Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Responding to David Horowitz

David Horowitz:
"If you were to read my book you would see that I agree with you and that your standard is exactly (word for word) the point of view I take in the book. The 101 professors profiled are dangerous to the academic enterprise: the disinterested pursuit of knowledge."

First off, my reading your book isn't nearly as theoretical as that wording implies. I've read at least half of your books, and will read this one when I get a copy of it.

Secondly Mr. Horowitz, yes, you indeed make many of the same points that I do here on a fairly regular basis. And yes, I can believe you that we both see the disinterested persuit of knowledge to be the goal of education.

What bothers me is that you frequently return to these three points:

1) There are thousands of liberal professors in higher ed, which is undoubtedly true. Then,
2) Some of them are wack-jobs like Ward Churchill, and so...
3) The universities are overrun by leftists who are trying to indoctrinate our young people.

Maybe this is not your argument in this book. Maybe you just state those three things and don't explicitly state a causal connection. But, it certainly is the implication in the mailings that I get from you, and I'm guessing it is in the mailings that other people get from you. Now someone like myself who is probably further to the left than you, although probably more culturally conservative than most liberals (in that I believe we have a higher culture that professors should be the stewards and protectors of), and who spouts my liberal noise here, but who frankly finds the idea of telling my students my political views to be as repugnant and inappropriate as say, talking to them about wife swapping- where am I in your argument? Am I a few sentences in the middle to make it clear that you're not talking about all liberal educators? Am I an entire chapter?

Am I wrong in reading that you think that liberals are somehow more likely to proselytize than conservatives are? Seriously, I'm asking.

And people like myself, who you're probably right, do share a lot of your opinions, do you think that maybe your overheated rhetoric might turn us off to your arguments?

Does this sound like you want to have a discussion, or like Geraldo Rivera?
"These are just a few of the most notorious radicals indoctrinating our young people today. Sadly, they’re not the exception at our schools -- they’re the mainstream! They’re just a sample of the 101 professors we’ve researched and exposed in The Professors... and they’re just the tip of the iceberg."

Me: My point again is that they aren't even close to being the mainstream at the three institutions of higher education that I've attended.

"Imagine just for a moment being a conservative student and having to sit in a class taught by any one of the professors I’ve mentioned. Difficult? Stressful? All of that and more, and that’s simply not what a college education is about."

Me: And not difficult for a liberal student? And why exactly is encountering people whose opinions differ radically from your own, while annoying in a classroom, so antithetical to higher ed?

"Yet the 101 professors highlighted in my book are representative of thousands of radical leftists who spew a violent anti-Americanism, preach anti-Semitism, and cheer on the killing of American soldiers and civilians! And they’re living off taxpayer dollars and tuition fees as they indoctrinate our future leaders."

This doesn't sound the slightest bit exaggerated to you? You really can't see why this sounds hysterical to me? About as hysterical as the "Bush lied and everybody died!" crowd, to be honest. Maybe I've been really lucky in not encountering it, or maybe my liberal indoctrination makes me blind to it, but I think I'd remember anti-America 101.

You're right that there is a problem of some sort. And perhaps we only differ in the extent of the problem. But, this sort of rhetoric does not convince me in the slightest that you are persuing an intellectual discussion of the topic so much as hyping your own organization and publications.

So, if you ever want to hear from a liberal educator who indeed finds the ideologues repugnant, and who thinks that most educators would agree... let me know.

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