Anorak News | Ban Yik Yak: ‘We must indoctrinate a captive audience to particular controversial viewpoints’

Ban Yik Yak: ‘We must indoctrinate a captive audience to particular controversial viewpoints’

by | 3rd, February 2015

Der Unterrichter (The Teacher), c. 1980 (drawing for Rigor Mortis, published in 1983 by Diogenes Verlag AG, Zürich)

Der Unterrichter (The Teacher), c. 1980 (drawing for Rigor Mortis, published in 1983 by Diogenes Verlag AG, Zürich)


“When Yik Yak was created it was intended to give everyone an equal voice.  No one user would have an advantage over another based on followers or popularity and post,” so says the website for Yik Yak, a new app. where users can post anonymously.

The Badger Herald reports:

While Yik Yak activity at the University of Wisconsin has not become troublesome enough to warrant any response from officials, it is not the case at other institutions such as Clemson University, where, in response to concerns over racial insensitivity, the administration is considering a ban on the app, according to The Tiger News, Clemson’s student newspaper.

What are they saying?:

“I feel like it is really an outlet for people in the sorority system to make themselves feel better about what sorority they are in by putting down other ones,” she said. “It was very disheartening. We’d go to chapter and hear girls talking about what people said [about us on Yik Yak].”

She said the anonymity of the app caused people to write comments that are far more offensive than on other sites. “No one would ever tweet out or Facebook post the stuff they said on Yik Yak,” she said.

So. Ban it! Amanda Hoefer writes:

Very few people have acted in a noble, kind or intelligent manner under the veil of anonymity. Yik-Yak, the popular anonymous sharing and messaging app, showcases the vitriol that can lurk behind a generally polite and pleasant campus. Last Wednesday, a university group called “A Coalition of Concerned Students” marched on Sikes Hall to present a list of concerns and discontents to President Clements — chief among them, the increasing racial insensitivity and vitriolic, or even violent, posts being made by members of the Clemson student body.

Among other social media services, Yik-Yak exploded in the days following the Cripmas debacle, and in the wake of challenges over the ethical problems presented by Tillman Hall; the students marching asserted that the presence of the app on our campus allows a haven for ignorant and unkind, to say the least, dissenters. President Clements has laid out numerous diversity projects, including a Presidential Lecture Series on Leadership and Diversity, and the Board of Trustees is set to address the concerns laid out by the Coalition of Concerned Students at their meeting in February. In the mean time, the plausibility of a ban of the app is being considered by the campus at large. Many middle schools and high schools, and a number of universities including Norwich University and Utica College, have acted to reduce Yik-Yak usage on their campuses, by blocking the app from their wireless servers — it’s not impossible.

Ban it! That shold make the cool kids want it more. The Comfy kids can use Facebook. Comfy Kids like Fernando Hurtado “Student and editor-at-large, University of Southern California”. Remember he’s a journalist when you read this:

For those that think that banning Yik Yak is like banning the first amendment’s freedom of speech… an important distinction needs to be made. Freedom of speech, a symbol of courage, is different from senseless babbling with a mask over your face while you clip your toenails in your room.

Free speech depends on what you’re saying? Hurtado sounds like a censorious snob. He should get work at the Guardian.

This is about people talking. They’ll blather and cause offence. If they break a law, they’ll be made to pay. They might even share knowledge. They might learn.

GWU Law Prof. John Banzhaf explains why some campuses are so hostile to Yik Yak:

EMU Students Kill Mandatory Indoctrination By Using Yik Yak
Simple Exercise of Free Speech Triggers Faculty Demands for Punishment

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 2, 2015): Honor students at Eastern Michigan University [EMU], angry about a course with mandatory 9 AM Friday 3-hour sessions seemingly designed in part to indoctrinate as much as to teach, have apparently nixed the experimental program, cut into the school’s fund raising, and caused at least 2 of the 3 professors involved to refuse to teach it because of adverse comments on Yik Yak.

While the faculty union is in an uproar, demanding measures like punishment for the offending students and a ban on Yik Yak, at least some professors say it shows how a simple exercise of free speech can help overcome the traditional imbalance of faculty-student power in the classroom, and be a teaching tool.

