“Academic Rights and Wrongs: Got a nasty, radical professor? Congress can’t help,” Wall Street Journal, 7 October 2005, http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007369 (from a private email).
Read on for a tdaxp flip-flop:
A while ago, I wrote about the War for the Courts: the political battle by Conservatives to take the third branch of government away from Liberals. I compared it to the Vietnam War, and assumed that Right in the Court battle is roughly where the Communists were in the 1970s.
A similar struggle is being fought against the Academy. Conservatives wisely realize that like the Courts, Academia has been held by enemies for too long. But there is a substantial difference: the goal is not to seize, but to destroy.
This war is being fought in the open, through attempts to criminalize prostelyzation by the Enemy, and in secret, by attacking in less visible ways.
First, David Horowitz’s growing movement to hit Academia with the hammer of Law (a movement that the Wall Street Journal is sympathetic too, but still criticizes)
We begin this week with a quiz. Imagine yourself as a freshman at State U. On the first day of class a professor walks in the door and says: “Hello, I’m Joe Schmoe, and I like sex with men. Christians hate gays, and the ‘r’ in Republican stands for ‘racist.’ We have too many Nazis running around on campus, and if you’re a conservative you’ll probably fail my course.”
How do you react?
- (a) What a jerk, I hope it’s not too late to drop this course.
- (b) What a hoot, now I know what to say to get a good grade.
- (c) Call the cops. He just violated the Academic Bill of Rights!
If you answered (c) you don’t get credit, because most students have never heard of an Academic Bill of Rights. Yet such a thing is not pure fiction. An example of one is making its way through Congress right now as a resolution attached to the House-approved version of an education bill; and another resolution is being considered in the Senate. We’d vote “no.”
This is not because the freedom to learn, or to speak, is alive and well on the American campus. Clearly it isn’t. The template for both resolutions in Washington–and similar ones have reached some 15 state legislatures–was written by conservative activist David Horowitz. He was responding to a chorus of student complaints about political intimidation by (mostly leftist) teachers in college classrooms. The document says, among other things, that “no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers” and that “intellectual independence means the protection of students” too. (Full text at studentsforacademicfreedom.org.)
Less in-the-open are attempts to starve the beast:
Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University, said this year that skyrocketing tuition was a result of what he called “public higher education’s slow slide toward privatization.”
Other educators have made similar assertions, some avoiding the term “privatization” but nonetheless describing a crisis that they say is transforming public universities. At an academic forum last month, John D. Wiley, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that during the years after World War II, America built the world’s greatest system of public higher education.
“We’re now in the process of dismantling all that,” Dr. Wiley said.
The share of all public universities’ revenues deriving from state and local taxes declined to 64 percent in 2004 from 74 percent in 1991. At many flagship universities, the percentages are far smaller. About 25 percent of the University of Illinois’s budget comes from the state. Michigan finances about 18 percent of Ann Arbor’s revenues. The taxpayer share of revenues at the University of Virginia is about 8 percent.
Earlier, even some conservative academics like Victor Davis Hanson attacked the tenure system, a foundation of the American University system. At the time, I criticized him for this.
I no longer do. Substantial parts of Academia are too far gone to be saved. Major portions of “soft” studies at the University serve as Leftist conversion and reinforcement machines, giving Leftism a structural advantage in the politics of America and the world. Conservatives need a “full spectrum” assault on Academia, a real effort to subdue and subvert our enemies there. Some tactics will prove more effective than others. The work of the “privatizers” in state legislatures, of academics like Victor Davis Hanson, and activists like David Horowitz are all part of a larger solution. We need them.