By: David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, June 12, 2009
When David Horowitz published his book The Professors in 2006, he instantly became the target of vitriolic attacks from tenured radicals and their apologists outside the academy. Among the latter, the most determined was a group calling itself Free Exchange on Campus.
The name was a misnomer. Comprising teachers unions, left-wing political action groups like the ACLU and the People for American Way, and funded by the Open Society Institute, the grant-making arm of financier George Soros, Free Exchange was created to to attack Horowitz’s most recent book, The Professors, which called attention to activist professors whose political mission abrogated long-standing principles of academic scholarship and academic freedom and resulted in an ideologically curriculum. In short, Horowitz advocated real academic diversity – the kind of political and intellectual pluralism that would make a truly “free exchange of ideas” possible.
Free Exchange released a 50-page “report” called “Facts Count,” which purported to debunk “factual errors” in the book. In response, Jacob Laksin wrote and Front Page Magazine published a point by point refutation of the Free Exchange report, which concluded that the group’s professed commitment to facts was a mere debating point and nowhere in evidence in its text. The Free Exchange report distorted the arguments of The Professors beyond recognition; confused factual error with difference of opinion; and in effect offered backhanded support to the classroom indoctrination critiqued in the book.
With the release of One-Party Classroom, Free Exchange has picked up where it left off in 2006. Although our book is a careful analytic survey – scrutinizing over 150 courses in 12 leading schools across the country – its conclusion that academic standards are being routinely violated is obviously discomfiting to special interest groups like Free Exchange, whose mission is to defend the academic status quo and silence its critics. In a “report” transparently titled “Facts Still Count,” Free Exchange attempts to discredit the arguments of our book, using the same cynical and misleading arguments.
Like its predecessor the new report accuses us of factual errors. One main section is devoted to “Factual Errors: Incomplete and Inaccurate Materials.” But as our response will show the report produces no such errors of any significance. A second main section is titled “Factual Errors: Gross Misrepresentation of Reading Lists.” But as our response also shows, there are none. Like its predecessor, the latest Free Exchange report will convince only those who fail to consult our text directly.
The report’s introduction sets the stage for the misrepresentations to follow. It describes Free Exchange as “a coalition of groups that has come together to protect the free exchange of speech and ideas on campus.” This is a curious description, considering that Free Exchange is a coalition organized and paid for by the teacher unions to defend the status quo. The press release for the coalition is signed by Megan Fitzgerald a professional political operative employed by the American Federation of Teachers. The organizations that make up the coalition have opposed all efforts to strengthen academic standards and promote academic pluralism.
The report begins by failing to understand the basic premise of One-Party Classroom. Thus it claims that One-Party Classroom “attempts to indict all of higher education based on examples the authors have cherry-picked and then distorted beyond any semblance of reality.”
The claim is false. Any honest reader of our text can see that One-Party Classroom does not attempt to “indict all of higher education,” but focuses on specific courses and departments within liberal arts programs where academic standards have been subverted by academics with political agendas. These courses are most notably in interdisciplinary studies whose broad scope is dictated by ideological rather than scholarly concerns, among them Women’s and Gender Studies. A recent report published by Free Exchange actually acknowledges this and in doing so refutes its own claim: “Nearly all of the courses criticized in [One-Party Classroom] are to be found in the humanities and social sciences and… the vast majority are located within a few disciplines. Especially singled out for criticism are the interdisciplinary area studies such as women’s and gender and ethnic studies.”
Unfortunately this intellectual incoherence – not to say dishonesty – far from being incidental to the Free Exchange dossier, but is integral to its case.
The Free Exchange report also charges us with exaggerating the problem, and challenges our methodology because the twelve universities we selected for study are larger than average institutions. Of course we made an explicit adjustment for this fact in our book, which Free Exchange fails to acknowledge – reducing our estimate four-fold to take into account the disparity. Moreover, even this figure was not presented as a statistical finding but as a plausible figure to indicate the general magnitude of the problem.
We also pointed out that the courses we selected at our sample schools were by no means exhaustive of the problematic courses existing at even those schools. They were picked because we regarded them as violating academic standards in so blatant a fashion that minimal analysis of their content was required to demonstrate the problem. Thus a course describing itself as a seminar whose goal “is to learn how to organize a revolution” that it then describes as “anti-capitalist” is on its face an ideological training session rather than a class devoted to scholarly inquiry.
