Reforming Our Universities

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DH: As I explained throughout my book, the problem of indoctrination on college campuses is a failure of universities to enforce the very principles of academic freedom and academic professionalism that they claim to honor. In my book I describe a case at Penn State, which has the best academic freedom policy in the nation, and is only one of a handful of universities that even recognize a student’s right not to be indoctrinated. I advised a student named A.J. Fluehr through the Penn State grievance process and won a ruling from Dean Susan Welch that a professor in the communications department had infringed the First Amendment rights of Mr. Fluehr, in effect requiring him to subscribe to the instructor’s point of view. I believe there have been several cases of successful complaints regarding students’ academic freedom at Temple, which is the only other Pennsylvania University to recognize such rights.

JKW: You criticize the College of DuPage trustees for going too far in response to their concerns about too many liberal speakers on campus, and you cite a forum where three speakers were critical of Israel and claim that the trustees could “employ the language of the [American Council on Education] to require that DuPage programs support intellectual pluralism.”(211) Does that mean that you think trustees should be able to ban a forum on campus if it doesn’t include an opposing point of view? And isn’t that a strange attitude considering that the AAUP defended you when St. Louis University banned you from speaking for that very reason?

DH: No, I don’t think trustees should be allowed to ban a forum they disagree with. Supporting intellectual pluralism means just that: supporting ideas not banning them. I think it’s deplorable that panels are called “academic” when they are entirely one-sided, but I have never called for banning them. I have never supported opinion bans and I am sorry that the AAUP feels it necessary to keep suggesting that I do. Perhaps this is because the AAUP can’t handle the intellectual argument I have actually put forward. I have publicly praised the AAUP’s stance in defense of free speech at St. Louis University much as I have deplored the AAUP’s stance against academic freedom at DuPage and elsewhere.

JKW: You attack the Illinois AAUP’s letter to the DuPage trustees expressing concern about a ban on “opinion” discrimination: “In the AAUP’s view, apparently, a student failing to grasp the ‘correct opinion’ about ‘reality’ should expect to receive a failing grade. This was about as succinct a definition of indoctrination as one could ask for—imposing a matter of opinion as though it were a statement of fact.”(213) But the problem is that anyone can claim that a statement of fact is simply a matter of opinion and then demand the right not to be discriminated against, such as claiming that evolution is an opinion and creationism must receive the same grade in a biology class. How do you easily distinguish between facts and opinions? And do you think that adding “opinion discrimination” to anti-discrimination laws and rules is a good idea?

DH: Anyone can claim anything. That doesn’t mean we can’t distinguish opinion from fact, even if there are gray areas where making the distinction may not be so easy. The theory of evolution is a theory but the scientific community has a way of establishing theories via the assembling of compelling evidence. It is an established fact – not an opinion –that the universe is not 6,000 years old as creationists maintain. The theory of “intelligent design” is not accepted as a scientific fact by the scientific community. This does not mean it should not be discussed but it does mean that in the view of the biological sciences it is an opinion not a fact.

I never suggested that we add “opinion discrimination” to anti-discrimination laws. I have said that instructors should not present their opinions as scientific facts, which means that they should make students aware of the existence of divergent opinions (and not necessarily all such opinions) in a fair-minded manner, and should assign students texts and materials, which would allow them to compare opinions and make up their minds for themselves. I believe this is precisely what the AAUP’s 1915 “Declaration on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure” both states and intends.

JKW: You wonder, “Why had the AAUP and the faculty unions eschewed a path of negotiation and compromise and decided to conduct a political war instead?”(217) Actually, didn’t you start the political war by proposing legislation about the Academic Bill of Rights before you ever contacted the AAUP and faculty unions? And why exactly should the AAUP compromise academic freedom at all?

DH: No I didn’t. I first approached the AAUP – that is, before I published the Academic Bill of Rights or approached any legislator. I vetted it with Michael Berube, Todd Gitlin, Eugene Volokh, Alan Kors and Stanley Fish – and removed any wording that was unacceptable to any one of them. The AAUP met my overtures with silence. More to the point, as I indicated in my book, no one in the AAUP has ever contacted me since its publication or suggested changes or offered to engage in a constructive dialogue about these issues. I, on the other hand, have made several efforts to start such a discussion with Cary Nelson, Robert Post, Roger Bowen, Michael Berube and William Scheuerman and have been rebuffed by all of them.

