Monday, November 28, 2005
David Horowitz has a point when he complains about the pall of orthodoxy at the present-day university. Too many departments have been taken over by people who think alike on controversial political issues. For example, if professors of Middle Eastern studies believe that western colonialism, American imperialism and Israeli militarism are the root of all problems in that area, and only teach that point of view, then their students are being cheated by this impoverished, even false view of the world.
However, Horowitz's proposed solution, an "Academic Bill of Rights," is a bad idea. Either it has teeth or not. If it doesn't, who cares? If it does, it could force professors to teach what they don't believe, which is bad for academic freedom (even if the profs hide behind this very freedom), and could lead to all sorts of useless complaints from too-easily aggrieved parties.
Nevertheless, when academics are actually asked to defend their positions to a greater public, as usual, they make a hash of it. A good example is the intellectual dishonesty seen in Russell Jacoby's LA Times commentary. Instead of taking on the student's bill of rights honestly, and admitting it tries to address a serious problem, Jacoby caricatures the situation. The only examples Jacoby gives are forcing professors to teach nonsense like astrology, intelligent design and Holocaust denial.
Jacoby, a history professor at UCLA, ends with the reminder "Truth itself is partisan." Glad to hear he believes that. But scary, if I were a student, that my history prof seems to think he's the one in full possession of it.