That’s the theme and battle cry of the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s fall campaign to prevent the violations of students’ academic freedom rights that have become routine in universities all across the country and to open up radical professors’ classrooms to true intellectual diversity. David Horowitz describes the objective of the campaign, which was first launched in August 2010, as “making sure that our students are no longer force fed with politically correct conclusions on controversial issues but instead provided with materials that will help them think for themselves.”
Inspiration for the Adopt a Dissenting Book Campaign comes from the classic statement about the principles of a democratic education issued by the American Association of University Professors in 1915:
“It is not the function of a faculty member in a democracy to indoctrinate his students with ready-made conclusions on controversial subjects… [but to] train students to think for themselves and to provide them access to those materials which they need if they are to think intelligently.”
These principles are as inarguably valid today as they were nearly a century ago. Yet they are not only ignored but scorned in many American college classrooms. The prevailing attitude today is summarized by a statement made by Professor Norma Cantu, a former Department of Education official in the Clinton administration, at a recent conference of the Modern Language Association. When asked if students were being radicalized in her courses and those of her colleagues, Cantu replied, “I hope so.”
Commenting on the campaign and the current tendency on the part of academic radicals to turn their classrooms into indoctrination chambers, Horowitz comments, “Today’s students are being victimized by a form of consumer fraud. You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you half of the story.” He enumerates the kinds of intellectual assault that college students face today:
- programs whose titles show the overt commitment to propaganda such as “anti-oppressive education,” “teaching for social justice,” and “the pedagogy of the oppressed”;
- professors who assign hundreds of pages of Karl Marx, Barbara Ehrenreich, or Howard Zinn, but not a page of Friedrich Hayek, Christina Hoff Sommers, or Thomas Sowell;
- courses that insist that gender is “socially constructed” and ignore the definitive texts that argue that it is biologically determined.
The Adopt a Dissenting Book Campaign, which is spearheaded by the Freedom Center’s Students for Academic Freedom, is designed to remedy this substitution of indoctrination for education, and to see that professors provide students with texts that reflect, rather than suppress, the important controversies in our intellectual world. The goal is to see that students have access in class to both conservative and liberal ideas. “It is important to note that we are not asking professors or administrators to remove any books for reading lists,” Horowitz points out. “This is a campaign for more books, not fewer; for more inclusiveness and for increased intellectual diversity.”
At Temple University, for example, a class called “History of the United States since 1877” has only one assigned text—a work titled Created Equal. The professor said he chose it because of its focus on topics such as “American Imperialism, Reaganomics, The Assault of Welfare, and the Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor.” Horowitz notes: “Our campaign would make sure that a dissenting viewpoint to this anti-American hate-fest is presented in a book such as Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People.”
Or at USC a course is offered on “Middle East Relations: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Identity.” It is designed as an anti-Israel propaganda course and all of the several assigned texts are blatantly anti-Israel. Horowitz says that the new campaign “would make sure that at least one text challenging this extremist view—Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel, for instance—must also be made available to students.”
The Adopt a Dissenting Book campaign is based on a series of steps intended to make sure that professors set forth opposing critical views in a fair-minded manner, and, if they refuse to open their classrooms to dissenting ideas, to make an example of the offending courses and instructors among trustees, alumni, and concerned citizens.
The first step is for students to use course syllabi from politically oriented courses in departments such as Anthropology, Communications, English Literature, History, Sociology, Women’s Students, etc., and evaluate the reading lists to see whether or not they are biased. If the determination is made that the class materials do not present a fair and objective examination of the subject at hand, students will, with the assistance of Students for Academic Freedom, compile a list of books and other instructional materials whose inclusion in the course will give it true intellectual diversity.
The students will take these materials to their professor, make the case for how even one dissenting book, integrated respectfully into a course syllabus whose content otherwise uniformly expresses a leftist worldview, would provide for fairness and objectivity by opening students to the possibility of dissenting interpretations of contentious issues.
If the professor refuses to grant the student’s request, then Students for Academic Freedom will assist the students in appealing to the next higher authority, which would be the Department Chair, and after that the Dean of Students. If students are unsuccessful with these appeals, SAF will help them take the request to the university administration beginning with the Provost or Chancellor, then the President and finally to the university’s Board of Trustees. While this process of appeal is taking place, SAF will help students launch a media campaign that describes the bias that administrators and trustees sponsor in their school’s classrooms. Part of this process will involve reaching out to family, alumni, and, in the case of state universities, the public.
“The `Adopt a Dissenting Book’ campaign addresses the problem of classroom indoctrination in a way that has never been approached before,” says David Horowitz. “It has the potential for exposing how biased and propagandistic the university has become under the control of today’s tenured radicals. By mobilizing students and getting them to demand that they be given access to the whole story, we can put radical professors on the defensive and make them open their hermetically sealed classrooms to the fresh air of real academic freedom.”
[For more information on the “Adopt A Dissenting Book Campaign” or to become involved, contact Director of Campus Campaigns Jeffrey Wienir: Jeffrey@horowitzfreedomcenter.org]
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