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Culture Friday: Future lawyers reject decorum


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Future lawyers reject decorum

Plus: Boston Marathon organizers give pregnant women race deferrals

Hui Zhang of China celebrates after crossing the finish line of the 127th Boston Marathon Monday, April 17, 2023, in Boston. Associated Press/Photo by Winslow Townson

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 17th day of March 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I'm Nick Eicher. It's Culture Friday!

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the President of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.


EICHER: Well, John, I'm a little late to this party. But when I finally did manage to look into that incident at Stanford Law School, I thought it was definitely worth bringing up here, even though it's a little bit late.

In short, the story is that a federal appeals court judge by the name of Stuart Kyle Duncan, he's a conservative Trump appointed judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the school invited him to speak to a law school class. But instead of behaving as one would hope that elite law students would behave, they came instead with signs and shouts of protests, let's have a listen to a bit of the chaos.


EICHER: So you hear him ask for an administrator to try to take control of the situation. And what he received was a prepared lecture from the dean of diversity, equity and inclusion. She spoke for around seven minutes reading from prepared remarks about the judge's abhorrent rulings that make students feel unsafe. But she did come around to express support for the judge's freedom to speak and that she hoped his comments would be valuable enough to justify all of the harm and trauma that his presence at the school was causing. Let me play a brief edited clip of that.

SCHOOL DEAN: We believe that the way to address speech that feels abhorrent, that feels harmful, that literally denies the humanity of people, that one way to do that is with more speech and not less. And again, I still ask is the juice worth the squeeze?


If you have something so incredibly important to say, that that is worth this impact on the division of these people.

EICHER: So then it calmed down enough, but the protest wasn’t over. Before the judge spoke, he watched as numerous students made a final display of disrespect by walking out.

There you have it, our future lawyers and judges.

STONESTREET: Well, it's not an isolated incident, right? I mean, we remember what happened to one of the most decorated attorneys, at least in terms of arguing at the Supreme Court alive right now, which is, of course, Kristin Waggoner, of the Alliance Defending Freedom has argued now several cases before the US Supreme Court, she had the same treatment at Yale University, maybe even a little bit worse. Of course, if you're buying into the categories of DEI, she should have been granted a little more quarter since you know, she is a woman. And that is a category that should have been treated differently according to their own standards. And she wasn't because again, you don't count, I guess, as one of those oppressed groups unless you agree with the worldview of oppression that gets imposed. Here, though, we're talking, as you said, about a federal judge. This is amazing. And both of these groups, both students, and this dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, are supposed to be grownups. You know, it's one thing when you're talking about college students, and you can argue for extended adolescence, and you know, hey, they're only 19 or 20. And, you know, they're young and idealistic. These are law students, you know, they're, they're college grads, they're working on advanced degrees, they at least theoretically, have achieved some degree of independent and critical thinking. And what they were uttering and what they were yelling was nonsensical. But of course, what the dean of diversity, equity and inclusion said was also nonsensical. And I'm not just saying that's a weird analogy she kept using about, about an orange being worth the squeeze or whatever, that was just kind of weird. But just the idea, for example, that because of an opinion, following his understanding of the law, it has caused actual harm. The talking out of both sides of her mouth about allowing someone to speak and not allowing someone to speak, I mean, it was just childish. And of course, that is what happens when you de-emphasize critical thought and you emphasize feelings and you emphasize experience. That's what you're left with is that this takes the place of thought, assertions take the place of arguments, assumptions take the place of reasons. And it's almost, you know, blinded. I did appreciate that at least the university itself, I believe, if I saw that correctly issued an apology on behalf of the Law School. Good for them. I doubt that there will be any sort of consequences for this Dean. But if this is a dean at a law school, how silly and really sad. And again, these are the people, you know, future clerks, future attorneys, future judges. And it kind of underscores the importance that ideas have consequences, they'll have real consequences and our ability to understand really important concepts for our culture, like justice and truth and purpose and meaning. So, yeah, and again, it is one incident, but these incidents continue to add up and is another example of it's not happening, and then it's happening.

