Political Correctness at Harvard; Teen-Age Writer Delivers a Powerful Critique

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Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Yakima, Washington was the home away from the Supreme Court of William O. Douglas, the Court's premier defender of free speech. Embodying his legacy, a high-school student in Yakima has taken on the majority of the Harvard faculty for flunking President Lawrence Summers for his exercise of politically incorrect free speech. The article in the Yakima Herald-Republic (March 29) advised: You have right of free speech - as long as it's politically correct.

Asking "how free is our speech anymore," Drew Toop of Davis High School in Yakima, astutely noted: "Most people believe that we can say what we think and as we feel without fear. But there is a force out there that is hazardous to all of this freedom. Instead of being some remote dictatorship or Gestapo-like government organism, as it often has been in the lands of tyranny and oppression, our freedom is quashed by political correctness."

Young Mr. Toop illustrated his alarm by citing the famous or rather, infamous, incident involving Harvard University President Lawrence Summers earlier this year, when he challenged the academic audience at a closed-door conference in Cambridge of the National Bureau of Economic Research to speculate on possible reasons for the scarcity of female professors in science faculties at major universities.

Does being a mother sidetrack careers? Is there anything to some research indicating gender differences in choices of specialties? How relevant is gender in certain careers? Mr. Summers offered no conclusions. He wanted these intellectuals to do what they're supposed to do: Think.

But his challenge resulted, as high-schooler Toop wrote, in "the political correctness squad (rushing) upon him like a pack of bloodthirsty dingos that just smelled baby." Condemned as a sexist for raising the questions, the president of Harvard, after being denounced at a March 15 meeting of the university's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was humiliated internationally when the august professors voted 218-to-185 that they "lacked confidence" in his leadership. While there have been critics of his sometimes brusque leadership style, it was clear that, if Mr. Summers had not raised those questions about women professors in the sciences, he would not have been given so reverberating a failing grade.

At that March 15 meeting, Stephan Thernstrom, the Winthrop professor of history at Harvard, tried unsuccessfully to make his colleagues see how they were undermining the principles of higher education. …