As if the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in Florida's fair capital over Terri Schiavo wasn't enough, now we have proposed legislation essentially revoking the long-standing notion of academic freedom
If this bill, titled (in true Republican through-the-looking-glass fashion) the "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights" (I'll wait for the laughter to die down), passes through the entire process (you know Jebbie will sign it into law if it gets that far), it will allow students to sue their professors for damages if they feel their beliefs are not being respected.
Students who believe their professor is singling them out for "public ridicule" - for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class - would also be given the right to sue.
"Some professors say, `Evolution is a fact. I don't want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don't like it, there's the door,'" [Rep. Dennis] Baxley [R-Ocala] said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.
Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.
Similar suits could be filed by students who don't believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by [University of Florida] medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.
Naturally, Rep. Baxley responds:
But Baxley brushed off Gelber's concerns. "Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don't want to hear,"
he said. "Being a businessman, I found out you can be sued for anything. Besides, if students are being persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs, I think they should be given standing to sue."
During the committee hearing, Baxley cast opposition to his bill as "leftists" struggling against "mainstream society."
"The critics ridicule me for daring to stand up for students and faculty," he said, adding that he was called a McCarthyist.
"Freedom is a dangerous thing, and you might be exposed to things you don't want to hear." Just mull that one over for a minute ... and then chew on this one:
But Baxley compared the state's universities to children, saying the legislature should not give them money without providing "guidance" to their behavior.
"Professors are accountable for what they say or do," he said. "They're accountable to the rest of us in society ... All of a sudden the faculty think they can do what they want and shut us out. Why is it so unheard of to say the professor shouldn't be a dictator and control that room as their totalitarian niche?"
"All of a sudden?" Um, I don't know, Dennis ... maybe the long-held doctrine of (true) academic freedom allows the professor that latitude? I mean, come on, with a degree from FSU in sociology/psychology, I would think you'd know that, even if you are a funeral director now.
Just when you thought Florida couldn't get any more wingnuttier ...
(Cross-posted with minor edits from Blast Off!, featuring version 2.0 - with more snarkiness than ever!)