Letters to the Editor

07/18 What You’re Saying: Christopher Finan, Fenton McGonnell, and Joshua Allen

Stemming the tide

Historically, the American education system has been the backbone of the country’s success. However, times change, as does public perception of the system.

I believe that those families who are opting for the non-traditional forms of education are doing so because they believe the current system is failing their children. I don’t necessarily believe that is the case. I do believe that those in charge of the public system need to spend less time on political lobbying and more time on selling their “product.” This could stem the tide of public demand for the non-traditional forms.

Fenton McGonnell

Durham

Defending free expression

An open letter to the mayor and Durham City Council:

As an organization that has been defending free expression for over 40 years, the National Coalition Against Censorship is concerned by your decision to issue a statement that some people with controversial views should be denied an opportunity to speak in any place where they are likely to attract an audience, presumably including the Durham Performing Arts Center, a public space.

Your July 6 statement was issued in response to news that Jordan Peterson will speak at DPAC in September. It recognizes Mr. Peterson’s “right to hold his opinions and to freely state his opinions without government interference” and acknowledges that the management companies that administer DPAC are “entirely responsible” for the choice of performers and speakers.

However, your statement goes on to say that “a person’s right to free speech does not include the right to a platform or an audience.” This assertion, followed by a reference to “Mr. Peterson’s racist, misogynist and transphobic views, will inevitably have a chilling effect on the theater’s ability to choose speakers representing a diversity of perspectives.

We have recently seen growing support for the idea of denying people with extreme views access to an audience. Its advocates suggest that venues should allot access based on the merit of a speaker’s ideas and whether they benefit the community. But how do we determine which ideas have value? Who should make those decisions?

Clearly, Mr. Peterson’s views anger you and may upset many of your constituents. But as public officials you have a duty to protect the rights of citizens who want to hear him, including those who disagree with him but want to hear him anyway. In a democracy we let the people decide which ideas have value.

We agree that no one has a right to an audience, but everyone is entitled to seek one, especially on a public stage.

Christopher Finan

Executive director

National Coalition Against Censorship

Statement not OK

To the Durham City Council:

I have been reading about your statement regarding the appearance of Jordan B. Peterson at DPAC. I am liberal, gay, and a 20-year Durham resident. While I appreciate your defense of minority groups, it is inappropriate for elected officials to make public statements attempting to persuade an entity that manages a public space from allowing someone to speak.

It's fine to call out bigotry, but it's not OK to use your position as an elected representative to attempt to abridge freedom of speech. I call on you to modify your statement and endorse freedom of speech.

Joshua Allen

Durham

Speak up

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