Thursday, March 26, 2015

The University of Oklahoma Signifies the Death of Free Speech in American Universities, and Defines Its Newly Accepted Limits

As we all know, a video has surfaced showing students of the University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant.  They were members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and while on a bus carrying them to a formal fraternity function, the students were captured chanting “There’ll never be a ni**** SAE! You can hang him from a tree, but he will never sign with me.  There’ll never be a ni**** SAE!”  

The chant was undoubtedly racist, and insensitive to the shameful legacy of racial lynching in America.  Those involved are worthy of derision, and the community has resoundingly trumpeted its disapproval, as has the entire nation.

The question at hand, however, has never been about whether what the boys did was ethically reprehensible.  It clearly was.  The more pressing question that we must confront now is whether such an act is worthy of expulsion from a state-funded university, and what that means for the state of education in this country if it is.  And beyond that, we must consider whether freedom of speech is anything more than a mantelpiece in America which, though fondly remembered and often superficially revered, has become little more than an old, dusty concept in a culture which is bent on cultivating homogenized thought.   

At the University of Oklahoma, two of the students involved in the chanting were indeed expelled.  Most disturbing for me is not that such sentiments are uttered within such fringe environments as this.  Honestly, can anyone say that these boys would ever consider weaving a noose with the intent of hurting someone?  Yes, that's rhetorical, because it would be an entirely stupid suggestion which would recuse the accuser from any intellectual forum.  The real problem, however, is that so few Americans seem outraged at the frivolous decision to derail these youths’ lives over something as practically inconsequential as their offensive, yet presumptively protected free speech. 

University president David Boren announced a decision to expel the youths via Twitter, where he is cited as having said:

I have emphasized that I have zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma.  I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations around the country.  I am extremely proud of the reaction and response expressed by our entire university family – students, faculty, staff, and alumni about this incident.  They are “Real Sooners” who believe in mutual respect for all.   

Perhaps most troubling about Boren’s statement is that not only is he making explicit efforts to regulate the content of speech on his own campus, but he is imploring all other universities to follow suit.  

These boys are meant to be examples, make no mistake, and the punishment for their offensive utterances is being exacted without the courtesy of a show trial.  Boren and the university have cited no specific part of the conduct code that the students had violated to justify their decision.   After all, their words didn’t hurt anyone (aside from hurting some people’s feelings), nor did they explicitly threaten to physically harm anyone in particular.  Consider that members, and indeed the president, of the Muslim Student Association at UCLA have been caught leading chants of “Death to Israel! Death to the Jews!” with no such punishment as expulsion handed down by university administrators.  (Such events are commonplace, by the way, extensively documented by Daniel Greenfield here.)   By contrast, rhetorical salvos against SAE by OU officials and media sensationalism have yielded death threats against the fraternity’s members.

The message to other college students at OU and around the country is clear, however.  There are some things that you just can’t say, if what you say sufficiently offends others who share the views of your school’s administration.

David Boren’s statement overtly seeks to replace the notion of “freedom of speech” enumerated in our First Amendment and repeatedly upheld by our courts, supplanting it with “free speech which is subject to limitations determined by the state.”  The latter is fascism, not freedom.

Freedom is a messy thing.  But the purpose of learning, and ostensibly, our universities, should be to seek the truth amidst the clutter. 

In a letter to William Roscoe penned December 27th, 1820, Thomas Jefferson spoke of the purpose of the newly founded University of Virginia.  “The institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind,” he writes, “for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” 

This is the best way to achieve intellectual progress, not the suppression of thoughts contrary to perceived norms and a social status quo.   As Robby Soave at explains:

A school is exactly the kind of place where evil views should do battle with moral and logical views, and lose.  We have everything to gain by confronting racism head-on in an intellectual setting that a university purportedly provides, and a lot to lose by trampling students’ rights in a misguided rush to do the opposite.

In short, bad ideas are more consistently destroyed in an open marketplace of ideas, if one has any faith in humanity’s potential for reason.  But that reality ceases expression when our institutions of learning disavow the ambition to cultivate reasonable individuals in favor of becoming factories which produce fascists, blindly supportive of singular viewpoints. 