I have never asked the AAUP to compromise academic freedom principles. My Academic Bill of Rights is entirely composed of the academic freedom principles laid down in the 1915 Declaration. The AAUP’s responses to my bill have consisted of gross misrepresentations (claiming that I want to fire faculty liberals, require the hiring of Nazis, force professors to teach intelligent design or holocaust denial, and reject the idea that there is such a thing as provable “knowledge”). As I document extensively in my book, the AAUP has acted in bad faith throughout this campaign. If they are prepared now to sit down in good faith and undertake a serious discussion of these issues, I am more than ready to do so.

Thank you for taking the time to read my book and come up with these questions. I will take it as a testament to the accuracy of my text that these are the most important quarrels you have with what I have written. If the AAUP had been as forthcoming from their side as you have we would be much further advanced in addressing the problem of classroom indoctrination than we are.


John K. Wilson: I disagree with much of what Horowitz says, but I’ll ignore some of his statements (such as his failure to explain the whole race angle with the University of Chicago speech) to focus on what’s most important.

In his book, Horowitz explains how he encourages a Penn State student to file an official complaint against a class in which An Inconvenient Truth was shown. When an administrator rejects the idea that the movie violates Penn State’s ban on indoctrination, Horowitz claims otherwise, since the movie makes “claims that only climatologists or scientists in related fields could assess, not a professor of English literature. Nor were they pertinent to a class devoted to teaching students how to write papers in social science.”(194)

If Horowitz didn’t want to ban An Inconvenient Truth from social science classes, why was he supporting a complaint to do exactly that?

Horowitz claims that he is embarrassed by this statement in the Students for Academic Freedom handbook about supporting efforts to write the Academic Bill of Rights and has never said anything like it in seven years. Yet in the Mission and Strategy of the group that Horowitz admits to personally writing is this line: “Students for Academic Freedom clubs at public universities will appeal to governors, state legislators, boards of trustees and other appropriate officials and bodies to write The Academic Bill of Rights into educational policy and law.”

That’s exactly what Horowitz denies doing: seeking to have the Academic Bill of Rights written into the law. And it makes his claim that “ I have never sponsored legislative measures that would be statutory” seem quite ridiculous.

Horowitz claims a visiting professor “is brought to a university to provide a fresh or unrepresented perspective or experience, and is not brought in as a permanent member of the faculty.”

But a visiting professor is still a faculty job, and like any other faculty job the hiring should not be based on ideology. I’m sure if a college banned conservatives from being hired as visiting professors it would cause Horowitz to speak out about it.

Horowitz’s assertion that “ most students go through four years of a university education without ever encountering a conservative adult” is ridiculous. But that fact that he doesn’t regard college students as “adults” says a lot about his point of view.

Horowitz writes, “Do I need to burden my text to provide chapter and verse of specific cases to make this point?” Yes, you do actually need to prove your claims. And while I also doubt this new claim that the federal government has a “profound effect” on college hiring, that wasn’t your claim. Your claim was that “Contracts had been signed which allowed government officials to decide whom universities could hire, what salaries they could pay, who they could admit as students to their institutions, and even what kind of statements teachers could make in the classroom.” Prove it. The fact that Dershowitz got so paranoid that he voluntarily started taping his lectures is not proof that government bureaucracies control the hiring, salaries, admissions, and classroom statements of colleges. It’s not even the slightest bit of evidence.

David Horowitz responds: I answered your first several points in the original interview. Re-read my answers. As for the evidence of a contract issue, every university that receives federal funds agrees to adhere to the discriminatory practices required by the EEOC in the name of political correctness. These practices — racial preferences for designated racial groups and gender preferences for females — obviously affects hiring decisions.

John K. Wilson: I don’t agree that your earlier responses answered my points. I also don’t think that federal nondiscrimination laws really affect hiring decisions (and not any differently than all employers are affected), since they do not require (and in fact ban) racial preferences.

Horowitz: I am at a loss as to how to reply to someone who maintains that government enforced racial preferences are not racial preferences. I think we’ve reached the end of the line here.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    The misconceptions and falsehoods reflected in the questions abound. Another telling indicator of the extent to which the AAUP has defamed David and obfuscated the defining issues.

  • USMCSniper

    Public education at all levels based on dismal results and outrageous costs ($10,000 average per student in elementary and high schools and at $30,000+ at the college level) so by any objective criteria itis a collossal failure. The only way to make any major improvement in the educational system is through privatization to the point at which a substantial fraction – meaning the majority of all educational services are rendered to individuals by private enterprises. Nothing else will destroy or even greatly weaken the power of the current dismal educational establishment — a necessary pre-condition for radical improvement in our educational system. And nothing else will provide the public funded schools with the competition and incentives that will force them to improve.

    • Jim_C

      Send your kid to a private school, then. Something holding you back?

