    1. Be careful what you wish for. We live in a world where the modern left is calling many ideas with which I'm guessing you and I agree with as being racist.

      We should promote freedom for ALL ideas, lest ours might fall out of fashion.

      1. Not sure about yours, but mine have been out of fashion for decades.

  4. All of these bills are unnecessary. CRT is racist and thus teaching it as fact or managing schools based on its principles violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Anyone doing so is guilty of violating the civil rights of anyone effected.

    Forget reducing budgets by 10%, put these racists in jail.

    1. “You can’t be racist against whites.”

      1. Inventing stupid and self-serving ideas doesn't make them right.

        1. They don’t care if they’re right, only that they win.

  5. They should focus their efforts where there are no First Amendment issues, not at the faculty, but at the staff. And I don't mean crack down on their language, I mean, eliminate all their bullshit administration jobs that have been added over the years, both those in service of ideological goals and those designed to suck up all that subsidized loan money (and, yes, I realize that these are not mutually exclusive).

  6. LOL can they decide to simply withhold money until the schools 'voluntarily' comply - aka the Biden method?

  7. State legislatures have leeway to regulate K-12 curriculum, but attempting the same on college campuses is a violation of academic freedom.

    It's quite weird - and unexplained - why people believe that when "academic freedom" and state law conflict "academic freedom" prevails. This is simply not the case.

  8. College students once again treated as mindless skulls of mush who need enlightened Republicans to tell them what to think.

    At what point is an adult considered adult enough to think for himself? In Oklahoma, the answer seems to be fairly late in life.

    1. This is incredibly hilarious after living through the last two years.

    2. At what point is an adult considered adult enough to think for himself?

      Age is immaterial. A person attending school on the public dime isn't thinking for themselves.

      1. And CRT is specifically designed to tell you WHAT to think, not how to think. It's designed into the theory and course instruction. Literally.

        The creators of CRT have literally stated that students are "not to question" the conclusions of CRT, but may only ask questions for "further clarification and understanding" of the theory. People really have no understanding of what CRT is, how awful it is, and how sinister the people pushing it are.

        1. With all due respect, every theory I have ever taught in my classroom is telling people "what" to think...not "how" to think. That's the profs role: to show students how to break theories down into their fundamental assumptions/arguments and then assess the robustness/accuracy/completeness/etc. of that. And for what its worth, the 20 minutes or so I spend on critical theory in a semester is most definitely not aimed at inculcating "not to question." In fact, my students and I usually get into a pretty fun discussion about all the limitations/criticisms one can level against the theory (just as is the case with all the other theories I teach). Students usually pick up pretty quickly that theories like this are unidimensional, essentialist, and reductionistic...completely incapable of understanding any social phenomena outside of the lens of power/oppression. For whatever reason, it seems its harder to to do this with graduate students than undergraduates. Perhaps the former have been more heavily indoctrinated? I'm not really sure...just a trend I've noticed the last few years.

          1. With all due respect, every theory I have ever taught in my classroom is telling people "what" to think...not "how" to think. That's the profs role: to show students how to break theories down into their fundamental assumptions/arguments and then assess the

            Would you allow your students to question what they've been told? If you were a professor of a particular line of study which literally had no empirical basis, would you accept no challenge to it, let alone be prepared to meet that challenge?

            There IS fundamental difference in teaching children how to use their heads and just telling them "here are the facts, don't question them, and any questioning of these facts is racist".

            That's literally what the creators of Critical Race theory have demanded for teaching their programs.

            Not everything children are taught is a STEM class where theories can be tested in a lab. Not everything is a fact, and so the job of the educator is to give children the tools to come to the best conclusions. You can certainly teach them a particular set of conclusions that most closely meet the facts as they're interpreted, but as one former Reason alumnus said, it's a fact that the Japanese invaded Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, it's not a "fact" why.

          2. Graduate students are older and smart, and hence, less heavily indoctrinated.

          3. With all due respect, every theory I have ever taught in my classroom is telling people "what" to think...not "how" to think.

            ^Shit that didn't happen and even if it did:
            "I am a shitty teacher." - JoeFrida... I mean, totally not JoeFriday, but JoeJoetheIdiotCircusBoy

            Students usually pick up pretty quickly that theories like this are unidimensional, essentialist, and reductionistic...completely incapable of understanding any social phenomena outside of the lens of power/oppression. For whatever reason, it seems its harder to to do this with graduate students than undergraduates. Perhaps the former have been more heavily indoctrinated? I'm not really sure...just a trend I've noticed the last few years.

            Probably because morons like you teach "unidimensional, essentialist, and reductionistic...completely incapable of understanding any social phenomena outside of [sic] their own lens" ideas as 'theories' rather than *dogma* or conjecture.

    3. College students once again treated as mindless skulls of mush

      Professor Kingsfield approves.

