By Mark Glennon of Wirepoints.
Gov. JB Pritzker has a new solution for Illinois’ shrinking population: Freedom seeking people and companies, he said Monday, will want to come to Illinois because it doesn’t ban books and interfere in the education process. The Washington Post reported last week that he will amplify that case and grow more vocal on it in coming months.
Pritzker’s Illinois is among the last places with standing to make such a claim. Before reviewing his record on that and free speech matters in general, here’s some of what he said Monday, the full video of which is here:
Well, I think broadcasting our values here in Illinois is good for the state of Illinois. That we are opposed to banning books in the state of Illinois is something that people ought to know about us. That we are not interfering with the education system in the state and the way that a teacher presents, you know, their information to their classroom, their kids, you know, that we are, we’re lifting up education, we’re not tearing it down….
And I think that, whether we’re talking about businesses that are thinking about moving here, or people that are thinking about moving here, people are choosing not to go to those states where they’re restricting freedoms, and instead coming to Illinois where we’re protecting….
And it is important, I think, for people to pay attention to it, for us to elevate it to you in the media and for us to talk about it. Because number one, it’s good for the state when people outside of Illinois hear about, and number two, when people in Illinois you know when they go to the voting booth, they may not be prepared to vote for candidates for school board or library board. And they need to be. They need to know that these people, some of the people who are running are actually part of these organizations trying to restrict freedoms.
Pritzker, however, is no champion of free speech and no opponent of dogmatism in classrooms. He has let the left’s cancel mob run free in Illinois under his governorship, in schools and everywhere else. Some examples:
- The Illinois Department of Education during his rule imposed its “Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Standards” on Illinois’ K-12 schools, despite intense opposition from many parents. The standards not only embedded racialism into curriculum but effectively told teachers what they must think, believe and teach – in broad political terms — and can disqualify teachers who don’t conform. We wrote about the standards here, here and here.
- Last year, Pritzker wrote that nobody should be allowed to run for office who doesn’t agree with his version of the January 6 Capitol Building riot. He separately described that event as “a frothing mob of traitors marching toward the capitol looking to shoot members of Congress and hang the Vice President.” Agree to those facts as Pritzker sees them or you cannot hold office — that’s his view. That would be flagrantly illegal to enforce and it was an astonishing claim for Pritzker — or any lawyer — to make.
- The University of Illinois, like some other universities, mandates the widely ridiculed, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statements used for hiring and promoting faculty. “Loyalty oaths” for wokeness, they’ve been called, which we described here. Pritzker has never objected. Countless other examples of free speech suppression at Illinois colleges and universities are routine, which Pritzker never questions.
- Last year, prior to the election, Illinois with Pritzker’s approval, forced gas stations and grocery stores to post ads boasting of supposed relief from the state sales tax. It was forced speech at its worst.
- During the pandemic, Pritzker openly rejected any discussion or collection of information on natural immunity’s potential role in the course of the virus, echoing an establishment narrative that likewise repressed any discussion of the subject.
- Illinois in 2017 imposed mandatory implicit bias training for all public school teachers. That was before Pritzker became governor but he undoubtedly supports it and has never questioned it.
- Pritzker wrongly helped censor “The Scream” ad in the last election cycle. That ad was comprised of nothing more than a video and audio taken by a home recorder of an assault and a woman screaming. NBC wrongly took the ad down after Pritzker objected to it along with, according to NBC, some of its viewers.
School boards and libraries across the nation are facing heated objections by many parents to the lessons and books to which their children are exposed. Sometimes they indeed go too far with attempts at book banning or other mandates of their own. But lines must be drawn somewhere, particularly for young children, and reasonable people who respect free speech may have different opinions.
What’s clear, however, is that Pritzker’s Illinois is no exemplar and that Pritzker has no credibility in the debate.
We should have known.
Pritzker was put to the test while he was first a candidate.
As a trustee at Northwestern University in 2017, when Pritzker first ran for governor, he let one of higher education’s worst opponents of free speech run amok at the school. At the time, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro was being nationally criticized as “one of the most hostile university presidents toward free speech principles in the country.” That’s how Jonathan Turley, a Northwestern alum and respected law prof put it. “His pandering to those demanding speech codes and regulations should be an embarrassment for the university,” Turley wrote.
Our column on it at the time was headlined “JB Pritzker, Here’s a Simple Test of What You’re Made Of.”
Pritzker flunked that test.
He did nothing. Thanks mostly to Schapiro and the trustees like Pritzker who did nothing, Northwestern has since been routinely ranked among the worst schools on free speech issues.
In that 2017 column I wrote this:
I know J.B. Pritzker quite well through work in the venture capital community. I like him a lot, though our politics differ….
What I don’t know, however, is how far left he is — whether he has joined the intolerant left now dangerously ascending across the country, particularly on campuses.
Now we know. He’s part of it.