“Although virtually all of the power to control what is said in a classroom traditionally lies with the professor, and both colleges and individual faculty members can choose to indoctrinate more than teach, Internet-based tools like Yik Yak can help redress the imbalance, empowering students to freely express contrary and unpopular views – and even criticize their teachers – especially if the teachers appear to be both unprepared and to stifle discussion,” says public interest law professor John Banzhaf of GWU.

“If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the classroom,” suggests Banzhaf, who’s been called many names by his students as well as by his opponents – e.g., “Legal Terrorist” by FOX’s John Stossel.

EMU Professor Steve Krause is critical of the faculty union’s claims that the Yik Yak incident constituted “serious student misconduct,” and that students used it to “sexually harass and defame” faculty.

He wrote “there’s a difference between something rude and insulting in the realm of free speech and speech that is both a threat and harassment. Calling someone a ‘bitch’ or a ‘bastard’ or whatever might be rude or insulting, but it’s clearly free speech. Saying ‘I want to hurt/rape/kill her or him’ is a threat, and that’s different. Based on what I’ve heard about this particular course, it is not at all clear to me that what happened went beyond the rude and insulting.”

Other EMU professors were also critical of the 3 complaining faculty members and their union’s position. They noted that the comments “centered on how disorganized 2 instructors were, how unwilling those instructors were to allow class discussion, how repetitive the material was,” and that one professor became so angry she “abandoned the class to teaching assistants” – normally a firing offense.

It also appears that part of the students’ anger – in addition to the mandatory 3-hour Friday morning meetings, teacher disorganization, and their refusal to permit certain discussions – was that the students saw the course as more indoctrination, and perhaps a mishmash, than real and valuable education.

The stated purpose of the course – “Interdisciplinary Exploration of Global Issues” [in this case, trash] – is to examine “the environment through the study of philosophical and literary texts,” teach students about their supposed “ethical obligations toward” “animals and non-sentient nature,” read and discuss a book about the history of trash, etc.

The course was taught by professors in 3 totally unrelated fields: Margaret Crouch (Philosophy), Heather Khan (Geography/Geology), and Elisabeth Daumer (English).

Interestingly, although the course was promoted as “interdisciplinary,” and EMU actually offers a program permitting student to major in “Interdisciplinary Environmental Science and Society,” none of the professors from that clearly and directly relevant area were listed as teaching this new course.

The course, which was unappreciated if not actually disliked by so many of the honors students, and which required 3 professors and 13 fellows to teach, was touted in the course description as “Interdisciplinary” – but this is an often meaningless buzzword on college campuses, says Banzhaf.

The word – which has no more of an established meaning than “new” or “improved” on supermarket products – is often used to make courses sound more exciting as well as important and relevant, and to attract students from other majors, even though theirs may not be related to the course materials.

For example, a course dealing with the global issue of trash could logically involve students being exposed to knowledge from fields as diverse as Systems Engineering, Economics, Psychology, City Planning, International Finance, and even Game Theory, but it’s doubtful that Philosophy and/or English can really help students understand or better attack the global problem of trash, says Banzhaf.

In contrast, the law professor – who as a former scientist, engineer, and inventor combined Game Theory, Computer Science, Law, and Political Science to create the Banzhaf Index of Voting Power – is interdisciplinary, and has lectured and testified on law, science, math, and global public health issues.

Perhaps one reason why so many honors students found the experimental course disorganized is that trash probably doesn’t have much in the way of philosophical implications, and the views of the great writers of English literature on this topic aren’t very helpful in addressing it today, says Banzhaf.

Colleges which want to attract students and provide real value for their high tuition should send more time on courses which attract willing students by conveying real knowledge, and developing thinking which is logical and relevant rather than fanciful, and less on mandating courses combining a mishmash of subjects and seeking to indoctrinate a captive audience to particular controversial viewpoints.

But willful ignorance is easy. Learning new stuff is hard…

Posted: 3rd, February 2015 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink