Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Crybaby Conservatives

Here's an article by Russell Jacoby over at the Nation covering exactly what's wrong with Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights,


starting with the total lack of any evidence that any problem exists at all,

Conservatives claim that studies show an outrageous number of liberals on university faculties and increasing political indoctrination or harassment of conservative students. In fact, only a very few studies have been made, and each is transparently limited or flawed. The most publicized investigations amateurishly correlate faculty departmental directories with local voter registration lists to show a heavy preponderance of Democrats. What this demonstrates about campus life and politics is unclear. Yet these findings are endlessly cited and cross-referenced as if by now they confirm a tiresome truth: leftist domination of the universities. A column by George Will affects a world-weariness in commenting on a recent report. "The great secret is out: Liberals dominate campuses. Coming soon: 'Moon Implicated in Tides, Studies Find.'"
The most careful study is "How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?" Conducted by California economist Daniel Klein and Swedish social scientist Charlotta Stern, it has been trumpeted by many conservatives as a corrective to the hit-and-miss efforts of previous inquiries by going directly to the source. The researchers sent out almost 5,500 questionnaires to professors in six disciplines in order to tabulate their political orientation. A whopping 70 percent of the recipients did what any normal person would do when receiving an unsolicited fourteen-page survey over the signature of an assistant dean at a small California business school: They tossed it.

Jacoby goes on to outline the problem with Horowitz's solution to this unproven "bias" on campus:

While some propositions of the academic bill of rights are unimpeachable (for example, students should not be graded "on the basis of their political or religious beliefs"), academic freedom extended to students easily turns it into the end of freedom for teachers. In a rights society students have the right to hear all sides of all subjects all the time. "Curricula and reading lists," says principle number four of Horowitz's academic bill of rights, "should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge" and provide "students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate."

"Where appropriate" is the kicker, but the consequences for teachers are clear enough from perusing the "abuses" that Students for Academic Freedom lists or that Horowitz plays up in his columns. For instance, Horowitz lambastes a course called Modern Industrial Societies, which uses as its sole text a 500-page leftist anthology, Modernity: An Introduction to Modern Societies. This is a benign book published by a mainstream press, yet under the academic bill of rights the professor could be hauled before authorities to explain such a flagrant violation. If not fired, he or she could be commanded to assign a 500-page anthology published by the Free Enterprise Institute. Another "abuse" occurred in an introductory class, Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, where military approaches were derided. A student complained that "the only studying of conflict resolution that we did was to enforce the idea that non-violent means were the only legitimate sources of self-defense." This was "indoctrination," not education. Presumably the professor of "peace studies" should be ordered to give equal time to "war studies." By this principle, should the United States Army War College be required to teach pacifism?

Not to mention, every case Horowitz has put up has turned out to be bogus. The Kuwaiti student was actually failed because his essay answer was incohorent and did not, in fact, answer the exam question, not because he "loved America"; the woman actually got a C and not an F, and got that C, and got it because she didn't answer the exam question, not because she defended George Bush; the professors that are said to mock Jesus endlessly in the classroom while swilling Scotch and spitting on the Holy Cross turn out to have actually just mentioned, once or twice, casually, that maybe the Bible wasn't literally written by the Fiery Finger on God in 50 A.D.; the evil feminists who have sex with goats while sacrificing male infants in the classroom over blazing fires of bras and the Constitution turn out to just be single women who won't date Republicans -- you know, that sort of thing.

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