Cancel Culture and the Four Olds

Cover of Red Scarf Gril

I read Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang this weekend. It’s not the first time I’ve read it, but it’s been ten years since I picked it up.

It’s a Young Adult autobiography from the Cultural Revolution in China. It covers the Red Guard teens who were enforcers of Mao’s dictates. I saw so many parallels with our world today — which isn’t a good thing.

The story opens up with the youth destroying a store sign “Great Prosperity Market” because of the “Four Olds.” Prosperity was no longer seen as a good thing.

“The names of many shops still stank of old culture, so the signs had to be smashed to make way for the coming of new ideas.

Ji-Li Jiang proudly wore her red scarf and dreamed to be part of the Red Guard when she was older. Unfortunately, her family was black-listed because her grandfather — who died when her dad was seven — was a landlord. It didn’t matter that she had never met her grandfather and the family had gone through desperate times. A landlord was one of the worst things anyone could be. The ancestors of the landlord were marked for life.

Here’s an excerpt about the Four Olds from the online Britannica:

When Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution in August 1966, he had already shut down the schools. During the following months, he encouraged the Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois” things and to put CCP officials to the test by publicly criticizing them. These attacks were known at the time as struggles against the Four Olds (i.e., old ideas, customs, culture, and habits of mind), and the movement quickly escalated to committing outrages. Many elderly people and intellectuals were physically abused, and many died. Nonetheless, Mao believed that this mobilization of urban youths would be beneficial for them and that the CCP cadres they attacked would be better for the experience.

It’s an excellent book and a quick read. What I found so eye-opening was how it showed cancel culture on steroids. Soon, nobody was safe. Everybody was being turned in. The former party leaders in the community were found to have some fault of Four Olds and they were treated as badly as Ji-Li Jian’s landlord family.

What are your thoughts about carrying the faults of our past generations?

Do you have any good books to recommend?

More Thoughts About Freedom of Speech on College Campuses


My alma mater.

I worry about my kids and the world we are leaving them. I especially worry about how their ideals are so different than mine, when I was their age.

For example, I wanted to have a successful career. I was interested in getting a job. Eventually get married, buy a home and raise a family. Not that I wanted that at age 19 or even 22, but it was in the back of my mind.


Another view from the UW.

I was a journalism major. My internships were at local newspapers and I spent one quarter at the state capital as a legislative reporter. I valued the written word. As an avid reader and writer for most of my entire life, I value freedom of speech and believe we are one of the few fortunate country’s in the world to enjoy this right. We have friends who immigrated from Eastern Europe. They told us how books were illegal in their country. They would smuggle photographs of each page to read and share with friends.



Washington  State Capital Dome

I’m so surprised that our kids do not appreciate this right.

Did you hear that? Freedom of speech, which is our first amendment right, is not a favorable thing to a growing number of our college students. There was a recent Pew Research poll that tracked opinions about freedom of speech. Forty percent of students believe that our first amendment is outdated and that the government should have the right to censor our speech if it’s offensive to minorities.

“Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Read more here about the document called the Bill of Rights. 


I was a young child in the 60s when protestors were taking over college campuses, bombing buildings and burning flags. They were protesting the War. They believed in freedom of speech.

You don’t have to agree with the words being said. You don’t even have to like it. You can hate it and find it offensive. But, don’t censor or silence it. It seems that our college campuses have become microcosms of group think where no dissenting point of view is allowed. If someone speaks out with a contrary opinion, they are shouted down, silenced and excommunicated.


It’s very scary to me that the foundations of our country are not respected or valued by our youth. I’m hoping they outgrow this attitude as they enter the world, get jobs and raise their families.

There’s a book I read when my kids were in grade school called Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. It’s a true story and eerily reminds me of what’s going on today with our college students.imgres-3

“In 1966, Ji-li Jiang was twelve years old. An outstanding student and leader in her school, she had everything: brains, ability, the admiration of her peers – and a shining future in Chairman Mao’s New China. But all that changed with the advent of the Cultural Revolution, when intelligence became a crime and a wealthy family background invited persecution or worse.”

It’s a well written book and the story is one we should think about today.


Here’s a story from 12/9/2015 that brings up some of the issues on campuses I’ve been reading about: Importance of Free Speech on Campus .

Here’s an opinion piece from the LA Times that addresses the issue of freedom of speech with numbers.

Here’s a couple blog posts I’ve written on the subject:

Is Freedom of Speech Dead On American Campuses

Are the Right to Party and the Right to Free Speech at Odds at UCSB?

Are Tragedies on Campus the New Normal and Other Thoughts from a UCSB Mom

ucsbFriday night, I had tucked myself into bed when the phone rang. It was my son — a student at University of California, Santa Barbara. 

“Mom! There’s a drive-by shooter. A guy in a black BMW is randomly shooting people in IV! We can’t get home. Everything’s on lockdown.”

This was not a call I was expecting. Nor, one I wanted to receive.

Saturday afternoon, he called again. “I just went to the store. We’re on lockdown again and I can’t get home.” 