There is clear substance warranting litigation against OU, and the lines in this social battle are being drawn.  The SAE fraternity is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against the university, and OU has hired a former federal judge to investigate racism within the fraternity.  The PC thought police of the left are celebrating the university’s decision to expel these students and eagerly awaiting the coming witch hunt, while constitutionalists and libertarians are rightfully condemning both. 

This may seem a small and insignificant story, but in the trenches of cultural warfare, inches matter.  Instead of being allowed to go back to class, and hopefully educated as to why chanting racist songs about murder is wrong, the pillorying of these boys in the public square could go a long way toward further homogenizing thought in the state-sponsored indoctrination camps that we call universities.

William Sullivan is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.  He can be followed on Twitter.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Is Reading a Bill Is Too Much To Ask of Congress?

It's clear now that no one one on Capitol Hill knows the content of any big, pivotal bills put before Congress.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka Obama's stimulus?  The vast majority on the Hill couldn't have read it.  It was $787 billion in taxpayer money, passed in Obama's first year in office without any specificity about where each million or billion was going.  We later found that $90 billion went to green energy, subsidizing, among other bad investments, windfarms that hack thousands upon thousands of birds to death each year.  "Awesome, save the planet!" said the Eco-sensitive greenies.  The Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act, aka Obamacare?  Everyone gets healthcare even if they don't wanna pay for it?  "Sweet!" said the single-payer morons.  "I want my mom to have to wait two years for an MRI like they do in Canada and the UK!"

Even when Republicans took control of Congress in a November election last year, the CRomnibus bill -- $1.1 trillion in federal spending -- was passed with Republican John Boehner simply promising us that "frankly, it's a good bill."

The legislative process nowadays seems to be something akin to me showing my five-year old son a copy of Moby Dick and having him say, "Whales are cool, let's go with that."  Then five minutes into it he recognizes that it's a slow and boring book, and he realizes that he had no idea what he got himself into.  But he's stuck with it, because if he doesn't sit and endure it, I'll take away his dinner and start him on lawn duty for the rest of his and his children's life.

That's what government does these days.  Take the latest Net Neutrality bill that passed through the halls of Congress.  It was passed under the guise of busting up the digital trusts, destroying the internet monopolies.  What exactly does the bill give the government the power to do?  Who knows?  No one read the bill in its entirety!  But now, here we sit, after the bill has been passed, reading commentary about all the implications inherent in the bill which gives government the kind of power to regulate the substantial commerce via the internet.

In our granting the government such power as taking out a credit card in our grandkids' name, or fundamentally changing our healthcare system, or regulating our intellectual consumption via the internet, wouldn't in make sense, Congress -- as our representatives -- to read the damn bill before it's passed?

William Sullivan

Monday, February 16, 2015

Netanyahu Urges Jews in Europe to Heed the Writing on the Wall

To begin, please allow an apology for the hiatus in delivering content in recent months.  We would like to first and foremost thank all readers for your continued support.


Jews have had reason for fear in Europe.  Disregard all the historical reasoning you've heard.  No, Jews have a reason for fear in the new, enlightened Europe, which has the benefit of seeing the horrific results of Nazi Germany's industrial eradication of Jews upon racial predication.

The new Europe seems more interested in atoning for supposed transgressions against Arabs than protecting its Jewish citizens from foreign denizens who would deny them an existence as a matter of religious impulse.

As told by the American criers:

"Mindful of the demographics and the strains of anti-Semitism in their country's past," the New York Times declared in 2003, "French officials are struggling to denounce anti-Semitism without fueling racism toward France's ethnic Arab-Muslim population."

I quoted this blurb in a piece I wrote for American Thinker, and I didn't quite catch the gravity of it.  I focused on how it's sickening that French officials had to "struggle" to denounce anti-Semitism.

No, the most sickening factor in this story, and every story ever since, is the notion that denouncing anti-Semitism might fuel more anti-Semitism amongst the French (particularly French-Arab) populace.

This is no revelation to the Jews living in France.  They'd committed to an Exodus long before my typing this piece.  European Jews have been long told, and shown, that they don't belong. 

"Jews with a conscience should leave Holland, where they and their children have no future, leave for the U.S or Israel."  Fritz Bolkenstein said that, a harrowing cry that, again Jews have heeded to some extent.

Now Benjamin Netanyahu tells Jews in Europe that they have a home in Israel.  "We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe."

