Teresa Wagner: poster child for academic- and personal- freedom
I've remarked before on this blog on the degree to which Iowa is a breeding-ground for political extremism, both left and right. The tendency of the Iowa caucuses to push both parties to the extremes by favoring unelectable ideologues over pragmatic statesmen is probably the best single argument against the primacy of the caucuses in the nominating process. And yesterday I blogged the case of an Iowa legislator who thinks that babies should be aborted because they may have colic.
My adopted home state is the scene of another significant struggle in the battle between reason and unreason, between pragmatism and ideology, and between freedom and its curtailment. Yesterday the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case of Wagner vs. Jones.
You probably haven't heard of the case. You should. Paul Mirengoff discusses it here, over at PowerLine.
The case involves the failure of the University of Iowa to hire an über-qualified pro-life activist over several much less qualified liberals- one just out of law school- to teach a writing course to law students. The university argued that Teresa Wagner had not been hired because she refused to teach the analysis part of the course. The tapes of the interview had been conveniently destroyed, but surviving faculty emails contradict this claim.
At trial, the jury was unanimous in agreeing that Wagner had been discriminated against because of her political views. A mistrial was declared because it could not agree who was responsible. Wagner is asking the Court of Appeals for a new trial.
Political and religious discrimination against those who do not toe the line of leftist and anti-religious orthodoxy is a fact of life in American higher education. Graduates of public universities can testify to the degree to which grades are as dependent in many cases on agreement with the professor's ideology as with the quality of the student's work, and a public university degree the end result of a liberal education in a somewhat different meaning of the word "liberal" than is traditionally meant by the term. In fact, in that sense of the term, American public universities have a strong tendency to dispense a distinctly illiberal education indeed.
Those who value the notion that higher education should be an arena for the free exchange of ideas and the unfettered pursuit of truth should follow the Wagner case carefully. It is a significant event in the struggle to change American higher education back into an arena for free thought and inquiry, instead of institutions of indoctrination for those who little value such freedom, and prefer to indoctrinate rather than educate.
Oh.. One more thing: it should be said that the University of Iowa Law School now has four Republicans on its faculty.
At the time Wagner was denied her position, it had only one. And 49 Democrats.
Affirmative action, I guess.
ADDENDUM: Here is a summary of yesterday's oral arguments.
And here is an audio file of the arguments themselves.