As some may have noticed, someone responded to my post on David Horowitz inviting my comments. Actually, their handle linked directly to the blog on Discover the Network, a controversial site that Mr. Horowitz edits. So, I'm assuming it was the man himself. Anyway, here is the response I sent him, which may or may not have gotten though; the site seems to have some blips.
Good afternoon! I recently recieved an email at my blog "Grad Student Madness" from someone who claimed to be Mr. Horowitz. Following the links, I now suspect that it was the man himself and am quite happy to hear from him. It was in regards to my post on Mr. Horowitz in which I said that I believed that academic liberals, of which I am one (although honestly I'm of a pro-Israel, anti-Chomsky slant that might be more receptive to Horowitz than others) should actually discuss Mr. Horowitz's ideas with him instead of sniping and snarking. So, here I am.
Where I agree with Mr. Horowitz:
1) I think that political lobbying has no place whatsoever in the classroom. Not only because it's boorish and stupid, which it is, but also because it encourages meeker students to toe the line instead of expressing their own opinions.
2) I agree that there are several disciplines that have been so ideologically shuttered that their scholarship has declined dramatically. I believe that debate and give and take is healthy for the intellect and the soul.
3) I suspect many parts of the academy really are closed off to those who don't toe the ideological line. Witness Larry Summers's current misery. I agree that this is a remarkably unhealthy situation for the university to find itself in, and it must be improved for the future of academia.
Where I disagree:
1) Because of the "self-esteem movement" in High Schools, there are already many students who come to college thinking of academics as employees who serve them. While I agree that students should have a way to challenge those profs who make their own politics part of the course load, I also fear that this sort of "anti-indoctrination" movement encourages students to treat academics with contempt, which goes against the traditional hierarchy of a teaching situation. I am not a 60s radical. I do not believe it's healthy for students to treat authority figures with contempt solely for the sake of "self-expression". I criticize leftists for taking that stance just as surely as I do conservatives. Restoring the dignity of the profession will mean that leftist academics will have to stop behaving like boobs, but it will also mean that young people will have to start behaving like students.
2) I have never been in a classroom situation in which I felt preached to or indoctrinated. Admittedly, I went to William & Mary, which may be more conservative than many schools. After all, Henry Kissinger and Margaret Thatcher have both served as Chancellor there. But, it's hard for me to sympathize. I've been friends with many conservative students and still am, and we discuss Horowitz. None of them have told me that they've found themselves in the ideological classroom. I suspect that there are many academics who agree that the classroom or seminar hall is not the place to push one's politics. In fact, I'd suspect there are a lot more of us who agree with that than Mr. Horowitz is aware of.
3) I do not think these sorts of sites constitute "McCarthyism". Yet, Senator McCarthy was not the first anti-communist crusader. I worry that these sorts of approaches; the endless "Watch" sites, the intense hyperboly, and so forth; do not really solve the problem so much as demonize the political "opposition" and make solutions much less likely to be reached. Since academics like myself see our role in society as searching for truth in our field of knowledge and serving as stewards of culture for the next generations, I simply cannot see why we should get lumped in (by aspersion) with pedants like Noam Chomsky, or psychopaths like Ward Churchill. It seems to me that Mr. Horowitz should be treated with more respect than he has been. But, I believe that he should be willing to return the favor. Perhaps, it is just a tense time in American cultural life, and there won't be many pleasant debates happening. But, I would much rather discuss these issues over drinks with people who I respect, yet disagree with, than read their opinions over hyperbolic websites. Hopefully, this email will be recieved in the spirit in which it was sent- namely, respectful disagreement.