Who stands with them beyond Benjamin Netanyahu, who garners more respect among thinking Americans than our own President?  Why should they not heed that call?

And how on Earth could we possibly not see the writing on this wall, and the conflict which will arise as a result of Europe's capitulation to anti-Semitic (Islamic or otherwise) sentiments?

William Sullvan 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Good-Bye Robin Williams, Hello Renewed Conflict Regarding Suicide

I will say this unequivocally: my favorite comics have long been dead. I grew up with Abbott and Costello, and to this day, there are no greater masters of the art.

Millions might disagree with that assertion, but who cares? Comedy is entirely subjective, relevant to a specific time, place, and mindset. My younger brother Gordon and I were in just such a place, in just such a time, and in that very specific mindset that it spoke to us in the early and mid-1990s. Dad and Mom would take us to lunch on some weekends and we would beg to have them buy us a new Abbott and Costello VHS to watch so we could have that moment where we all watched, as a family, and got a new laugh at a new routine. And if the flick we’d chosen was a rehash of old routines, a la Foreign Legion? It was still funny. We loved the wordplay, we could recite the routines; and if pressed, Gordon and I could still recreate “Who’s on First” verbatim, each in either role.

Those are some of the greatest memories of my life.

Comedy speaks to people and brings them together in a way that nothing else ever could, and in a way I could never truly understand.  But outside of those two comedy heroes of mine, there is Robin Williams. For my generation, he made an incredible impact. For some who are older than me, it was when “Mork and Mindy” made landfall on American TVs. Thankfully, his role as a clich├ęd and goofy alien repeating the catchphrase “Nanu Nanu” was not how I first saw him. No, my first memory of him was as Popeye. That might not mean much to someone who was not in my specific situation, in that specific time. But as a six year old who’d watched Popeye cartoons and played the game on ColecoVision, he was my imagination and the cartoon which fed it come to life. There can never be another Popeye, and I would suggest that you could look at the last 100 years of American actors, from Lon Chaney to Channing Tatum, and there is no one – no one! – who could embody and act out the character from my young imagination. Robin Williams did just that, and perfectly. And he sang it, too.

Needless to say, Robin Williams’ career is more than that. He was in Dead Poet’s Society, Awakenings, Fisher King, Moscow on the Hudson, Good Will Hunting, Jumanji, Hook, among countless other films which I enjoyed as a kid and which won him accolades. He’s made me laugh. He’s made me cry. He’s made me think. He’s made me consider the nuances of this life that we all must live within.  And in a way that no one else could have, he's exposed the fun and absurdity of it all.

And yet it is his decision to end his life as he did that has become the topic of conversation? Not the celebration of his life and all that he has given us through his work and his existence? What is wrong with us that we can overlook the greatness we’ve been given and have enjoyed in favor of wondering why we weren’t given such a blessing as Robin Williams for a longer period of time or that he'd have chosen a more acceptable exit?

Suicide is a very controversial issue. I cannot condone it, nor can I begin to understand it, and I will pray to God that I am never in a position that I must confront it more personally than I have.  But life continues, in spite of what might (and what I believe does) happen in the hereafter.

We are given a short time on this Earth. We have but to appreciate those bright lights which make our stay more enjoyable. As I’d like to think my brother Gordon and I recognized as children, Abbott and Costello were such a light. So is Robin Williams. He should remembered as such -- a bright light --  forevermore.

William Sullivan

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

America: What Makes Us Great, and Why Talking Heads Like Brit Hume Just Don't Get It

Bill O’Reilly had a pretty interesting exchange with Brit Hume on Fox News last week which I happened to catch.  

Brit Hume is a senior analyst at Fox with whom I'm quite familiar.  In fact, he particularly caught my attention in recent weeks when he suggested that Republicans having their name associated with immigration reform is some kind of moral imperative which will secure Republicans' future viability in elections.  I discuss the folly in that assertion here, published at American Thinker.  

But he said one particular thing in this one particular exchange that I found absolutely infuriating, well beyond simple naivete.  It was outright insulting, and it's crazy to me that this interview has gone relatively unnoticed.  