EICHER: Yeah. And by the way, there was an official apology, John, from the President of Stanford and the Dean of the Law School. I've got it in front of me here. It notes that the policy of the school is to support the right to protest, but not disrupt. They gently criticize that DEI Dean for failing to enforce university policy, and intervening instead in inappropriate ways. Now, this must have been a reference to the scolding lecture that we talked about that she gave to the judge.

But just a quick followup. Brad Littlejohn at WORLD Opinions made this point I’d like for you to respond to. He wrote about this incident and said this disruption is the result of the students’ growing up in a world without boundaries. He writes: They’ve been given content “designed to feed them material they already like and agree with, and trained to respond to obnoxious ideas by scrolling past, tapping ‘Mute’ or ‘Block,’ or else ranting cathartically at a faceless opponent whose feelings could be ignored. They’ve been habituated to consume information through feeds of 15-second videos, not the 1,500-word rational arguments that are the attorney’s daily fare.”

STONESTREET: I actually just made the same point to a group of young professionals that I was speaking to that social media, it's sort of catechized and popularized this way of thinking about people who disagree as being harmful, and as people who need to actually be silenced. If that argument is indeed true, though, then this is not a problem merely at Stanford University. It was just two weeks ago, where a excerpt from a book on sexuality from a Christian publisher created a Twitter firestorm and which disagreement quickly devolved into attacking an individual person who clearly had no ill will or ill intent, and in many ways, was not saying anything that church fathers had been saying for years, but was considered to be harmful, and enabling abuse. And not that I agree with necessarily the theological arguments that were made in the piece. But the reaction seemed to be really similar to the ranting and raving, and the anger and the claiming of harm being done. And the demand that essentially this person's career be over that was made by so many. And I'm not saying that everyone that had legitimate disagreements with the piece behaved that way, because they didn't, but very quickly, it all became this snowball that was designed to overrun this person. And you know, like every Twitter storm, it lasted for 72 hours, and went away. But for this pastor, this author, those three days, changed the course of his life. And do we really think that's what was deserved in that situation? So I think that there at least has to be a willingness for those in the Christian community to see something like this Stanford incident as a mirror and say, Where are we at on this? 

BROWN: Well, John, next month athletes from around the world will compete in the oldest annual marathon - The Boston Marathon. This year it becomes the third out of the six WORLD Marathon Majors to announce a pregnancy deferral policy.

WORLD’s Lillian Hamman wrote about this in WORLD Digital. We’ll link to it in today’s transcript.

The new policy allows female athletes to submit a request as close as 14 days before the race to defer entry for up to two years. Now some detractors are questioning the new policy, asking why deferrals should be allowed for pregnancy instead of injuries and illnesses.

Now, John, maybe this isn't just a sports story, maybe it's about marathon leaders behaving the way you'd want them to behave, you know, helping pregnant women. So after the negative conversation about college campuses, you know, I want to ask you, are you encouraged, but every time I asked you that, you say "No."

STONESTREET: Hey, that's not true! I mean, I'm encouraged that there's a sports body that recognizes there's such a thing as women. You know, I don't know if this is going to turn around, and they're going to have, you know, men, claiming to be, you know, women and then claiming to be pregnant. I mean, we do have plenty of men in public forums, claiming to menstruate and all kinds of weird things. So who knows? But, and I mean, biological men not anyway, keeping these categories straight. So let me just go back to answer your question. All right. Yes, somewhat encouraging. But there are some incredible stories about the strength of women and how this speaks, especially to the fact that pregnancy is not a disease. And the fact that they're not treating it the same is really important. And we should encourage that it never gets treated the same, because how often is it treated the same? And we have a former president saying that pregnancy is a punishment on a young life, we've had plenty of bodies say that to not allow a woman to end a pregnancy is to remove healthcare. So in other words, just like it's a treatment of disease, it gets talked about as a disease over and over and over even more than that, I think, in so many different ways, good, essential biological realities of how women are made are pathologized as problems to be solved, as things to be overcome. And this is a thing that we should celebrate as much and as often as we can, and uphold it that way.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast … thanks, John!

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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