The College of Lake County board’s decision to delay hiring an administrator to oversee diversity issues may give the board some breathing space to address some community concerns about the position, and it is a good thing. But the concerns themselves bear some sober thought.
As our Doug T. Graham reported last week, the CLC board delayed hiring after hearing from 24 community members who feared the position would lead to teaching critical theory of race on campus.
Critical race theory has become a political touchstone, and it is unfortunate that this controversy has seeped into a discussion of a position that is simply intended to ensure that the college remains responsive at all levels to issues of diversity, d equity and inclusion.
Even more troubling, however, is the idea that theory has no place in the community college curriculum.
It is up to the administrators and staff of an educational institution to determine whether the theory is taught and in what context based on the institution’s mission and the needs of the community. With rare exceptions, it is troubling to consider that a higher education institution would be banned, or consider banning, from teaching any subject that may be relevant or interesting to prospective students.
Indeed, Critical Race Theory, in particular, is a multifaceted body of historical and political thought that has become greatly simplified and co-opted by thinkers from all points of the political spectrum to advance their particular agendas. It could well be said that teaching the subject in a college environment is particularly relevant and important in our time.
But the problem facing educators, whether at CLC or any other college or university, goes beyond concerns about this theory alone. Restrictions on free speech on college campuses – especially with regard to controversial conservative speakers and programs – are becoming increasingly bold across the country.
Higher education institutions should host the examination of the widest possible range of political and social thought. The CLC Board of Directors shows admirable respect to its constituents by providing some space to address public concerns. But in the end, it cannot forget, and no other higher institution should forget, that its fundamental mission is to educate.
To state that he will not educate on any individual subject, for purely political reasons, would both deprive students of the opportunity to better understand our world and push us all one step closer to the kind of ideological intolerance that makes a difference. open and constructive conversation on controversial topics more difficult topics.