Free Speech & Milo

"One of my personal pet peeves about free speech is the loquacious person who insists on telling the cashier his/her life story while 10 people wait impatiently in line. That is free speech indeed but is it responsible behavior? Who gets to decide?" OldBooks

A very funny and excellent example of the dilemma of free speech. Even the Supreme Court would certainly consider this type of speech unconstitutional. What is interesting about the people that engage in this form of speech is that they seem to be oblivious to the fact that there are actually other people in the store and that some of these people are behind them. The poor cashiers who must listen to such people as if they cared. I wonder if Milo engages in this type of behavior while at the cash register?

"I wonder if Milo engages in this type of behavior while at the cash register?"

Successful people like Milo probably never encounter a cash register--they have people to do things like that for them.

Remember the awkward photo of Senator(at the time) Clinton who was trying to be "one of the people" and fill her SUV herself at a gas station during a photo op in the 2008 campaign?

There is also the famous case of President G.W. H. Bush who visited a supermarket and asked in amazement how at the check out a robotic voice was able to call out prices of goods moved by the cashier into the bagging area.


"I wonder if Milo engages in this type of behavior while at the cash register?"

"Successful people like Milo probably never encounter a cash register--they have people to do things like that for them." Old Books

Great news for checkout counter people throughout the world and anyone who may have possibly found themselves in line behind or in front of Milo.

As annoying as it can be, I don't really see the conversation with the cashier as being a free speech issue. It is more similar to the "I won't think to get my purse out of my handbag until the cashier announces the amount" syndrome. Or the saunter across the road with or without being fixated on a smartphone syndrome.

Here in laid back California, holding up others whenever you get somewhere first, seems to be normal. So I hesitate to characterize it as intentionally inconsiderate here, although it can be maddening! Maybe ignorance is the fairest characterization.

Yeah, I was just joshing about free speech at the cash register, which is nothing but members of the lonely hearts club describing their quotidian life to one of the few people, the cashier, who cannot walk away when they are talking to them. Cashiers probably have enough life story material for a "best of" book, but would there be any market for such a sad book?

Here we go again with college students and free speech:

I took a look at the college website to see exactly how it describes itself and found it surprisingly nebulous.

The event itself is posted on the college calendar and billed as a response to a challenge put forward by the President in her inaugural address.

As a private college, the institution is exempt from the requirements imposed on public institutions with regard to the First Amendment.

I am not familiar with the speaker or his work but obviously, the students were and chose to make it impossible for a guest on their campus to make a presentation.

There are two observations that can be made with some degree of objectivity:

First, the students certainly did not display the core values stated to be at the heart of the college's vision of a liberal education. It would seem hard to understand how one realistically can demand that others be held to a standard to which one refuses to hold oneself.

Second, the administration failed miserably to manage in an effective way an event that it obviously has approved to be held on campus.

A rather sharp questioning of the quality of Charles Murray's work is contained in this commentary from a rather distinguished panel from Brookings.

Thanks for sharing this valuable link. It's nice to know that my wife's time spent working for "Head Start" was not all in vain. But, more importantly, this article and the author's own work analysing the logic and claims of "The Bell Curve" could have provided the needed debate ammunition for the rioting students if they had chosen to allow Charles Murray to speak and had chosen to present evidence that discloses the fallacies of much of what is presented in his book. Mr. Murray will just move on to a more friendly venue where many attendees will hear what they wanted to hear.

This link could have also been well placed in the "Statistic,Lies....." thread.

I just got a front view seat over the last 24 hours of this phenomenon of outraged students. It was amazing to see it develop and to see how these kids (seniors with fantastic academics) engaged in bullying, insults, cognitive dissonance, outright lies, dirty tricks, smearing and innuendo towards everybody who disagreed with them including a junior.

And this wasn't on the topic of stopping hate speech. It was over a negative review of their tutoring business!

Something has gone seriously wrong with the values that some kids have been brought up with.

I'm not sure that this is what Malcolm X had in mind when he said " by any means necessary". Some of the elders of every generation think something is wrong with the values of some of the youth---and they are right. The passion for destruction can be a creative passion A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Mob mentality: In movies, when depicting riot scenes, characters, who had been the most composed and rational of protesters prior to the riot, will be shown during the riot as wild eyed, crazed, totally out of control. Art imitating life.

Few revolutions succeed without violence. But what were the students in questions trying to achieve, what was their goal? And what was the goal of the school administrators? Hopefully, this not so pretty incident will be a learning, an educational experience for all involved.

" Some of the elders of every generation think something is wrong with the values of some of the youth---and they are right."

I think this may be a two-way street and, if it is, the youth would certainly have most of the truth on their side. The greatest harm throughout history has always been done by the elders (primarily because they hold the power). Often this starts not with public acts such as the ones discussed here but rather in intimate surroundings far from the public eye.

It probably is not really a generational issue but rather a reflection of the disconnect between "education" as a social activity and the acquisition of life skills as the tools that are really needed to make society work.

Like most people, I learned a lot of time-honored things in school: how to use logarithms, employ the gerund, the nature of covalent bonds, the names of the planets in the solar system and countless other interesting factoids. At the time I could not grasp why any of this was important and it is much less obvious to me today what the point of the activity was.

