Repost: Once a Totalitarian
It seems conservative David Horowitz has a hard time forgetting his Stalinist roots. Horowitz was serious when he wrote “You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can do it only by following Lenin’s injunction: ‘In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent’s argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.’” Although conservatives in rhetoric are ostensibly against giving government power to restrict freedom and are ostensibly for free speech, it seems that he wants to "wipe" college professors who express left-wing viewpoints "from the face of the earth." His campaign has given the State of Florida a proposed bill to do just this. From American Progress: EDUCATION – FLORIDA BILL TARGETS "DICTATOR PROFESSORS"
Conservative Florida legislators are pushing a bill that aims to stamp out "leftist totalitarianism" by "dictator professors" in the classrooms of Florida's universities. The so-called "Academic Freedom Bill of Rights" legislation is yet another state spin-off of right-wing activist David Horowitz's campus crusade to prohibit public and private college professors from introducing "controversial matter" into the classroom and shift oversight of college course content to state governments and courts. "According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities," the University of Florida's student newspaper reports. Students would also have the right to sue if they believe their professor is "singling them out for 'public ridicule' – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class." The bill has two more committees to pass before it can be considered by the full House.
Update: More on the matter from American Progress:
Academic Freedom Under Attack
Conservatives in the Ohio State Senate are considering a bill that would prohibit public and private college professors from introducing "controversial matter" into the classroom and shift oversight of college course content to state governments and courts. The language of the bill comes from right-wing activist David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights," which recommends states adopt rules to "restrict what university professors could say in their classrooms" and halt liberal "pollution" on campus. The bill is both redundant and misleading – most colleges already have rules ensuring free expression (political and otherwise) and Horowitz and his supporters have been able to offer scant evidence of widespread political bullying. Nevertheless, a variation of the bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and has made inroads in six states. For a chance to fight back against the growing influence of the right wing on campus, and to help strengthen progressive student voices, check out American Progress's brand new website, Campus Progress.
MUMPER'S MOTIVATION: Ohio Senate Bill 24 was introduced late last month by State Sen. Larry Mumper (R), who says it is necessary because "80 percent" of college professors "are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists" who attempt to indoctrinate students. When asked how he came to his conclusion, Mumper said he had been "investigating the issue for months," but cited just one instance when he had "heard of an Ohio student who said she was discriminated against because she supported Bush for president." He added that "anti-American" professors were a threat to young people and said he didn't think it was right for college campuses to teach students things their parents might disagree with.
OHIO FIGHTS BACK: Last week, the Ohio University student senate passed a resolution against the bill – the latest in a string of college students and administrations to register their opposition. One "senate commissioner" pointed out the college handbook already mandated similar rules and "suggested that the Ohio Senate should be concentrating on more important issues in education" (of which there are many). A political science professor at Ohio-Wesleyan said the law could stifle debate, and Kenyon College President S. Georgia Nugent called Horowitz's thinking "a severe threat" to academic freedom. Two conservative students from Ohio State wrote in an editorial that they did not think "government should…be involved" in policing academic debate. They also pointed out that if Horowitz "were a professor under his own bill, he probably would violate it."
DAVID HOROWITZ, CHAMPION OF OPEN DEBATE: Horowitz, who has been the driving force behind the movement for "academic freedom" in Ohio and other states, has a distinguished history of intellectual defamation, historical inaccuracy and political bullying. He has freely compared American liberals to Islamic terrorists, slandered the Democratic Party and John Kerry for criticizing the war in Iraq and made a habit out of accusing his detractors of racism. Most recently, when African-American historian John Hope Franklin questioned Horowitz's 2001 claim that black people benefited from slavery and owed a "debt" to white America, Horowitz responded by calling the eminent historian "a racial ideologue rather than a historian" and "almost pathological." Horowitz has no academic credentials and routinely distorts facts – exactly the crime he accuses "liberal" professors of committing – to fit his political bias. (Share your thoughts on David Horowitz at ThinkProgress.org)
WHAT LIBERAL CAMPUS?: Horowitz claims his bill is necessary because college campuses are a "hostile environment" for conservatives, but as American Progress's Ben Hubbard and David Halperin point out, "Increasingly, it is the conservative movement that sets the agenda." Over the past 30 years, "the right has built a powerful campus machine. A dozen right-wing institutions now spend $38 million annually pushing their agenda to students. Conservative foundations channel tens of millions more for academic programs" which "buff an intellectual sheen over conservative ideology." Groups like Young America's Foundation, which spent more than $10 million on campuses in 2003, have no progressive counterpart. The ultra-conservative Leadership Institute – boasting prestigious graduates such as disgraced fake White House reporter Jeff Gannon – claims it has trained more than 40,000 college students to become "conservative leaders" since 1979.
