Stanford STEPs on freedom of opinion

Does Stanford have the right to silence dissenting students when not all of its graduates think the same way?

If you ask administrators at our acclaimed Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP), the answer might be yes. Over the past several weeks, student Michele Kerr’s story has been picked up in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The San Francisco Examiner.

From Kerr’s admission into the program, she expressed concerns with the “progressive” views held by STEP. When she published her criticisms in her blog, Surviving Stanford, School of Education administrators voiced such great hostility that Kerr temporarily removed her blog, renamed it, and eliminated all references to Stanford. But that wasn’t enough. When one administrator discovered she continued to blog, according to the Washington Post education columnist Jay Mathews, he went so far as to demand her password.

The most disturbing part of Kerr’s story is that she later discovered that her teaching certification could be withheld for any reason whatsoever. STEP had no policy toward blogging and Kerr couldn’t find any written rules she had violated. But in November, she was told she might not complete the program.

At various points in the chronicle, Kerr turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. Interestingly enough, FIRE independently wrote its own criticisms of Stanford’s speech codes in June.

Stanford’s a premier educational institution for a reason, but administrators ought to consider whether its departments are encouraging diverse opinions and the free flow of knowledge and exchange – or deciding which opinions are appropriate and therefore “diverse” and which ones should be stifled.

Besides, is it really a worthy goal that every student graduating from STEP thinks exactly the same way?

Check out the articles.

Subscribe to the Stanford Review