Reforming Our Universities

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That fire was frenzied, wildly inaccurate, and utterly incoherent. The ABOR was attacked as totalitarianism, mind policing, thought control, affirmative action for Republicans, and (what else?) Nazism. The opposition was hysterical and out of control. Only the American Council on Education (ACE) kept its head, agreeing to adopt a slightly watered down version of Horowitz’s language and then doing nothing to enforce it, thus successfully burying the issue by seeming to hand Horowitz a victory. The other organizations by contrast made the fateful mistake of allowing Horowitz to smoke them out and make them show just who and how many they are, what they are doing, and how vehemently they insist on being allowed to continue doing it. This was a genuine victory for him, and a huge one.

All of the empirical research of The Professors and One-Party Classroom could not do what Horowitz’s ABOR campaign has done. It proved beyond any shadow of doubt that (1) a significant number of American professors will not accept any restriction on their ability to use political criteria in faculty hiring and firing as well as in student grading, or their use of the classroom to indoctrinate; (2) this is indeed what they are currently doing; (3) though probably not a majority, they are at least a strong enough minority both to control professional associations and to intimidate administrators into letting them do what they want to do; and (4) left-wing politicians know that the campus is being used for their benefit, and bitterly oppose any attempt to change that. We know all of this because that is what his opponents foolishly admitted to in their panic over Horowitz’s ABOR campaign.

Understandably, Horowitz himself is disappointed that his campaign did not achieve its stated goal—to get the ABOR adopted across the country. That is what he set out to do, and it didn’t happen. Correspondingly, he is inclined to see the ACE’s shrewd concession as a victory. But though there is some justification for his reaction here, at a deeper level the results are the other way round. After years of denial that there was a problem, and of pooh-poohing one egregious example after another as unrepresentative and anecdotal, the political radicals finally let themselves be maneuvered into openly nailing their colors to the mast, and showing the extent of their power, numbers, and ambitions. Never again can it plausibly be said that there is no problem of politicized higher education, and for this we are all greatly in David Horowitz’s debt. His earlier books worked toward the goal of documenting the scope of the problem, but this one is the clincher.

The ironies here are too many to count. For example, the AAUP originally earned a position of respect in the American academy through the work of its Committee A, which protected so many academic teachers against political persecution. Yet now it uses the prestige gained through that noble work to do exactly the opposite—to protect political corruption of the American academy And no disciplinary body of faculty was prouder of the training it gave its Ph.D.’s in the careful use and characterization of sources than the historians, yet now the AHA willfully misreads a document that explicitly bans political criteria as implementing “the imposition of political criteria.” Most comic of all is the claim that the ABOR asks for affirmative action for Republicans. Calling for all decisions to be made on merit alone would certainly be an odd way to ask for affirmative action—isn’t that exactly what anti-affirmative action legislation does? Readers of this book cannot fail to be impressed by Horowitz’s conduct of the campaign for the ABOR. He is patient, flexible, thoughtful—and never gives up. He is always seeking out common ground and trying to find a mutually acceptable compromise. This is not at all the rigid ideologue that some of his detractors see him as.

Horowitz laments the fact that he didn’t get help from people and groups who might have been expected to help, and there is some truth in this. And yet elsewhere in the book he himself puts his finger on a factor that goes a long way to explain why this might have happened. As he talks about the beginnings of the campaign for ABOR, Horowitz concedes that he is “a poor candidate to lead a campaign for academic reform” because of his high conservative public profile. This is no trivial point. Reform of higher education will only succeed if it is understood to be about the sharply reduced quality of a higher education corrupted by politics. But it will not succeed if it can convincingly be portrayed instead as a partisan attack by the political Right on the generally left-leaning professoriate. When a spokesman for academic reform is also a conservative Republican who is highly visible in national partisan politics, as Horowitz is, it becomes much easier for campus radicals to shift the emphasis away from the question of educational quality and towards partisan political motivation.

And so it’s not hard to understand why some of those who are involved in the movement for higher education reform would want to stay well clear of high profile partisan politics so that they can have a better chance of keeping the emphasis of their own efforts more firmly on educational quality. But a decision about how best to deploy one’s own efforts has nothing to do with the quite separate question of appreciating what David Horowitz has managed to do in spite of this handicap. On that question, I’ll repeat what I said in the blurb that I wrote for the back cover of Indoctrination U.: “Everyone who cares about a genuinely liberal college education….will be grateful for David Horowitz’s tireless, relentless, and above all well-judged efforts to rescue it from the intellectual trivialization and monotony of radical politics. Nobody else has done so much or been so effective.”

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  • MKS

    Thanks to David Horowitz for his tireless efforts in a very worthy cause.

    The universities and colleges, which produce journalists, judges, and future professors, contribute greatly to our chronic slide to the left, and to non-analytical thinking.

    I would like to see that no public funding whatsoever go directly to college administrations or faculties, but be eliminated, or all go directly to prospective students or their guardians. Perhaps this would be implemented by means of vouchers for higher education. If colleges no longer handed out grants and scholarships from the public treasury, but competed for students' tuitions, they would be forced to provide quality education instead of second-rate political indoctrination. Or else they would close.

  • yrd4soundingoff

    I feel David is exceptionally qualified to lead the fight in reforming our colleges and universities. His unique position of radical liberal convert to rationality and sanity puts him in the best place to help make rational and sane the outrageously biased American college campus. I for one will be consulting his work extensively before choosing a college or university for my children. With his help I am raising my children to think for themselves and when it is time for them to go to a place for "higher learning" I know that I will be able to guide them to the right place because of David's tireless efforts.