    4. “Thinking for yourself”= being forced to sit through a racist lecture.

  9. State Lawmakers Can't Ban Critical Race Theory on College Campuses

    "Not funding with taxpayer dollars = ban."

    Fuck you, Reason. Fuck you, FIRE. Fuck your pet issues. Fuck your "They're private entities when they silence the speech that I like and are state run institutions when I don't." selective equivocation bullshit. Fuck your "Federalism is great when it protects minorities from the overreach of tyranny but none of these states can dictate how their education $$ gets spent. Go Globalism!" abject rejection of any and all principles. Fuck your "A graphic adult book being part of a grade school curriculum is kinda similar to Spotify choosing to keep Joe Rogan.", superficially unprincipled and retarded "BOWF SIDEZ"ism

    Fuck you, cut spending.

    1. I guess school choice week or month or whatever is over considering Reason, in this article, is effectively arguing that charter schools deserve public funding no matter how terrible their curriculum is.

  10. End all public education. Problem solved.

  11. "Academia is, in fact, an ideal setting to engage critically with its claims." No, it's not. Just try it and see what happens.

  12. No, but they can make those classes optional, and not required like my state of california does. Required to take religious indoctrination at a state school....

    Seriously reason, get a fucking grip.

  13. Lawmakers should just remove the state government funding.

  14. State legislatures have leeway to regulate K-12 curriculum, but attempting the same on college campuses is a violation of academic freedom.

    So Eugenics can be taught on college campuses?

    1. And by Eugenics, I'm talking about the Margaret Sanger version, not the Kimberly Crenshaw version.

  15. >>a violation of academic freedom

    is CRT academic freedom?

  16. This seems sort of a bait and switch. The legislatures don't seem to be banning anything. They're saying they won't fund schools that teach certain things. Is it now the libertarian position that colleges and universities have an unconditional lien on the public treasury? If some lunatic wanted to start Nazi State University (team mascot - The Aryans), does that mean it would be a violation of academic freedom not to write him a big fat check to do so?

    Sadly, this is why I think so much of the libertarian claim that people oughtn't worry about CRT and should focus on school choice instead falls on deaf ears. They feel the cash stream to subsidize CRT won't be shut off and that at least a certain segment of libertarians will somehow insist that not subsidizing it is a violation of libertarian principles.

    1. Is it now the libertarian position that colleges and universities have an unconditional lien on the public treasury?

      Yes. That appears to be the position.

    2. That's a very strong point. People don't like subsidizing explicitly racist ideologies.

      1. People should sue the university for discrimination if they're teaching that white people are inherently racist and therefore inferior.

  17. "State legislatures have leeway to regulate K-12 curriculum, but attempting the same on college campuses is a violation of academic freedom."

    It's not about academic freedom. It's about the First Amendment.

    "Congress shall make no law . . . " is how the First Amendment begins, and the state legislatures have been made subject to this, nationally, by the 14th Amendment.

    The states, however, do have the right to defund public universities, and I strongly encourage them to do so--for myriad reasons. Who needs to regulate speech when you have the power of the purse?

    1. It's not about academic freedom. It's about the First Amendment.
      Amen, if only Reason could understand that. Instead they make excuses for the very people censoring everyone that disagrees with them. Debate, sharing of ideas from both sides, not censorship is what is needed.

      1. You have no first amendment right to a professorship. None.

        If your employer doesn’t like what you say, they ought to be able to fire you.

  18. Academic freedom?
    Are you sure that's still a thing? This is 2022.

  19. Violation of academic freedom? Where is academic freedom guaranteed in the Constitution?

    Professors are state employees and they must comply with the rules the state legislature sets for them.

    It would be absurd to let people use tax payer funded positions as a platform for promoting their own ideologies or ideas.

  20. Once again Republicans for a kinder, gentler history. Yes, slavery existed in the US but other than that we really don't know too much about the it. Yes, black communities were burned down during Jim Crow, but other white communities were also burned down in forest fires. I guess if we try really hard, we can teach history without mention race.

  21. Rebutting CRT is not hard. If people cannot discuss this anti-white racist theory, its stupidity cannot be revealed. It is simply Nazi race theory where the Aryans (now called The Whites) are the bad guys while Jews, Gypsies, etc are the People of Color and are the good guys except for Jews who are now re-classified with the bad Whites.

  22. True enough, the Federal gov't isn't supposed to ban ideas, however bad. Not so sure that the various states can't do it, though. It's surprising how many things the Federal gov't does that are unconstitutional; all it takes is a wink and a nod from House, Senate and the Courts, and almost anything can be found "constitutional".
    Too many, in gov't and out, don't trust the American people to judge the worth of ideas.
    Elementary school, right up to 12th grade, though, is where brains do most of their formative learning. I think those years need protection from what have been historically found to be bad ideas. School boards, and state legislatures, are the proper forums for that sifting.

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