• Exposure Needed for Bad Ideas

    • Posted on Sep 03, 2017

    Today's Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier column.  Free speech really does mean just that, especially on a university campus where debate and discussion form the heart of higher education.   UNI's "Controversial Speakers" program was memorable not only for the speakers it brought before students and faculty, but also for the spirited defense of free speech set for by President J.W. Maucker as well as Cedar Valley ministers, no less.  

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    Imagine a university program that actually invites controversy, that sets out to make sure opposing viewpoints get aired, that seeks speakers who generate discussion and debate.  

     That’s exactly what happened at UNI just over a half-century ago, in the spring of ’66.

    UNI’s student and faculty Senates created a “Controversial Speakers” program.  
    This event gets explained in “A Century of Leadership and Service,” a wonderful two-volume history of UNI written by Professors William Lang and Daryl Pendergraft.  They detail UNI’s attempt to challenge students and faculty with speakers they might not otherwise hear. 

    The Iowa Board of Regents fully supported the program, saying it was “designed to demonstrate that in a democratic society all citizens have not only the right but also the obligation to inform themselves on issues of contemporary concern including politics, religion, ethics, and morals.”  

    I began my UNI teaching career as the program was gearing up.  I heard many of the speakers, including Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, civil rights activist Dick Gregory, beat poet Allen Ginsburg, and most bizarre of all, hippie/yippie Jerry Rubin, who in 1970 harangued 5,000 UNI students and faculty at O.R. Latham football field.  

    Some legislators were outraged, most prominently Charles Grassley, who roundly objected to speaker American Communist Party speaker Herbert Aptheker, calling Aptheker’s invitation to speak “deplorable and shameful,” and that “compulsory student fees and buildings paid for by the taxpayers were used to support this un-American philosophy under the guise of freedom of speech.” Other legislators chimed in, putting pressure on UNI to bar such speakers from campus.  

     However, 22 Cedar Falls and Waterloo Ministers defended the program, writing in a letter to the Courier, “. . . an integral function of higher education in a free society is to provide free discussion,” and that SCI students “exhibited a high degree of maturity in evaluating. . .speakers and opinions.” 

    President J.W. Maucker, speaking of Jerry Rubin’s wild speech, insisted that Rubin’s appearance “proved to be a worthwhile experience of a large majority of students and faculty because they got a chance to see this man in action firsthand and judge for themselves the soundness of his views.”  

    “Maturity.”   “Judge for themselves.”  Such words and phrases seem almost quaint these days, when “free speech” means huge protests during the speech and often cancellations out of fear of violence. 

    Let’s face it, a certain degree of faith in listeners’ maturity and judgment is required to invite such speakers as Ann Coulter or David Duke. As Oscar Wilde put it, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”  

    I’d like to see the return of a UNI Controversial Speakers program. Speakers on contemporary critical issues, fringe or not, would demonstrate how much we value free debate. Bad ideas only grow stronger when opposed with violence and censorship.   

    Open peaceful debate remains the best way to expose charlatans. 
     

     


     

     






                 

     

     

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    Posted in
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Politics
    • Conservatives/Liberals
    • Education
    • Censorship
  • An Inevitable Miracle?

    • Posted on Jul 02, 2017

    This morning's Courier column--the case for Medicare for All as inevitable, given the current aborted repeal and replace--which was always misguided.      

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                Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

                                                                                               

    Another early July, another wave of love for country, a.k.a. patriotism.  July 4th, that is, with a day for fireworks, picnics, and patriots. 

                Time was.

                Now, not so much. Now we’re like an estranged couple still living together, but not speaking except to protect our separate turfs. Without attitude changes, divorce looms. 

                We’re not there yet, but we’re on track to get there.  A steady 38 percent of our fellow citizens still think “Make American Great Again” actually means something besides empty posturing.  That same group cannot be convinced anything’s really wrong with Republicans except Democrats’ opposition.  They’re followers and fans who seem to have suspended their critical faculties.

                I do remember when it was worse, when citizens were fighting in the streets over an unwinnable war, when a genuinely crooked leader instigated a burglary for political gain, when students were being killed for protesting. It was traumatic. 

                Compared to that late sixties nightmare, we’re only having a bad dream.  Perhaps we’ll wake up, come together, stretch, and start solving problems of health care, infrastructure, climate change,   nuclear-armed lunatics, and terrorism.  That would make for a July 4th worth celebrating.

                But for this holiday, it’s nonstop lying at the top and political paralysis, leaving problems unsolved and unfaced.  Mourning seems more in order than celebrating. 

                Yet there’s another possibility for hope. Unforeseen major events happen, “black swans” that change our world forever. 9-11 was such a cataclysmic black swan, as was Pearl Harbor. 

                Not all black swans are negative, however. Miracles, the opposite of cataclysms, occasionally arise with little warning.

                The Salk vaccine removed the horror of polio in the 1950s which terrorized my childhood, and the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980s relieved suffering for millions.  Romanians were happily surprised in 1989 when their brutal dictator Ceausescu was deposed and executed.

                So a miracle is possible, and now one seems downright inevitable, thanks to the Trumpcare debacle.

                Medicare for all is coming. Trumpcare—Obamacare minus compassion— seems doomed, either sooner from divided Republicans, or later from Democrats who would almost certainly mount a repeal-and replace effort should Trumpcare pass.

              At some point, what has been obvious to a majority of Americans will occur to politicians: Private insurance doesn’t work in the health care arena.  Never has, never will.  Every other developed country has provided national health as a public right, like clean air, water, and safe food.

                Health care as a right, not a commodity. 

                This means lower costs, because a national healthcare system can negotiate prices with serious leverage for treatment and drugs.   It also brings ease of access, universal coverage, and radically less paperwork—without competing for-profit insurance companies.   

                In fact, with all these pluses, the few problems with universal Medicare seem like minor inconveniences.

                When Trumpcare fails—not if—universal Medicare will inevitably emerge as the best alternative.

                That will be worth celebrating.   

               

               

               

               

                 

               

                

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Politics
    • Hot Button Issues
    • Predictions
    • Conservatives/Liberals
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.

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