  • aspacia

    Don't forget the k-12 system needs reform too.

  • MKS

    You are correct; the k-12 very much needs reform. But as long as colleges and universities are the ones granting the diplomas in education, reforming k-12 schools without addressing higher education is like trying to mop up the puddle without turning off the faucet. You keep getting indoctrinated administrators and teachers to unravel the good reforms that good administrators and teachers achieve.

  • Rochmoninoff

    David opened my eyes years ago.
    Let's hope that this latest foray opens the eyes of others.

    My oldest is just entering high school and we're "thinking college thoughts" at home.
    The fact that this nonsense occurs and that it is amplified 100-fold by Pell grants and student loans sickens me.

    25 years ago when I went to university I recall getting a B in literature class because I didn't agree with my teacher's social agenda (fool!). Maybe it's hopeless. Professors are human and they're going to grade based on their values no matter what highfalutin bylaws they sign up to.

    My personal dream is that balance can be restored. That would be enough for me.

  • Yetwave

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    Another big WTG for David's efforts.
    An interesting aside to this campaign is the recognition in the shift of academic endeavor that today's students undertake. The canting of thought and the passing off of ideology as knowledge occurs in disciplines that are mainly soft disciplines. In the study of history, literature, sociology , psychology, and the raft of useless curricula that end with the suffix 'studies', answers to questions are subject to variying shades of correctness that are primarily determined by the instructor.
    Hard studies, engineering, science, business and language among others, demand definitive answers to questions or problems that are either right or wrong.
    The works of Walt Whitman may be studied in one class solely in the context of its importance to the body of American literature while under the guise of another professor, the same body of work may be studied only as 'gay literature'. No tangible effect occurs if upon graduation if one English major construes Whitman as a great American poet while the other perceives him as a great homosexual poet….

  • Yetwave

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    Students who become engineers understand that there are no variations from the formulae that provide for the suspension of a bridge across San Francisco Bay.
    The gravitation of the majority of today's students to soft curriculum where they may never have a required language or science course or have to answer a question in with a definitive answer has a lot to do with why they are som impessionable. Afterall, every grade, for the difference it makes, is subject to the professor's interpretation of what is right and what is wrong.
    I hope that part of David's argument is the reintegration of science and language into the curriculum of American universities. The more that our children learn to think in terms of correct or incorrect, the better they will be able to weigh the wishy washy relativism with which so many instructors infuse their classes

    • Carrie

      I agree that there should be less ideology, which is why I can't stand creationism taking over biology in high schools, and text books being re-written to reflect Christian beliefs. This should horrify anyone who is against ideology in our schools – whether it be liberal or conservative. History, and especially biology – like physics, should represent fact not falsehoods.

  • clarespark

    The erstwhile "progressives" who have created Indoctrination U. are not only anti-intellectual, they drastically distort their own past and the past of some of our most articulate artists. I wrote about the latter here, with respect to "the melting pot' and its associated notion of American exceptionalism.…. Your comments welcome. I am with David H. all the way. His is a noble, if quixotic adventure in social change and advocacy.

    • scum

      Horowitz's claim that students go through 4 years of college without having ever being introduced to a 'conservative adult' is trash. He doesn't even realize that Cal- Berkeley (that 'hotbed of radicalism') actually has gone out of its way to hire conservatives. Arthur Jensen in Anthropology was a case in point. Jensen spent considerable time espousing his own ideology, ragging on his colleagues in Cultural Anthropology (you know, the 'radicals'), and generally bragging about being a 'racist' (based on biological differences). Even in Political Science, in a class entitled 'Revolutionary Change', Chalmers Johnson (who has since moved to the Left), spent considerable time outlining why we had to be in Vietnam, and such. None of this fits Horowitz's own ideological distortion of the Indoctrination U. as he describes it (except that these professors pushed conservative doctrine).

  • Wanda

    Clarespark – I tried to read your link – but found it incoherent and half of it was quotes from other people. I think the topic was interesting, and would love to read an edited version.

  • clarespark

    Wanda, thanks for trying. The quote was from one author, Mordecai Grossman, who was indeed confusing and full of double talk, but that is what many "progressives" do. I was trying to show that he was confusing, and that he had misrepresented what the melting pot was. It did not mean that immigrants were stamped into robots, but that the blend of new Americans with old, including the descendants of slaves, would create a unique and vibrant new culture, unmatched anywhere in the world, and that would leave the feuds of the Old World behind. If you get that, you will have the meat of the article. In a way, Zangwill, the author of the famous play The Melting Pot (1908) was seeking a new liberating form of unity.

  • scum

    Horowitz is at it again: An outsider, non-academic, trying to impose centralized state rule on academia. Of course his Stalinist methods will fail, but in the meantime we have to continue to hear his blathering on college campuses. Pure, unadulturated vitriolic bombast.

  • scum

    The fact is that Horowitz's argument doesn't hold up at all. If one looks at academia before the 1960s, it was radically different. Historians still taught that 'slavery wans't really all that bad' and that 'Reconstruction went too far'. He can't explain how conservative schools suddenly 'turned radical' (unless conservative professors discriminated against conservatives, which seems. . . uh. . . unlikely). So what is the truth? Simply that there was a GENERAL CULTURAL SHIFT in the 1960s that led the children of the upper middle class to radicalize, while the working class which has the most to lose from conservative politics, to turn to the GOP. This also explains Horowitz's mistaken notion that 'radicals hijacked the Democratic Party in the 1960s. Both theories are based on his usual conspiracy-minded tunnel vision.

  • Carrie

    John, the hyperlink doesn't work but I found it on google, thanks for the posting!
    Here it is