Editorial: Pressure on CLC is troubling for more than just slowing the college's diversity effort

The decision by the College of Lake County Board of Trustees to delay hiring an administrator to oversee diversity issues may give the board a little breathing room to respond to some community concerns about the position, and that's a good thing. But the concerns themselves bear some sober reflection.

As our Doug T. Graham reported last week, the CLC board delayed the hiring after hearing from 24 community members who fear the position will lead to the teaching of critical race theory on campus.

Critical race theory has become a political touchstone, and it's unfortunate that that controversy has wormed its way into a discussion about a position that merely aims to ensure the college remains sensitive on all levels to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Even more troubling, though, is the notion that the theory has no place in the community college curriculum.

Whether the theory is taught and in what context is a matter for an educational institution's administrators and staff to determine based on the institution's mission and the community's needs. With rare exceptions, it is troubling to consider that an institution of higher education would be forbidden, or would consider forbidding, the teaching of any subject that may be relevant or interesting to potential students.

Indeed, critical race theory, specifically, is a multi-faceted body of historical and political thought that has become vastly oversimplified and co-opted by thinkers on all points along the political spectrum to promote their particular agendas. It could well be said that teaching the topic in a college environment is especially relevant and important in our time.

But the issue facing educators, whether at CLC or any other college or university, goes beyond concerns about this one theory. Restrictions on free speech at college campuses - especially relating to controversial conservative speakers and programs - are growing increasingly bold across the country.

Higher education institutions ought to be the hosts for examining the broadest possible range of political and social thought. The CLC board shows admirable respect for its constituents in providing some space for responding to concerns from the public. But in the end, it can't forget, nor should any other higher institution forget, that its fundamental mission is to educate.

Declaring that it will not educate on any individual topic, purely for political reasons, would both deprive students of the opportunity to better understand our world and push us all a little more toward the kind of ideological intolerance that is making open, constructive conversation on controversial topics more difficult.

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