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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Current Column

ED PALM | Slouching toward intolerance

By Ed Palm
Friday, May 23, 2014
The Supreme Court giveth and the Supreme Court taketh away. That’s how I view their two most recent rulings.

The April 22 decision upholding the right of states, Washington included, to bar the use of affirmative action in college admissions, as I see it, was a boon. Ensuring that the students and faculty of our colleges and universities reflect the diversity of our nation is a legitimate goal, and there was a time when giving preferential treatment to underrepresented minorities was warranted. The problem is that our colleges and universities have gone too far, making a veritable fetish of diversity.

What Western Washington University’s President Bruce Shepard recently said about his university being “too white” is a case in point. Shepard went on to characterize the lack of diversity on college campuses as a “national crisis.”

According to the U.S. Census website, in 2013, 11.7 percent of Washington residents were Hispanic, 7.7 Asian, 3.9 African-American, and 1.8 Native American — totaling 25.1 percent. In the “Quick Facts” section of its own website, WWU reports that 22 percent of its students are “students of color.” The university is only 3 or 4 percentage points from our state demographic.

Also, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2012, among the 18-to-24 age group, 59.8 percent of Asians, 36.4 of African-Americans, 37.5 of Hispanics, and 27.8 percent of Native Americans enrolled in college — compared to 42.1 percent of the white student population. How does this qualify as a “national crisis”?

Clearly, Shepard believes that hyperbole in defense of affirmative action is no vice.

Having gone around in academic circles myself — pun intended — I have learned that academics are no more open-minded than anyone else. They’re just better at articulating and defending their prejudices. The communist political officers of old, who were charged with ferreting out incorrect thought, would envy the orthodoxy found on today’s liberal college campuses. Professors who want tenure, and administrators who want to keep their jobs, have to guard against expressing politically incorrect attitudes and opinions. Shepard is pandering to the liberal ideologues who predominate in academia today.

Two arguments I’ve heard in support of affirmative action are that African-Americans and Hispanics are still lagging behind in academic and professional achievement and that legal segregation has given way to voluntary segregation. We do indeed still have a racial divide in this country, but affirmative action won’t bridge it. Giving people of color preferential treatment breeds resentment and reinforces racist attitudes, the worst of which is the presumption that a deserving person of color would not have gotten into an elite college or a prestigious profession but for affirmative action.

As for that other Supreme Court decision, clearing the way for government agencies to open meetings with a prayer, I affirmed it before in these pages, and I’ll affirm it again: What truly set this country apart was the decision to erect a wall of separation between church and state. Those who believe that our founding fathers intended no such thing would remind us that our currency is inscribed with “In God we trust.” True, but that’s a sacrilege. Christians should demand that the inscription be removed. It was a coin, after all, that Jesus used in commanding his followers to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” I can’t think of a better endorsement of the separation of church and state.

I’m also aware that not all our founding fathers were deists. Some were Christians. But I imagine that, like me when I’m visiting my mother-in-law, they could set aside their personal convictions for the greater good. My mother-in-law says grace aloud before every meal. While I don’t believe that ours is a personal God we can appeal to, I bow my head respectfully until my mother-in-law is finished. I do so because I’m in her home, and she gets to display her convictions in her home.

A government meeting, however, is a public and a secular forum. It should set a fully inclusive tone, one reflecting the diversity of our nation. No religious viewpoint should be privileged over another. Everyone in attendance should feel welcome and respected — Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, Wiccans, and whatever. No one should be made to feel like an “other.” This is why, as I’ve written before, I respect and admire France’s uncompromising commitment to keeping religion a private and not a public matter. The French believe that a true commitment to “liberty, equality, and fraternity” requires that all citizens set aside their personal convictions in public and that they meet as equals on a secular plane.

We took an important step in that direction when we banned prayer in public schools. Now, thanks to the Supreme Court, we’re backsliding toward intolerance.

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