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Award perpetuates negative view of LA higher education

In academic circles, it’s fashionable in Louisiana to complain that the larger public just doesn’t get it, in response to the mild but real revenue reductions to higher education over the past few years that draws little real outcry. But this imagined slight might become more understandable to its propagators were academia to do some self-scrutiny on its self-inflicted wounds.

One such example emanates from the awarding of Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication’s most recent Courage and Justice Award, going to Louisiana native (although attending college out of state) Zach Kopplin for his strident opposition to the Louisiana Science Education Act, a law known less for its actual purpose of encouraging critical thinking in educating by the sciences by allowing instructors to add governing authority-approved readings in their lecturing than for the straw man characterization followers of the trendy level at it that it somehow (despite its wording disallowing this) permits the teaching of creationism in the classroom. Kopplin, demonstrating the old saw that youth lets its emotions run ahead of its wisdom, very much believes in this mistaken notion and has conducted a vigorous campaign to excise the law from Louisiana’s statutes.

While this is merely unfortunate that he should be so confused, that the school endorses and celebrates the view with the award is disturbing. From an explanation about the choice in the Baton Rouge Advocate:

The Courage and Justice Award is given to an individual who pursues a “perceived just cause” while displaying courage and ethics in the face of opposition, lack of resources and substantial time commitment.

“No matter where you stand on this issue, most would agree it takes an extraordinary amount of courage for someone of his age to mount a campaign that has such a sweeping consequence,” said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School.

Of course, in an objective sense given the predilections of the academy, this particular selection displays neither courage nor justice. To commiserate among the faculty in its bashing of the law takes about as much courage as wearing purple and gold amongst a sea of others doing the same in Death Valley on a Saturday night yelling your lungs out in support of LSU’s football team. And since when is the shearing of the legal code of protections of academic freedom considered to be a “perceived just cause” – especially when academia, of all places, is supposed to cherish academic freedom and guard it zealously?

This latter point is not merely (forgive me) academic. Among the subjects set out explicitly in the law is the issue of climate change, and already you have the Luddite-in-Chief Pres. Barack Obama declaring that there is no debate, that (despite glaring evidence otherwise) it’s settled that man’s intervention does cause climate change and in a profoundly negative way. It’s deplorable that academia should be complicit in putting free inquiry out of bounds by rewarding those who seek to threaten this liberty by their agitating for removal of protections granted to those wishing to give comprehensive instruction on issues such as anthropomorphic significant climate change.

And notice how the rationale used by the dean, in his urging that you recognize “courage” in the pursuit of perceived “justice” regardless of the content of the belief propagated as a basis on which to judge the awarding, leads to absurdity. Over four decades ago there was a passionate advocate at LSU itself who, with no resources and espousing an opinion deeply unpopular, nonetheless bravely articulated it in front of universally hostile crowds as often as possible as he perceived it, then and now, as a “just cause.” His name was David Duke, and he supported Nazism.

So in giving this award to this individual, in essence a taxpayer-supported academic unit where lip service is given to freedom to disseminate knowledge in a quest for discovering truth instead celebrates efforts to increase censorship opportunities by the state. And higher education mandarins wonder why the public doesn’t consider higher education in the state as valuable as they think it should be?

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