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Jewish World Review
Oct. 11, 2012/ 25 Tishrei, 5773
Shades of the Monkey Trial
Have you ever heard of Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn.? I hadn't. It made the news the other day, and not in a good way, when the college's president ordered the editor of its student newspaper not to print the news, in this case the news that a professor there -- of biblical studies -- had been arrested and charged with child-sex crimes.
The good news is that the student editor, Alex Green, found another way to report the news: He put out fliers about the arrest all over campus.
Good for the student editor, who seems to know what a free press is all about, and that if it doesn't find a way to fight censorship, it won't be free for long. Three cheers for him and something else for the college's president, one Stephen Livesay. He now has apologized for his poor judgment, saying that, in hindsight, trying to kill the story "might have been a mistake."
Might have been? Sir, there's no might have been about it. It was a bad call, an atrocious call, one that betrays what ought to be the essence of a college: the free flow of ideas and information.
A college ought to be about education, not suppression. It ought to be the last citadel of liberal education, though the barbarians entered the gates of so many of our colleges and universities long ago, and now seem in charge of a lot of them. You can tell when they've seized control. They throw the dead white males out of the literature courses, eliminate the classics, de-emphasize foreign languages, and generally prefer technical courses (computer science, driver ed) to the arts and sciences. When classes in Shakespeare and the King James Bible have been replaced by the fad of the day, you know all is lost. Or soon will be.
Here's a telling sign that an institution of higher education has started to specialize in the lower kind -- when not even its president can make a decent apology. At least President Livesay made an attempt at one. So there may be hope for him after all. There's certainly hope for Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., if 22-year-old Alex Green is an indication of the quality of its student body.
The moral of this story: When college administrators mess up, the students need to correct them. Gosh, didn't it used to be the other way around?
Historical footnote: The dateline DAYTON, Tenn., rings a bell. Wasn't that where the (in)famous Monkey Trial of 1925 took place -- the one over whether evolution could be taught in the public schools?
The widely reported trial (H.L. Mencken covered it for the Baltimore Sun) pitted William Jennings Bryan, the great populist Bible-thumper, against Clarence Darrow, counselor and skeptic-at-law. Not to mention religion vs. science, or at least Messrs. Bryan's and Darrow's version of them. Forget the Dempsey-Tunney fights of the 1920s. Bryan-Darrow was the match of the decade.
Say, you don't think Bryan College there is named for William Jennings Bryan, the Great Commoner himself, do you? It is, as a quick check on Google confirms. His spirit, like that of the free press, is alive and well in the vicinity of Dayton, Tenn.
How little things change. In this case, they just get reversed. Now it's those science teachers who express any doubts about evolution, or dare mention creationism to their students, who have to fight to express their ideas in class.
What was it Mark Twain said? "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
Paul Greenberg Archives
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