Referring to the mass influx of immigrant children from Central America, Bill O’Reilly suggested, at odds with the doctrine of “political correctness” but nevertheless in touch with reality on this issue, that “the kids are the victims. As I said, you’re creating an underclass. Yeah, some of them will break out, but most of them won’t…”

“This is a cruel way to look at it, Bill,” Brit Hume responds, “but I would seriously doubt that with these particular kids, coming as far as they have, and facing the difficulties that they have, that they’re going to end up being the underclass.  These are probably the most able kids that are reaching our borders.”

I fully understand what he's getting at.  It's a "cruel way to look at it" because, in a Darwinist, "survival of the fittest" sort of way, only the best are making it to our borders.  But in another way, he is suggesting that those who get here will socially and economically advance to surpass American children which, he obviously believes, are inferior.  Is that the purpose of immigration reform -- which is, ipso facto, amnesty?  To drive American children out of the marketplace?  

And even if it is, and I'm being asked to potentially vote my child out of a potential job or a seat in a university in the future, upon what does Mr. Hume base his silly assumptions about these children's prospective ability?  The fact that they have survived a northward trek, chaperoned by coyotes who’ve likely been paid by their parents for the service of dropping them at America’s doorstep for handouts provided by taxpayers, believing that they’ll get free food, shelter, healthcare, education, and that they'll be an anchor point for the parents’ future illegal immigration?

I know that some of these children have died in their journey.  That is an awful reality.  But the culpability for that does not lie upon me, or any American, but upon their parents which blindly sent them away!

Furthermore, what makes Mr. Hume think that those children will be more perseverant or useful than mine over the coming decades?  I have and will dedicate my entire existence to ensuring that my children understand the necessity of education, a solid work ethic, an adherence to law, and the duty to protect our civil constructs which have given us our lifestyles and have heretofore preserved our freedoms.  Are the parents who've handed their children to the nameless coyote going to do the same for theirs?

And this leads me to what Mr. Hume certainly did not consider in his simplistic and stupid formulation of his argument.  (Watch the video linked below, he seems flummoxed when challenged.)  It was for that civil construct, the preservation of freedom, and the very idea of America that my grandfather, William J. Sullivan I, served as a tanker in World War II in the European front.  It was on that very basis that my father David W. Sullivan served in Southeast Asia, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross in defense of his country.  Both of my brothers, Gordon and David, served in Iraq, as an airborne-infantry soldier and as an Apache pilot respectively, each with two tours in the campaign.  

My siblings and I are each the grandchildren of immigrants from two different nations, one of which is Mexico, and we were raised with not only an appreciation of our ancestors' culture, but a profound belief in what America represents, what that means to the world, and fully aware of the anomaly that we are in global context.  And we are each willing to fight to protect all of that.

Will those children which Brit Hume stakes his reputation upon do the same for this country?  Will they have the same sense of duty and adherence to a nation of laws when their very existence within that nation has resulted from breaking those laws?  And if laws do not exist or are no longer relevant, do we not cease being the nation my family has fought to protect?

Watch the interview below.

William Sullivan

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hooked on Phonics? That's So Twentieth Century...

I had never heard of "sight words" until my son Connor came home with a list comprised of them from daycare, tasked with committing them to memory. 

While I think it might be useful at his stage of development (age 4), the idea that sight words, or "Whole Word recognition," could supplant phonetic comprehension in developmental literacy is just incredibly stupid, and for our society (our federal education overseers, in particular) to buy into that stupid notion wholesale just guarantees that our society will only become more illiterate and stupid in the future. 

Forgive my lack of perspicacity, but stupid seems the most fitting term to describe any endeavor suggesting that phonics is not a superior path to literacy than sight recognition of "Whole Words."  Seriously, the study of "Whole Words" is  apparently a thing.  

And yet, here we are, and this simple fact must apparently be explained.  Doing just that is Bruce Dietrick Price over at American Thinker.  If you have even the slightest interest in how our youths are being educated, I suggest that you read the piece in its entirety, found here

But here is, what should be, a rather convincing snippet:

Whole word experts have created numerous gimmicks... They do a picture walk, a pre-read, a paragraph-by-paragraph discussion of what might be in the book.  By the time the child comes to "read" the book, he can answer questions about "meaning."  And if he can extract meaning, then according to these experts, he can "read."  What a con.  

Imagine that this is a nine-word sentence in a language that your child is going to learn: $ ^ # * ) = @ ! &, pronounced "Dick and Jane like to play in the street."  You'll find that it's quite a lot of work to memorize those nine symbols  so you can read that sentence.  You'll also find that if someone reverses the symbols, or adds new ones, you will be confused very quickly.

