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Grading the One-Party Classroom By: Donald Douglas
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, May 07, 2009


If recent college graduates were to skim through the top departments listed at the latest U.S. News and World Report's "Best Social Sciences and Humanities Schools," they'd find listed among the premier institutions many of the radical academic programs exposed in David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin's outstanding new book, One-Party Classroom: How Radical Professors at America's Top Colleges Indoctrinate Students and Undermine Our Democracy.

Horowitz and Laksin provide what the book jacket describes as "the first major comprehensive, in-depth, multiyear investigation of what is being taught in colleges and universities across the country ..."

And the authors don't disappoint.

I found myself interested in the work not only as an extremely well-documented piece of research, but also from the perspective of an academic with a personal acquaintance or knowledge of many of the individual professors whose activities form the case studies. Compared to Horowitz's earlier work, One-Party Classroom shifts documentary methods from students' testimony to the actual course materials of the hardline leftist professor-activists themselves. This approach avoids the potential for contested interpretations of reported classroom indoctrination by going right to the source, to the professors' actual published course documents.

If
One-Party Classroom bears any flaws, it's in its repetition - but that's not the fault of the authors. Over and over again, across the case studies, and across the humanities and social sciences curriculum, the reader is introduced to a radical, mind-numbing structure of institutionalized social justice pedagogy at the nation's top universities. Frankly, there should be little defense of such classroom teaching, particularly if the goal of such undergraduate and graduate education is train tomorrow's revolutionary cadres.

What we see in the book, in case after case, is professors with little expertise in economics, history, international relations, or political science, lecturing and leading seminars in abstract courses in empires, global inequality, Marxist political economy, and so forth. I mean literally, English professors and media specialists are teaching courses in what would be advanced global politics courses, and even many faculty members in legitimately political subfields teach courses well outside of their scholarly training. The sense is that any leftist professor with an inclination toward teaching the next batch of radicals can offer a course in social justice education. For example, Professor Anthony Kemp in the Department of English at USC offers the "Theories of History, Ideology, and Politics"; and at the University of Texas, Professor Katherine Arens teaches a course in "Marxisms" for the Department of Comparative Literature (see Kemp and Arens' college websites
here and here, respectively).

The broader point is not that it's inappropriate to teach these subjects, it's that such courses are not taught from the perspective of critical inquiry and academic contestation. Radical theories of imperialism, capitalist oppression, or the social construction of just-about-everything, are offered without counter-challenge from opposite paradigms or methologies. Students are frequently evaluated not by academic scholarship but progressive activism - for example, LGBT "service learning" projects - and through uncritical writing assignments of ideological regurgitation.

I recommend One-Party Classroom to anyone interested in what's happening in higher education today, but especially to parents who are planning on sending their kids off to college, at great expense, often getting little return on the dollar in terms of classic learning or real disciplinary expertise for their children.

It's tempting to write off such professors and their courses as a few eccentric cranks here and there, easily avoidable and thus largely tolerated as ideological oddities. But it's not like that.


Just this week, the board of trustees at the College of DuPage, in Illinois, voted to rescind the implementation of a Horowitz-inspired "academic bill of rights" at the institution. Apparently, "Faculty leaders at DuPage and elsewhere" condemed the bill of rights as "an attack on academic freedom." But as we see over and over again, on college campuses around the country, there is no academic freedom for those holding traditional views to speak and discuss their ideas without disruption or threats of violence. Most recently, Congressman Tom Tancredo was prevented from giving a talk at the University of North Carolina. A mob of radical activists literally took over the campus at Chapel Hill to successfully hijack Tancredo's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.

This evening, while searching for information on the decision at the College of DuPage, I came across a number of writings by
Professor Dana Cloud at the University of Texas. Particularly noteworthy is her essay published this week at Dissident Voices, "The McCarthyism that Horowitz Built." As the title indicates, the piece attacks conservative challenges to leftist classroom indoctrination as "McCarthyism." As Professor Cloud alleges, "the noxious weeds of the new McCarthyism have begun to bear bitter fruit around the country."

