CRIMES OF OPINION
You may have read a couple of weeks ago about California Polytechnic State University's recent legal settlement with student, Steve Hinkle, who was disciplined last year for posting an announcement concerning a then-upcoming talk, sponsored by the College Republicans. It featured a black social commentator and writer, Mason Weaver, author of the book, "It's OK to Leave the Plantation." The gist of Mr. Weaver's argument is that dependence on government to solve problems, particularly economic ones, is a mentality that enslaves.
The flier alone was enough to send politically conditioned students, especially those in the campus' "multicultural center," into a spiteful rage. They called campus police to report "a suspicious white male passing out literature of an offensive racial nature."
What readers of that story may have missed in the news reports, however, was the nature of the punishment doled out by Cal Poly's Judicial Affairs Office - letters of apology to all offended students, a meeting to discuss so-called racial healing, and most significantly, counseling with a psychologist to consider "emotional barriers."
Regardless of your opinion on the content - or even the title - of Mr. Weaver's book, it's nothing that other black columnists, commentators, and authors haven't noted in whole or in part, among them Thomas Sowell, Armstrong Williams, Walter Williams, Clarence Page, and most recently actor/comedian Bill Cosby (see: Read, Read) - at a formal bash at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Weaver maintains that while many populations have fallen victim to the dependency trap - socialism's failures being filled with it - in this country it is a rationale disproportionately accepted by blacks, as evidenced by welfare roles and victim-politics, among other things.
The upshot of the brouhaha, reported in several newspapers this month, is that student Hinkle essentially won his lawsuit against Cal Poly, filed on his behalf by the Center for Individual Rights in California, in conjunction with local counsel, in district court. Attorneys for Cal Poly were permitted a face-saving exit (i.e., not publicly admitting fault) by agreeing to expunge student Hinkle's record, reimburse him for $40,000 in attorney fees, and stop interfering (i.e., censoring) when announcements are posted.
Mr. Hinkle should have added pain and suffering for a year's worth of harassment. For there is a more troubling aspect of the university's attempt at censorship that warrants everybody's attention - mental health referrals of pupils who fail to conform to politically correct thinking. This kind of thing is becoming increasingly frequent at all levels of education.
Whatever is politically correct today can change in a heartbeat. All it takes is one very charismatic person in film, politics or journalism to completely overturn a cause or course people formerly believed was irreversible. One or two images, like the recent photographs at the Abu Ghraib prison, can undo months or years of public opinion campaigns. And the more uneducated the population, the greater their susceptibility to a turnabout, knee-jerk reaction.
The United States, however, may be at even more risk - because its high school and college graduates are under the impression they are educated when, in fact, the plethora of diplomas and advanced degrees in many cases aren't worth the paper they're written on. Just last week, two newspaper articles (in the Washington Times and elsewhere) quoted studies showing the high school diploma to be nearly worthless in the job market, as many graduating students haven't even mastered basic grammar and arithmetic. At the university level, increasing numbers of students major in easy, frivolous nonsense like women's studies, education, and psychology that have little academic value, but plenty of liberal-left orthodoxy.
Suppose the opportunistic diseases associated with AIDS, for example, should suddenly turn up a mutant strain of tuberculosis or pneumonia that is not only incurable, but epidemic. Suddenly homosexuality wouldn't be quite so "gay" anymore. Anyone coming "out of the closet" could well find themselves referred to a psychiatrist for mandatory "adjustment," including sex-drive altering drugs.
Similarly, should a dirty bomb, compliments of any Middle Eastern group - from Hamas to al Qaeda - explode on a subway, expect complaints about ethnic and racial profiling to disappear overnight.
Or how about the generation of young people coming of age that won't remember anything about the "the back of the bus." But they do see, and very clearly, a nightly parade of mostly black faces on the TV news committing murder and mayhem. As Bill Cosby so bluntly pointed out in Constitution Hall, educated Americans, black and white, see young black males parading around in ridiculous get-ups and speaking in phrases even Cosby says he can barely understand. Yes, the press misrepresents and overemphasizes these factors, but in the end, that won't matter. The fallout from this nonstop onslaught is apt to mean that, in another ten years, the "leg-up" advantages currently being offered to minorities in the form of affirmative action, mortgage breaks, and Head Start programs will generate a backlash. Tomorrow's Jesse Jacksons and Johnny Cochrans could wind up being referred to mental health specialists for being "delusional."
One could go on - the list of potential scenarios, racial and otherwise, is endless - but you get the point. No matter how carefully people are nurtured, conditioned, indoctrinated, or brainwashed to accept certain beliefs, especially on hot-button issues, all it takes is the correct "stimulus" (as psychologists would say) to topple what currently is politically correct. Today the Gay Lobby, tomorrow the Skinheads.