This is typically what happens to Whole Word victims in the second and third grades, as they try to go from 100 sight-words to 300.  The common expression you hear is: "They started off so well, but then they hit a wall."

Isn't that cute? Little children are hitting a wall. Splat, splat, splat.  And big adults are making lots of money giving them interventions.  And so the lucrative con continues.

Systematic phonics (i.e., nothing but phonics) is the only way to go.  If your children are at a school that uses any of the following terms, start fighting back: sight-words, Dolch-words, Fry words, high-frequency words, picture clues, context clues, whole language, pre-read, picture walk, guess, skip ahead, balanced literacy.
Why are there so many of these bogus phrases? Simple.  For the last 75 years, the Education Establishment has been selling a bogus reading method.  Some people figure it out.  So the Education Establishment has to come up with new slogans and clever new marketing phrases.  That's why we have all the slop.Meanwhile, in all that time, phonics was called phonics and still is.  When something works, you don't need to fake it.

PS: Common Core is guilty of perpetuating Reform Math and Whole Word.  Eliminating both is the prerequisite for educational success.

Now, I am not so invested in the logic of this appraisal that I could suggest that sight recognition has no place in language instruction. In fact, literacy can never be achieved unless some measure of sight recognition can be retained.  Individual letters that comprise single words, after all, have no meaning unless the letter's form on the printed page forces the brain to recall the letter's purpose and utterance in the grander scheme of language.  But phonetic fundamentals must be in place, if for no other reason that we are human beings.  We naturally recognize patterns, and those patterns often dictate our thoughts.  Language is the most basic example of that simple fact in human nature, and phonetics directly caters to our need.

And I will never suggest that alternative teaching methods should not be exercised in situations where individuals have specific difficulties in grasping written language from the phonetic angle.  What I am suggesting, without the slightest hesitation, is that such practices should only be employed for those specific individuals, rather than the wholesale razing of a phonetic approach.  Phonetic learning of language is undoubtedly the most effective means of our bringing the knowledge, and indeed, the gift of language comprehension and understanding to our future generations as a whole.  This is true with English, and we find that it is even more so with Latin-based languages such as Spanish and French.  But when a federal edict, like Common Core, promotes the alternative for all children in public schools, it is absolutely a cause a cause for concern.       

So, if you're like me, the next thing you'll want to do is rush home and explain, "Ph" indicates a "fuh" sound, and that's why "phone" is pronounced as it is, son. Not because it's a visual singularity that you had to memorize."  Because that may very well be instruction that he is not getting in school.

William Sullivan

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Denzel Washington on Providence and Promise

There are a lot of things for which Hollywood is known.  If Hollywood culture is to be encapsulated by a single word, a few examples come to mind.

 "Extravagant" might be a universally applicable word.  "Progressive" or "enlightened" might come to mind if you're of a leftish bent, "privileged" or "aloof" might come to mind if you're a conservative.  But regardless of which end of the ideological divide you occupy, it's pretty safe to say that one thing Hollywood is not known for is the humility of its prominent denizens.

That is not to say, however, that humility does not exist among them, exemplified by singularities so rare that they warrant shock and awe.  Such a singularity is Denzel Washington.

His latest is a profound message by any standard.  

It is a message to aspiring young actors about the "power of hard work and the importance of faith:"
I pray that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night so that you gotta get on your knees in the morning to find them.  And while you're down there, thank God for grace and mercy and understanding. We all fall short of the glory, we all got plenty.  If you just start thinking about all the things you've got to say thank you for, that'll be a day.
He goes on:
True desire in the heart for anything good is God's proof to you sent beforehand to indicate that it's yours already.  So the desire you have, that itch that you have to be whatever it is that you want to be... that itch, that desire for good is God's proof to you sent already to indicate that it's yours.  You already have it.  Claim it.
I won't try to dissect these quotes and assign political or spiritual meaning to them.  His words speak enough.  And regardless of what meaning you take away from them, it's difficult to deny -- these words are a powerful expression of conviction and humility, worthy of respect.

Thanks, Denzel.  If nothing else, it's a reminder of a simple truth that I, for one, too often forget.

See the video here.

William Sullivan