Perhaps one might wish to take her argument seriously, except a look at her blog shows that in defending her practice of shouting down those with whom she disagrees, Professor Cloud is explicitly unwilling to extend to Horowitz the same kind of protections she claims are being denied to progressives:

... it is wrong to equate protest–even loud, disruptive protest–with censorship. Public disruption has been a staple of movements for social change in this country from the Boston Tea Party forward ....

Protest is not censorship; it is simply the exercise of more speech. Where would our democracy be without disruptive protests for women’s rights, civil rights for minorities, and for the meager protections and rights afforded gays and lesbians today?

Well, it's not "more speech" if the target of the protest is unable to get a word in edgewise.

But we don't have to adjudicate between the competing claims of Howoritz and Professor Cloud on who's censoring whom. We can simply look at Professor Cloud's own course syllabi for a glimpse of what this woman is all about. Take a look her Spring 2009 graduate syllabus for "
Rhetoric of Social Movements":

Over the past eight years, the assumptions of neoliberalism—that corporate globalization would forestall economic crisis, that there is no better social system than capitalism, that preemptive war is justified and necessary, that society offers every person who works hard and keeps the faith has the same life chances, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality—have fallen like a house of cards. Whereas during the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher could announce that “there is no alternative to capitalism” and Francis Fukuyama could declare the end of history (i.e., the end of major social transformation), the present economic crisis and upsurge of hope for change have prompted a rebirth of Keynesian liberalism; one can only expect that existing social movements will pick up momentum and that new social movements will arise from the gap between what the Obama administration promises and what it can deliver ....

This course will survey these disciplinary shifts in historical context. Our main theoretical frame will be that of Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, whose theory of hegemony, culture, ideology, and oppositional consciousness unifies the concerns of most social movement theory and history through the present day. The course is also committed to providing a comprehensive survey of U.S. social movements—from the War for Independence to the contemporary movement for gay civil rights—because it is difficult to find a coherent account of this history anywhere at the graduate level. The lessons of the past are key to understanding the conditions of possibility for change today.

What's interesting in reading this syllbus is how the entire thrust of Professor Cloud's seminar curriculum explicitly ignores the central purpose of graduate education: to train scholars in the research and methods of an academic field in order to prepare them to make an original scholarly contribution to the discipline.

In other words, as Professor Cloud's introduction makes clear, the purpose of her seminar is to elucidate and facilitate the "conditions of possibility of change today." In contrast, in political science at
my former graduate institution and at sister departments, grad students are required to produce seminar research papers of publication-quality, and such research has become increasingly a requirement for the advancement to Ph.D. candidacy (see, for a leading example, the UCLA Department of Political Science Graduate Handbook).

Professor Cloud's pushback against David Horowitz as "McCarthyite" in her pamphlet writing is tantamount to shouting him down at the podium of a public lecture. The goal is indeed to protest and excoriate with the intent to silence. There is no effort to defend academic curricula or exchange ideas. To Professor Cloud, Horowitz represents the "fascist" campus police, storming colleges like the jackbooted stormtroopers of the interwar era.
Her real heroes are people like Willliam Robinson of UCSB, who has made a program out of equating Israelis to Nazis following Israel's recent military action against Palestinian rocket attacks on the civilian population within range of Gaza.

The case of Professor Cloud is repeated again and again on hundreds of campuses nationwide. A next step for Horowitz and Laksin will be to extend the analysis in One-Party Classroom into a larger statistical database of cases of radical activism and hardline left-wing indoctrination on America's campuses. There is no question that what progressive academics are doing is training the next generation of revolutionary hordes for the coming battles against the forces of "monopoly capitalism" and global inequality. These tenured radicals can't hide their program of indocrination and anti-intellectualism. Instead they decry "McCarthyism" and they pack college boards with progressive cronies and union hacks who have little interest in turning out highly-trained critical thinkers for the new millenium. Instead, we see the excoriation of efforts to restore intellectual diversity to scholarly programs - through the academic bill of rights, and so forth - as threats to "academic freedom."

It's a wacky world in the halls of academe today, but the more that clear thinking conservative activists and writers expose the campus radicals, the better the general public will be able to hold these left-wing intellectual mountebanks accountable.


Donald Douglas runs the blog American Power and is an Associate Professor of Political Science teaching in Southern California.


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