      As for the public schools, we continue to supply the country with doctors, engineers, computer scientists, teachers, cops, and ditch diggers. What seems to be the problem?

      • USMCSniper

        I already have, Both my children, St Johns at Prospect Hall, Georgetown Prep for high school, Loyola of Baltimore, and Johns Hopkins University. Read Dr. Walter Williams: "Only 14 percent of Washington's fourth-graders score at or above proficiency in the reading and math portions of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test. Their national rank of 51 makes them the nation's worst. Eighth-graders are even further behind with only 12 percent scoring at or above proficiency in reading and 8 percent in math and again the worst performance in the nation. One shouldn't be surprised by Washington student performance on college admissions tests. They have an average composite SAT score of 925 and ACT score of 19.1, compared to the national average respectively of 1017 and 21.1. In terms of national ranking, their SAT and ACT rankings are identical to their fourth- and eighth-grade rankings – dead last. And the documented cost is $25,000 per student."

        • Jim_C

          I'm not against a move toward privatization; my concern would be for social order in the meantime.

          Two things: I'd like to see the federal government "one size fits all" approach to policy removed. If they want to write checks, fine; leave the schools to states and communities.

          I'd like to see a modicum of tuition charged at every single school. Tuition means investment.

      • USMCSniper

        China's decision to send scholars and students to the United States at the end of the 1970s. Today, about 50,000 Chinese students are studying in the United States, accounting for 10 percent of the total international students in the country. More Chinese students have gone to other countries to study. According to statistics from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), China sends more students than any other country to study abroad. In the other direction, more students from the United States and elsewhere are going to China to study language, culture, history, traditional Chinese medicine, science, engineering, and other fields. The increasing number of international students worldwide demonstrates a relatively quick change in the integration of global education. In addition it is estimated that Chinese graduate students and medical students make up 25% of all graduate students in the sciences, engineering, and medicine.

        You should have said crooked lawyers, incompetent teachers, dishonest journalists, government ard core unemployables, and left wing academic activists.

  • Carolyn

    Mr. Horowitz, I am so-o-o-o proud of you! I appreciate your thorough and convincing answers to the interviewer; and by the way, I'm so glad you saw the light and left liberalism behind – way behind in the dust!

  • Ilana Luncsford

    Excellent evaluation, loads of valid items in there which I’ll have got to think about before acquiring the cell phone.

  • MNWilliam

    The American public education system from kindergarden to university is a philosophical and financial monopoly. It should be broken.

  • Josiepal

    As the parent of a conservative student in a liberal college, I resent having my tax dollars going to support the propaganda that is polluting our children's minds. I can't afford private university and am stuck with the state schools. When is someone going to be brave enough to tackle this immense problem?

    • Jim_C

      I think your question should be "When is someone going to be intelligent enough to recognize the "problem" is much bigger than 'Wahh, my kid was exposed to ideas I don't approve of/understand in college!'"

  • 080

    David is right on the front line where the war to save America is being fought. The next battle has to be fought over the United Nations. Why do we give subsidies to countries that consistently vote against us or are openly hostile?

  • James

    We don't need 1000 professors teaching their own Ideology to 50,000 students. A few professors teachung the same ideology is enough.

    Student loans have given a lot of professors large salaries for doing nothing more than getting some thing off their chest.

    Student loans in this economy are almost impossible to pay back and should be reconstructed as contingency loans. As it is now the student can't shake it even by declaring bankruptcy

    These extra Professors only add more expence to going to school.

    • Jim_C

      Are you saying professors aren't doing their jobs? That we are not graduating professionals in every field? Do you understand why some professors are paid "large" salaries? Hint: it's the same reason the football coach makes a salary that dwarfs all the professors' salaries: Competition. Competition between institutions, competition with the private sector.

      Here's the thing: part of college is being exposed to new ideas. But the vast, vast majority of these professors have to teach their subject.

      The disrespect for, and scapegoating of teachers at all levels in this country is appalling.

  • MKS

    No tax money should EVER go directly to an educational facility at any level, whether pre-K, K-12, college, university, or post-graduate. If tax money is used at all (which is questionable), it should go to the guardian or to the student in voucher form, who then can use it at the educational facility of his or her choice.

    In this manner, the student or guardian becomes the educational "customer," and the administration and faculty provide educational services to these customers. In a few years, it would become known which institutions were providing real educations, and which were providing ideological indoctrinations.

    • Jim_C

      And what choice would people in small communities have? This is the whole problem with charters and privatization. I have no problem with these things in theory, btw.

      Is it that you don't consider an educated citizenry a worthwhile public investment, or that you do, but don't like the results?