Nothing I learned was of any practical use to me in any of the following areas nor in countless others all of which are the only things that actually matter in the real world:

  1. finding my way when lost in a city where I did not speak the language and was unable to read the signs

  2. deciding whether it was better to invest in a new transmission for a clunker or bite the bullet and replace the vehicle

  3. should I take Vitamin D tablets and, if so, how much

  4. how to prepare for a job interview

  5. how to deal with a difficult colleague or boss

  6. how to handle social situations effectively

  7. how to manage a personal budget

  8. how to determine whether I should support or oppose a change in government policy (a simple example is given below)

If we do not teach people life skills we may be very effective at creating a population that could live harmoniously in a utopian community where all physical needs were somehow addressed by some magical process.

Unless we start by teaching people that there are budget constraints and doing more of one thing means we can only do less of another than any solution is impossible. If people could be made to see that, then it would not be hard to imagine that people would eventually come to accept that give and take benefits, everyone. There is not really much controversy over the benefit to everyone of following the protocol for a four-way stop sign.

The incident took place on social media and the school was not involved.

I think everybody but this particular group of students learnt something. Based on how they conducted themselves, the opinions they expressed and the tactics they were willing to use, I doubt they are going to learn anything.

The students goal was to defend themselves against a parent who revealed that she had received insulting emails from the student who ran a student tutoring company.

They defended themselves by accusing her of being fake, insulting her more, and by insulting others who expressed an opinion on the matter. They were also exposed for floating an idea in the background to maliciously target a junior student tutor who had commented on the matter. Almost predictably, they called the screenshot proof of that a fake.

The lack of self awareness of how they came across on social media was impressive.

In many ways, the culture reminded me of what I've read of Uber.

Here is the statement from the President of Middlebury College in response to the event.

It looks as if the "communications specialist" was coopted to craft it.

@JTSR71 "I think everybody but this particular group of students learnt something. Based on how they conducted themselves, the opinions they expressed and the tactics they were willing to use, I doubt they are going to learn anything."

Once upon a time, the main goal of a college education,and,in particular,a liberal arts education was to produce well rounded, multifaceted human beings who were well versed in the art of thinking about whatever they should encounter in life. There are many fine books that have dealt with the demise of this educational ideal and what it means for societies.At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy dud, way back in my college years there were actually many students who went to college for an education, to be exposed to the world of ideas and thought, with little or no concern about reaping monetary rewards from their degrees. The number of students who think this way today, obviously, is many times smaller than in the past.

We know there are several types of intelligence within each person: one person can be great at math, but poor at social or emotional understanding, while another person has outstanding writing skills,but cannot understand chemistry well. So it seems the goal of a liberal arts education was to provide access and to learn about the many ways in which human intelligence has manifested itself at its best and allow the individual to pursue his or her path accordingly.

Thus, maybe the demise of the ideal that used to be the goal of an education and the forces that led to that demise are partly to blame for the student problems of today, not to mention other problems.

These students are high school seniors. I live in an area that is incredibly academic and competitive. So it's not unusual to find kids who are ambitious and driven.

These kids are amongst the smartest academically in the area. They set up a company and have been making a nice amount of money for themselves by tutoring and employing other students to tutor.

Clearly, their achievements, no doubt driven in part by very demanding parents, have given them an incredible sense of entitlement and a feeling they can do no wrong and deserve respect, to the point where they took massive bites out of the hands that feed them.

As I write this, a day after the first thread was locked, they started a new thread to malign the parent who complained about them earlier. They claimed to have received an anonymous email from somebody who is targeting their business and claimed it was the same parent who started the first thread in this matter.

They were immediately met with polite pushback from the community including a warning that the subject of their accusations would be justified in taking legal action. A while later the thread disappeared. They may have finally gotten the message or a site administrator removed their thread.

In any case, they have little idea of how fortunate they are that they live in the liberal bastion that is California. I seriously doubt they would have received the understanding they did anywhere else in the world. In my opinion they certainly did not deserve it.

It seems as if not all legislators are in favor of free speech in the classroom.

There is without question a very full and long history of repressing or controlling free speech in the classroom. In our "enlightened" culture of today, I would venture that almost half of American legislators and citizens desire that the scientific fact of evolution should be banned from being taught in American classrooms,which is but one example of the many free speech issues that have a profound effect on the education of our nation's youth and our future.

Given the fact that the students in the US educational system, which not so long ago was the envy of most of the world, have fallen to mediocre status compared to others students throughout the world, one cannot help wondering if our choices of what can be and should be taught in our schools have been well thought out. Of course, freedom of speech in classrooms is but one factor influencing educational outcomes, but it could very well shed light on the the possible reasons for our successes and failures in educating our youth.

I've never read the book above so can't comment about it in particular. History is a tricky subject as it is almost always recounted from a biased perspective or with some agenda.
However the idea that anything should be let into the classroom is absurd to me with the amount of junk out there. There is a big difference between preventing valid viewpoints/knowledge and preventing material that will adversely impact our kids. A degree of common sense is always needed. And quite frankly parents are free to show those banned books to their kids out of school if they feel that strongly about them - it isn't the only place to read them. I think we should also look to improve the role of parents - the amount of time they have for one - in order to improve the education system.

An interesting and thoughtful commentary on the Middlebury College event from a distinguished contributor.

Like most reflective pieces it does not offer a practical solution, which, unfortunately, would seem to be what is actually needed.