THE EMPTY DATABASE: Horowitz's best attempt to prove liberal bias on campus is his "Academic Freedom Abuse Center," housed on the Students for Academic Freedom (SAS) website. But the database, which invites students to report having their "rights abused" in class, only looks impressive until you start reading the actual claims. Some highlights: One student complains because her professor suggested men and women might see colors differently. Another is offended she was asked to watch an "immoral Seinfeld episode." The latest entry in the database as of Tuesday afternoon was from an Ohio State student who claims he got a bad grade on an essay because his English professor "hates families and thinks it's okay to be gay." One of the complaints comes from an Augustana College senior who is upset her school used "funds from Student activity fees to bring in the one-sided speaker David Horowitz."
Update: From Democracy Now!
ROY WEATHERFORD: Well, there are three parts of the bill that are of particular concern to the professoriat. I should mention that I am not merely speaking for the University of South Florida faculty. Throughout this legislative session, I am acting as the higher education director of the Florida Education Association, representing 120,000 education employees in Florida. And I am therefore speaking for the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, our affiliates, and the American Association of University Professors has also asked me to represent their views. So, for the first time ever, the professoriat is speaking with one voice and we are against the bill. There are three things that it does that we think are not wise. First of all, it specifies that faculty may not introduce controversial subjects when they're inappropriate, but it provides no mechanism nor means for determining who gets to say what is controversial. Somebody, evidently, will have the right to tell us what we cannot say in classroom, and that strikes at the very root of academic freedom. Secondly, it says that students have the right to expect that alternative views will be presented. One of the examples that Representative Baxley has used in discussing his bill is that it would be appropriate in a biology class, or in a science class, for intelligent design to be taught whenever the theory of evolution is being taught. Well, first of all, that again requires faculty to teach something that they do not think is scientifically legitimate or should be in the course, and secondly, there are far more alternatives than just one. In the old Soviet Union was the orthodox form of biology, would we be required to teach that as well? Would our business colleges have to teach Marxism as a legitimate business theory? There are many alternatives, not just one or two. And finally, students have a right to expect these things which presumably means they would have the right to sue to have the rights enforced, which the bill analysis says would cost the people of Florida $4.2 million, and my wife says would be a real boon to the trial lawyers of our state.
After months of closed-door hearings, last week a faculty committee at Columbia released a report that largely cleared professors of Middle Eastern studies of charges that they were intimidating students and stated that there was no evidence of anti-Semitism at the school.
PROF. RASHID KHALIDI: Why are academic freedom and freedom of speech necessary? They're not necessary to defend conventional popular ideas. You don't need freedom of speech to defend ideas that everybody agrees with. Freedom of speech and academic freedom are particularly necessary for unpopular and difficult ideas, for unconventional ideas, for ideas that challenge reigning orthodoxy. Academic freedom is important, secondly, because it's necessary to push the frontiers of knowledge forward. That in turn requires protection. That in turn requires support. Pushing the boundaries, pushing at what is accepted, requires the kind of support that academic freedom gives us.
A third reason that academic freedom is necessary is because it serves to protect precisely the most vulnerable people in academia: junior faculty, people who do not have the protection of tenure. Now, I should say, as someone who happens to have tenure, that unfortunately, this is not a protection that all of those who have it use as often as they should.... for those who don't have it, academic freedom is absolutely vital... It's not a coincidence that our junior colleagues have been the ones targeted in this filthy campaign by the gutter press and by its allies out in the world.
...This is something that's valuable to all of us. It's valuable to students, it’s valuable to the faculty, it's valuable to society as a whole. If students were coming to be told ideas that they arrived at university with, they would be getting nothing of value here. If they were not to be challenged, if they were not to be forced to rethink the things that they come here as 18-year-olds or 22-year-olds or 25-year-olds with, what in heaven's name would be the point of the university? What would in heaven's name would be the point of teaching? We would just come here with monolithic conventional ideas, and we would leave here with the same monolithic conventional ideas. This is why academic freedom is absolutely vital. It's not just vital to us, the academics. It's vital to everybody in this society and it is something which has to be defended not just by academics, but also by students. It's too valuable to be left to politicians, and heaven knows, it's too valuable to be left to administrators.
... this is an utterly artificial crisis created from without the university for purposes that are, in fact, much larger than the university. The first element of this larger environment is a campaign that is nationwide in scope, against the autonomy of the universities in the broadest sense. It's a campaign taking place in state legislatures. It's a campaign taking place in the columns of newspapers. It's a campaign which argues that there must be balance in universities. It's a campaign that based on an utterly spurious argument that the universities are strongholds of radical and liberal ideas. Would that they were strongholds of radical and liberal ideas. Would that the medical schools and the pharmaceutical schools were challenging the stranglehold of industrial medicine, of the industrial pharmaceutical industry. Would that agriculture schools -- would that agriculture schools or business schools were challenging the reigning orthodoxies. Would that economics departments, would that engineering schools, would that schools of international affairs were vigorously challenging the reigning orthodoxies in their fields. Would -- I could go on and on and on. We should challenge these ludicrous assertions, which are permeating not just the columns of the right wing press, but which we find before important state legislatures today.