Below is Mark Tapson's review of David Horowitz’s new book, “The Left in the Universities" which is volume 8 of The Black Book of the American Left, a multi-volume collection of David Horowitz's conservative writings that will, when completed, be the most ambitious effort ever undertaken to define the Left and its agenda. (Order HERE.) We encourage our readers to visit BlackBookOfTheAmericanLeft.com – which features Horowitz’s introductions to Volumes 1-8 of this 10-volume series, along with their tables of contents, reviews and interviews with the author.
Colleges and universities have become flashpoints for the most heated culture war conflicts of the day. Our former institutions of higher learning are now the sites of anarchic violence against the few conservative speakers who manage to get invited on campus. With a Republican in the White House, academics with a far leftwing bias indoctrinate students more aggressively than ever before. Some of those same professors, and timid school administrators, are under literal siege from radicalized minority students demanding racial payback for perceived oppression. Instead of allowing their worldviews to be expanded by the campus diversity they claim to value so highly, students wail about racist and sexual “microaggressions” and retreat into segregated safe spaces. Universities have degenerated into circuses of irrationality and radicalism.
How did it come to this? To answer that question, you can do no better than to read David Horowitz’s The Left in the University – volume eight of, and the latest addition to, his series of collected writings titled The Black Book of the American Left. Horowitz, of course, is the former radical leftist-turned-conservative, the founder of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and the author of many books, including the recent New York Times bestseller Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America.
The Left in the University addresses what Horowitz describes as “one of the underappreciated tragedies of our times: the successful campaign of the left to subvert the curricula of collegiate institutions and transform entire academic departments and schools—including Schools of Education—into doctrinal training centers for their social and political causes.” This successful campaign arguably has done more to steer America toward the left’s goal of “fundamental transformation” than any other strategy of cultural Marxism.
This new volume collects nearly four dozen essays written from 1993 to 2010, presented chronologically and divided into five sections. Part I frames the book’s subject with an edited introduction to Horowitz’s controversial 2005 book, The Professors. Part II recounts his experiences on college campuses and observations on the decline of academic discourse in the five years prior to creating an Academic Bill of Rights, which lobbies for the right of students to be presented with professional, fair-minded instruction – not indoctrination – from their professors. The campaign for this Bill of Rights, and the attacks against it by biased educator organizations and tenured faculty, are the subjects of Parts III and IV.
Part V covers the uproar sparked by The Professors and by another book Horowitz wrote about political bias in the university, Indoctrination U. It details more of his efforts to convince the academic community of its obligation to maintain professionalism and objectivity in the classroom. The book concludes with an epilogue presenting Horowitz’s plan for reforming universities and for re-establishing standards of scholarship and instruction in the classroom.
Some of the essay titles alone are enough to capture the lugubrious sense of the university’s degeneration into leftist indoctrination centers since the 1960s: “The Decline of Academic Discourse,” “Campus Repression,” “What Has Happened to American Liberals?”, “The Orwellian Left,” “Intellectual Thuggery,” “What’s Not Liberal About the Liberal Arts,” “Intellectual Muggings,” and “The End of the University as We Have Known it.”
What is captured in such hard-hitting, personal essays from David Horowitz is the process that underlies the left’s successful ideological siege of higher education and the subsequent brainwashing of our youth. This is exemplified by a recent poll which revealed that fully 44% of American college students believe that so-called “hate speech” – the left’s catch-all label for offensive speech which conveniently includes any ideas with which they disagree – is not protected by the First Amendment. This perverse misunderstanding of free speech has been adopted even by conservative students, disturbingly. The result is that we are very nearly at a tipping point beyond which most adults will not consider our most precious freedom to be worthy of preserving. That can be attributed almost entirely to the influence of academia.
This was demonstrated forcefully earlier this year when a speaking engagement featuring Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley – once regarded as the home of the Free Speech movement (more on that in a moment) – was cancelled by a violent mob of vandals who falsely declared that Milo came not to debate but to spread hate and fascism, and thus his right to speak deserved to be abrogated. “Fuck your free speech” is the new campus battle cry.
Horowitz notes in “The Free Speech Movement and its Tragic Result,” the book’s final essay, that this sort of student totalitarianism isn’t so much a reversal of the aim of Berkeley’s 1960s movement as it is the inevitable end of it: “The so-called Free Speech movement, which introduced political crusading into the halls of learning, has led to the destruction of a great institution, and a flourishing of ideological bigotry, viewpoint repression, and intellectual fraud.” It has led to “eruptions of student mobs demanding the suppression of ideas that disturb them” and demands for safe spaces from dangerous ideas.
The Left in the University closes with an epilogue titled “A Plan for University Reform,” in which Horowitz proposes the establishment of an Office of Academic Standards and Academic Freedom which would set forth standards requiring faculty to teach students how to think, not what to think, and hold instructors to “professional standards of inquiry and expression.” It would also “ensure that proper procedures are followed in curricular matters” and include a “grievance machinery that would allow students to file complaints about classroom misconduct without fear of faculty reprisal.” Such a plan, firmly enforced, would bring the machinery of indoctrination in the American university to a grinding halt and force a revival of its original mission of vibrant, open inquiry and the pursuit of truth.
But that commonsense proposal, originally developed in 2010 but never published, ends the book on a note of false optimism, as Horowitz concedes in the introduction, because the leftist bias in our colleges and universities is so hopelessly entrenched. “I publish [the Plan] now because I have given up any hope that universities can institute such a reform. The faculty opposition is too devious and too strong, and even more importantly there is no conservative will to see such reforms enacted.”
But there may be hope yet for such a plan on the horizon. The American university cannot sustain its current path. The radical left on campus is beginning to implode under the weight of its own totalitarian excesses, and a backlash – declines in alumni support and student applications – is underway. Conservative student groups like the nationwide campus organization Turning Point USA are havens of sanity by comparison, and are beginning to flourish. Even some Progressive administrators and faculty members – like the Evergreen State professor targeted by raging students, who sued the school for nearly $4 million (he settled the case for $500,000) – are repulsed and terrified by the young P.C. monsters they have helped create. For their own survival, universities must undertake a fundamental transformation.
The first step might be for those faculty and administrators to sit down with a copy of The Left in the University and take a long hard look at themselves.