The kids, whether hanging out on Ohio college campuses, at home watching Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie in Fox's The Simple Life: Interns or at the movies watching junk horror like Boogeyman with friends, are smarter than Ohio State Sen. Gary Cates gives them credit.
Quoted recently in The Dayton Daily News about his support for a proposed "academic bill of rights for higher education," Cates, a Republican from West Chester, explains that Ohio college students "are being intimidated with political correctness and are being indoctrinated with a liberal point of view."
Cates, along with other Republican state senators like Jim Jordan from Urbana and Larry Mumper from Marion, wants to protect Ohio's Generation Next from being brainwashed by the liberal, left-wing professors who they believe make up the majority of Ohio's college faculty.
Just as President George W. Bush attacked Senator John Kerry for being "a liberal Senator from Massachusetts" during last fall's hard-fought election, Cates and his supporters borrow loosely from the Bush playbook. His proposal (and similar ones under consideration in Colorado and Georgia) attack state colleges as left wing and dangerous to young conservatives and potential conservatives.
This is what the proposed Ohio law would require: All state-supported colleges and universities in Ohio would prohibit faculty members and instructors from "persistently introducing controversial matter into the classroom or course work that has no relation to their subject of study or serves no educational purpose related to the academic subject"; faculty hirings, firings and promotions would be based on "competence and appropriate knowledge in their field of expertise" rather than on their "political, ideological or religious beliefs"; and finally, colleges would adopt a grievance procedure by which students or faculty could "seek redress" if they feel they've been discriminated against based on their beliefs and to disclose the grievance procedure in course catalogs, student handbooks and Web sites."
The heart and soul of America lie in tomorrow's decision-makers, but Cates must be clueless about what lies in their hearts and minds if he thinks professors who support the First Amendment bother college students. You might not always agree with a generation that made Paris Hilton a celebrity due to a sex tape, but you have to respect their right to choose freely (and sometimes badly).
These free-spending teens and young adults coveted by anyone with something to sell or market — and that includes political parties — need to look at the fine print in Cates' attacks. The West Chester politician's problem is not so much with the Svengali-like professors on Ohio college campuses speaking against the Iraq War and promoting a woman's right to abortion, but that our zombie children don't possess the self esteem, the intelligence or the will to make up their own minds about matters they consider important.
Legal minds will tell you that any such state law is ridiculous and would be quickly challenged and overruled as unconstitutional. Still, at a time when Bush-branded moralists feel empowered, it's unpredictable just how far Cates and company might take their bill and their restricted speech agenda.
There are plenty of college-age conservatives ready to remind Cates he is not the only proponent of conservative values in Ohio — and they, like their liberal classmates, share an important quality worth noting. Young conservatives and liberals can think and decide matters for themselves, without the aid of gag laws, state-sanctioned witch-hunts or classroom censorship. They can participate in intelligent dialogues with their educators, agreeing and disagreeing equally. They can also co-exist on college campuses.
One last piece of advice for Cates when it comes to gag laws: If you are worried about liberal influences, pass a law forbidding young people from reading this newspaper.