Barbara Kay: Another school, another recording, another free-speech crisis

The old adage has it that “a picture is worth a 1,000 words.” But, as former Wilfrid Laurier University teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd showed Canadians last November, in academia 1,000 words — unexpectedly recorded — can paint a culture-capturing picture.

By now, the infamous interrogation Shepherd endured after exposing students to Jordan Peterson’s views on compelled speech is so widespread as to need no further elaboration. Lindsay Shepherd is a household name in a free-speech movement she has helped to create. But if she hadn’t had the presence of mind to record that session, it would be “Lindsay who?”

Amazing when you think about it: it took only a tiny poke on her laptop keyboard to overturn a long tradition of power imbalance between ideologically inclined professors and vulnerable students holding unpopular views. The ripple effect from Shepherd’s action is likely to be significant.

It was, for example, a literal inspiration to Valerie Flokstra, a 22-year-old graduate of the University of the Fraser Valley’s teacher education program. Flokstra is now teaching at a private school in B.C., and is therefore safe from academic reprisal in speaking her mind about an incident that occurred last January, one that has striking similarities to Shepherd’s.

Flokstra is a devout Christian and pro-life. But, as she told me in an interview, “throughout the entire program I never expressed an opinion on the ethics of abortion.” The precipitating discussion was not about ethics, though. It was about the epidemiology of autism, which a growing number of school-aged children are being diagnosed with.

Flokstra’s teacher, Nancy Norman, had mentioned the known link between premature birth and autism. Another student noted the rising rates of autism. Flokstra adduced rising rates of abortion as a possible causal link. She had learned this from a pro-life documentary called Hush (in which I was interviewed), …read more

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