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Bob Ehrlich: Coronavirus Offering Students a New Opportunity To Learn

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Millions of America’s best and brightest students have returned home only midway through their spring semester.

Their coursework will continue, of course, as online education assumes center stage for the foreseeable future. Only those of us of a certain age recall how “distance learning” was once such a curiosity.

The considerable downside of this course of events is obvious, especially for the talented athletes and artistic types forced to miss their spring performances or games. A special sadness is reserved for the seniors, most of whom will choose to forgo their final opportunity to compete again next year even if given the option.

The upside of this new normal for America’s undergraduates is an opportunity to step back and re-examine newly acquired opinions, to think anew — maybe even begin to question some of the progressive indoctrination they have been force-fed by overwhelmingly leftist professors in the social sciences and humanities and their administrative enablers.

Here, a First Amendment redux is long overdue. Why not a reminder of how the ’60s-era free speech movement changed our culture — and how the political-correctness-inspired campaign to curtail speech through made-up constructs such as “trigger warnings” and “safe zones” represent serious challenges to our First Amendment freedoms.

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You might also remind the kids there is no Constitutional right to proceed through life unbothered by those with opposing viewpoints — and that the simple dismissal of contrary opinions as “racist” or “nativist” or “homophobic” is intellectually dishonest, anti-intellectual and empty.

In lieu of a protracted remedial course in American history (an academic experience denied many high schoolers these days), a concerned parent might suggest Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and Nat Hentoff’s “Free Speech for Me — But Not for Thee” as instructive, thought-provoking reads.

Another timely exercise would be to revisit the history of socialism, beginning with the impressive body counts compiled by a political philosophy that values government over the individual, egalitarianism over merit, autocracy over freedom.

There is an abundance to read here, of course, but a few “have-to’s” stand out: George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” and Christopher Hudson’s “The Killing Fields.”

Much of the material covered herein is disturbing — snowflakes might even label it triggering — but that is the point. In-the-flesh socialism invariably kills; its history is full of bloodshed and terror. You can bet your son or daughter will be far less inclined to attend a Bernie rally after these reading assignments.

A third area ripe for re-visitation is basic economics — you know, the science of how market capitalism creates competition and wealth. True, market economies have their shortcomings. Not everyone is able to compete (and win) in a free economy. But despite some well-analyzed warts, free market capitalism remains the reason our country is so rich, and why so many people from around the world continue to want to come here.

Again, there is a long list of texts worthy of a young person’s time, but must-reads here include Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom” and anything written by the brilliant economist Thomas Sowell.

The silliness (and danger) of political correctness is another timely exercise. Indeed, examples abound in the time of the coronavirus. Recall how quickly Joe Biden associated the president’s early travel restrictions on Chinese nationals with “xenophobia,” “fear-mongering,” and “hysteria.”

A senior Biden campaign aide went so far as to say that labeling COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” was a racial slur, thereby ignoring the usual practice of associating a new disease with its point of origin (“German Measles,” “West Nile Virus,” “West African Ebola”). A compliant media of course piled on until the appropriateness of the executive order became apparent to all.

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Finally, these challenging times remind us of how fragile life — and liberty — can be.

Such is a difficult lesson for the young and healthy, but our present circumstance serves to remind us of the importance of self-sacrifice and selflessness in times of danger and uncertainty. Such times also help us appreciate the importance of leaders, as opposed to mere politicians.

There are no better reads in this space than all three installments of William Manchester’s “The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill” and David Herbert Donald’s “Lincoln.”

Those who have raised children (and paid the considerable freight for their education) have the absolute right to instill their values into their sons and daughters. Too often, those values are lost by attrition or indoctrination by the progressive elites that control American public secondary and higher education.

With the collective timeout recently imposed on our coronavirus-ridden society, now may be the right time to revisit the social and moral mores you instilled in them in the first place. It may indeed be your last opportunity.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website. If you are interested in contributing an Op-Ed to The Western Journal, you can learn about our submission guidelines and process here.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former United States congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.