The title word has a checkered history. There are any number of people who’ll tell you that “you can’t be neutral about X,” where X is something they particularly favor or disfavor. And to be fair, there are subjects on which I would view perfect neutrality – i.e. “I’m neither for it nor against it” — as rather suspicious.
During World War II, George Orwell said that:
“Pacifism is objectively pro-fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side, you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’.”
I’ve seen few completely intemperate statements from Orwell, but this is definitely one such. He could have stopped at a condemnation of “active” pacifism, which involved trying to impede participation in the war. That variety of pacifism is anything but neutral. However, he went on to foreclose the possibility that one might be neutral about it: i.e., disinclined to take a position on whether participation in that war was a good or a bad thing. Had he asked some hermit for his position on World War II, what would he have said if his questionee were to reply that “I don’t know enough about it to allow myself an opinion” — ?
In discussions of public institutions, we often encounter controversies about “value neutrality.” This is an especially contentious subject in discussions of public schools and state-supported universities. It arises whenever some controversy with significant communities on both sides of the question is addressed in a classroom setting. Just now, the most frequently encountered such controversy is about allegations of “systemic racism” in American society. Consider this article on developments in North Carolina:
A bill proposed in North Carolina would force teachers and government schools to post the materials used in class online, allowing parents and taxpayers to see what is going on. Naturally, tax-funded “educators” and their unions, along with their Democrat allies elected with union money, are fighting back so they can hide what is being taught.
The legislation, known as the Academic Transparency Act or House Bill 755, would force government schools to post everything used in the classroom on their websites. That would include handouts used in class, lesson plans, textbooks, reading materials, videos, digital materials, websites, and even online applications. Any speakers brought in during the school day would be listed, too.
Later on in that article, we have this:
When a vote was taken in the House of Representatives, every single Democrat voted against it. Still, the measure passed by 66 to 50 amid growing parental suspicion and outrage.
Democrats made clear that they opposed to the measure because they thought parents would be upset by what is being taught.
“We have to be very careful when trying to micromanage for no reason, because that’s what this is,” complained Democrat Rep. Kandie Smith.
So allowing parents to know what goes on in their public schools’ classrooms is “micromanagement!” Clearly, Miss Smith is worried about parental reactions to indoctrination displacing facts, something that occurs in a great many public-school classrooms these days. One of the few positive consequences of the Pandemic Panic has been parents’ exposure to those episodes through their kids’ Zoom-modulated classes. The Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch will already know about “educators’ unions’” attempts to bar parents from watching those Zoom class sessions.
In theory it would be barely possible, with great difficulty, to operate a completely “neutral” school: i.e., one in which only verified, objective facts are ever introduced or discussed. That having been said, the probability that any government-run school would attempt to do so is small enough to be treated as zero.
It “should” be “obvious” that interest groups of any sort will never be “value neutral.” The very existence of an interest group proclaims that in its members’ and donors’ opinion, a particular value or values is generally under-prioritized. Even an “against” group makes such a statement, for why else would one be against the promotion of some interest except that it clashes with other values of greater importance?
Controversies abound over religious values, family values, civic values, cultural values, international values, interpersonal-relations values…you name it. They’re everywhere. Avoiding taking stands about them, especially if pressed on the matter, is getting to be one of the greatest challenges of life in American society. It’s made social life more difficult for Americans than it has been in many decades – and it underscores the social and civic necessity of keeping the State, in any guise whatsoever, out of the values-promotion business.