Do we really want to institutionalize mandatory psychiatric counseling? Because if we do, it won't stop with just a mandatory "referral" like Mr. Hinkle got. Already, something called "universal behavioral screening" and "outpatient commitment" are creeping into the American legal system and lexicon.
Let's look at both: Universal in the context above means mandatory. "Behavioral screening" means someone you don't know checks whatever perceived behaviors or reactions you may demonstrate against a list of controversial (and decidedly negative) categories like "inflexible," "dogmatic," "intolerant," "individualist," and "loner."
This information is often collected by teachers without degrees in psychiatry at the behest of state and federal grant recipients such as the Institute on Violence and Destructive Behavior at the University of Oregon's College of Education. This is just one among a large cottage industry of child development centers pitching psychiatric screening instruments to schools. Teachers are taught by the Institute's educational psychologists to match the classroom and playground conduct of pupils against a list of behavior patterns. This means that "recess" is no longer about playtime. Certain "markers" (or "red flags") signal a child's need for professional help. These youngsters are referred to a school psychologist, counselor or other "mental health professional," who makes a determination about each kid's "counterproductive behaviors." The child is taught alternative, "adaptive" behaviors to use as "coping mechanisms." Parents are expected to reinforce these alternatives.
So a teacher might check off a red-flag term like "loner" to describe a child who is merely more "reserved." The ensuing psychological snooping may reveal that the parents are rather "private people," not given to showy, public displays of emotion. But psychologists interpret such modesty as "coldness," even "inhibition," so the counselor (usually, a school psychologist) teaches the child so-called adaptive behaviors that result in bizarre ideas about openness and tolerance.
The child (even his or her parents) rarely sees what all is contained in a student's "electronic portfolio." Loopholes in privacy laws make it difficult to stop your child's file from landing on the desktops of college admissions officers, executives, security officers, credit bureaus, or anybody with an ax to grind. If your child falls into one of the above shadowy categories, how will he fare in the job market - or as an airline security risk, for that matter?
"Outpatient commitment," which is gaining adherents in the legal circles, the medical profession and government, can be defined as coercion to take psychiatric drugs or face lock-up. This means you, the patient, are no longer allowed to determine whether a medication is right for you. As eminent author and psychologist, Dr. Thomas Szasz, explains, if a doctor prescribes glasses for you, it is your business whether you wear them or not - unless of course you cause a car accident and it can be proved you cannot see to drive. Other than that, you can put the glasses in a drawer for all the State cares. But if a mental health referral results in a determination that you should have a powerful, mood-altering drug, then even if it makes you physically ill, an official will come around and check to see that you take it anyway - and punish you if you don't.
Countless parents nationwide - in Florida, Michigan, and Colorado, for example - already are reporting being harassed and intimidated by school personnel and the child protective services to give their children these medications even in the face of adverse reactions and faulty diagnoses. This has resulted in several lawsuits, many of which parents have won, but not before they have nearly spent themselves into bankruptcy and/or had their kids taken away.
This is the road we are going down when a person with an unpopular opinion can be ordered - not asked - to see a psychiatrist.
No matter what your politics, your religion, or your viewpoint on the hot-button issues of the day, mandatory counseling requires our full attention. The so-called psychiatric prison is one of the easiest ways to get rid of opponents, by declaring such individuals a danger to society. Psychiatric prisons in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Cuba, and, more recently, South Africa are now legendary. And if we think it can't happen here, better think again.
Mr. Hinkle was ordered to counseling merely for putting up a coming-events flier - sponsored by Republicans (i.e., conservatives) in a predominantly liberal-left environment. But he is not the first to be caught up in this kind of situation. Think of the numerous phony hate-speech accusations that have been hurled at individuals over the past decade for spouting only controversial opinions - some of them, like baseball star John Rocker's, admittedly less tactful than others.
The question is: Where does that leave the First Amendment rights for the rest of us? And how long before the tables are turned?
© 2004 Beverly Eakman - All Rights
Beverly Eakman is an Educator, 9 years: 1968-1974, 1979-1981. Specialties: English and Literature.
Science Editor, Technical Writer and Editor-in-Chief of official newspaper, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1974-1979. Technical piece, "David, the Bubble Baby," picked up by popular press and turned into a movie starring John Travolta.
Chief speech writer, National Council for Better Education, 1984-1986; for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Commission on the Bicentennial of the US Constitution, 1986-1987; for the Voice of America Director, 1987-1989; and for U.S. Department of Justice, Gerald R. Regier, 1991-1993.
Author: 3 books on education and data-trafficking
since 1991, including the internationally acclaimed Cloning
of the American Mind: Eradicating Morality Through Education. Executive
Director, National Education Consortium. Website: BeverlyE.com
"What readers of that story may have missed in the news reports, however, was the nature of the punishment doled out by Cal Poly's Judicial Affairs Office - letters of apology to all offended students, a meeting to discuss so-called racial healing, and most significantly, counseling with a psychologist to consider "emotional barriers."