Friday night the lockdown was because of the shootings and crashing of the BMW. Saturday, the police were removing male roommates from the killer’s apartment building.

l followed the story closely on the news. It’s almost all I could do for most of the weekend. I don’t understand why there was a leap to call this a hate crime and a war on women — and the fault of the NRA — when three victims were males who had been stabbed to death. I don’t understand why it happened, or how it could have been prevented. I believe the rush to judgement was an attempt to try to make sense or find a cause for this horrific tragedy. ucsblagoon

My heart and prayers go to all the families at UCSB. It’s been a tough year. I think the great academic accomplishments of the school are being overshadowed by tragedy. There’s too much trauma for students to digest. I wonder how these events will affect our kids in their future lives? Read about the academic accomplishments of UCSB in the LA Times here.

Just a few weeks ago, I got a call from my son during the Deltopia riots. I wrote it about Deltopia here.images-5

Then, weeks before that I saw on the TV about a UCSB Women’s Studies professor denying a pro-life teenager her right to free speech by assaulting her and cutting up her poster. I wrote about that here.imgres-8

Add that to the weekly emails about a meningitis outbreak, and it hasn’t been a stellar year for UCSB parents, students, or the faculty.

The frantic fear in my son’s voice is not what I envisioned hearing. I am sure this is not isolated at UCSB, but must becoming more common at universities across our country. Is this the new normal for our kids? They aren’t experiencing the carefree college years that we did. Where did that world go?ucsbeach
Photos from the top: UCSB campus overlooking the lagoon. A view from a dorm room at UCSB. Across the lagoon to the ocean. A Deltopia party picture. The confrontation between the Women’s Studies Professor and teen-age pro-life advocate. The view of the beach from UCSB campus.

Are the Rights to Party and Freedom of Speech at Odds at UC Santa Barbara?


Fear and worry — my first two emotions when my son texted me Saturday night at 10:30 p.m.

He goes to University of California, Santa Barbara and was in the midst of Deltopia — a party turned riot. He said there were helicopters overhead, tear gas, and kids throwing bricks and liquor bottles.


There’s been national news coverage of the event, and the campus paper also offers detailed coverage.

My third emotion was anger after I read an open letter from a student in defense of Deltopia.


The student wrote the letter anonymously and said that students are “entitled to blow off steam” and “rage.” Really? ENTITLED? Am I forking over $120,000 plus in big bills for a “right to party?” Thank goodness it wasn’t my son that wrote that letter! I’d disown him. Plus, it’s poorly written. I expect more from my son.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about another national-attention grabbing UCSB story in “Is Freedom of Speech Dead on America’s Campuses?” A feminist studies professor, Mireille Miller-Young, destroyed the poster of a young pro-life advocate and accosted her. Miller-Young pleaded not-guilty to charges of theft from a person, battery and vandalism.


There’s a petition at UCSB supporting Miller-Young and asking to censor anyone from handing out sensitive material on campus — because it may trigger uncomfortable feelings.

Here’s a quote from the petition:
“We also put pressure on administration and the Office of Student Life to reevaluate rules and regulations that allow outside community members to so heavily trigger and target students and faculty on this campus.”

Are you kidding me? The same students asking to remove freedom of speech from campus are now demanding their right to party!  Students don’t want to feel uncomfortable by a pro-life poster, but, it’s fine and dandy to drink and party at an event that ends with bricks and liquor bottles thrown at police? Has the world turned upside down at UCSB?

Fortunately, there are moments of sanity. I discovered a letter in the Daily Nexus from a student with concern about how their degree from UCSB can be harmed by the party school rep. Also, my son went to a town hall meeting with the administration and he offered a solution. He said administrators, professors and students are actively pursuing ideas to make UCSB a safe, sane place to pursue excellence in education.



Do you find it odd that students demand the right to party? But don’t want free speech on campus? Let me know.


Is Freedom of Speech Dead on American Campuses?


(photo of University of California Santa Barbara)

At my son’s college (UCSB) a professor, accompanied by her students, assaulted a 16-year-old girl who was handing out pro-life literature. They stole her poster and cut it up with scissors. The professor (who teaches a class on pornography) said she was setting a good example for her students and the poster “offended” her. Read about the incident here and the administration’s response.

At UCSB students are signing a petition that states in part: “We also put pressure on administration and the Office of Student Life to re-evaluate rules and regulations that allow outside community members to so heavily trigger and target students and faculty on this campus.”

It’s no longer acceptable to have a free exchange of ideas. It’s clear from other “incidents” that universities will no longer invite speakers who might “trigger” discussions. (See the Condoleezza Rice story below.)

I never knew that the constitution guaranteed us protection from being offended! We live in a society where it is now forbidden to present information that might “trigger” a reaction and might be “offensive” to any individual. It truly scares me — that we are raising and graduating an entire army of close-minded, unquestioning drones –because one side refuses to have other points of views discussed.

Where does that leave “an open exchange of ideas?”Take for example how a student feels at Harvard: “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.”

Here are 7 more examples of how freedom of speech is being squelched on campus:

 1. Modesto California student was not allowed to pass out copies of the Constitution.

2. Incident from 2009 where “the comfort level of students matters more than their education.”

3. Professors at Rutgers oppose Condoleezza Rice to speak at commencement. She’s the first black woman Secretary of State.

4. Ray Kelly, Commissioner of New York City shouted down at Brown University.

5. No republicans need apply to speak at commencements. 

6. No Conservatives Welcome at Swarthmore.

7. USC professor bashes conservatives during lecture.

If you are concerned with this trend of only allowing one point of view on college campuses, here’s a list of books for you to read — and your young adults, too: Farenheit 451, 1984, Red Scarf Girl, Anthem, and Ella Minnow Pea.

Do you have any other books to recommend for this list?