Finally, the insinuation that smaller universities are dramatically distinct from larger ones curricula-wise, which is crucial to the Free Exchange argument, ignores the fact that academic disciplines are organized nationally. While some small liberal arts schools and religious colleges have maintained more traditional curricula, state universities – attended by 85% of American college students – have not. Women’s Studies courses and other inter-disciplinary programs follow the same intellectual guidelines, whether they are offered at a state school with 35,000 students or at a school with 3,500 students. In One-Party Classroom we argue for example that the discipline of Women’s Studies as currently constituted is ideological rather than scholarly. This determines the character of individual Women’s Studies courses at all schools. If there is a dispute to be had it would be over our analysis of Women’s Studies as such, not our alleged statistical methodology.
Unfortunately, throughout its argument against our book, the Free Exchange report has the characteristics of a political campaign rather than an intellectual discourse. Summing up its judgment on our book the Free Exchange report claims that our “conclusions and accusations… are built on blatantly misrepresented data, and thus have no basis in fact.” But on any reasonable reading of the Free Exchange analysis it will be clear that the course syllabi it singles out say exactly what we say they do and the problems we document are real.
In short – and in sum -- the Free Exchange report is a political rather than an intellectual attack on our book, alternately unscrupulous and mendacious in its presentations of our arguments, incompetent in its research, and peppered with petty attempts to find fault where none exists. Facts do count, and it is a poor reflection on Free Exchange that it has tried once again to obfuscate and obscure an argument with the goal of discrediting rather than answering it. What follows is a point-by-point refutation of every claim made in the Free Exchange report.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT SANTA CRUZ
As evidence of out allegedly inaccurate claims, Free Exchange points to the case of Max Boykoff, a former graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, whose course, “Environmental Justice” we criticized in One-Party Classroom on the grounds that “[u]ncritical promotion of radical ideology is…the principal, even sole, aim of this course.”
According to Free Exchange, “Boykoff never taught, and UCSC never held, the course Horowitz discusses.” But in fact Boykoff did teach the course we examine, in the summer of 2006, and its contents were every bit as unprofessional as we suggested. From its very title – a left-wing catchphrase for environmental activism – to its declared focus on “race, class, culture and gender inequalities,” to its unscholarly texts (the stated purpose of one required text, Environmentalism Unbound, was to “plant the seeds for a new kind of environmentalism that can contribute to a new type of social agenda”), Boykoff’s was a model of academic misconduct – a training program in environmental and political activism disguised as an academic course.
In short, Free Exchange’s failure to locate the course in question, and then its decision to accuse us of inventing it add up to a self-incriminating display of nakedly partisan methodology. Even more damning is the attempt to shift attention away from the course we did review to one that we did not, “Ecological Forecast for Global Warming,” taught by Boykoff in 2004 and 2005, which is the one they did find. Quite apart from the absurdity of citing a course we did not discuss to disprove our conclusions about one we did, Free Exchange fails even to describe this course accurately.
According to Free Exchange, Boykoff did not promote political activism in “Ecological Forecast for Global Warming, which would be encouraging if it were true. But even a cursory look at the syllabus for this course suggests otherwise. For instance, in a section of the course titled “Domestic Policy and Grassroots Social Movements,” Boykoff invited a guest speaker Mike Rotkin, a Marxist and former mayor of Santa Cruz. Rotkin is not an environmental scholar. He is best known for his promotion of political strategies to implement socialism in the United States through community organizing. That also seems to be the reason he was invited as part of the course, whose final section presents students with “resources for citizen action.” Like the course we actually discussed in the book –which somehow eluded the researchers at Free Exchange – this course is a political training program not an academic curriculum.
The Free Exchange report also takes issue with our criticisms of Bruce Larkin, a professor emeritus of politics at Santa Cruz, and his course “Politics of the ‘War on Terrorism.’” Our contention in One-Party Classroom was that this “course” is actually a thinly veiled attack on U.S. foreign policy under former President Bush, and specifically claims “that the Bush administration lied to make the case for the war in Iraq.”
We produced ample evidence for this charge. Among other tendentious claims, Larkin’s course syllabus asserts that the Bush administration lied in order to send the country to war in Iraq, asking, “How did Bush and Cheney build the fiction that Iraq was a participant in the 9/11 attacks?” This may be conventional wisdom among some liberals and Democrats, but it is not controversial and the question is framed in a way that is hardly academic.
Similarly, the course syllabus claims that the Bush administration “silenced Democratic critics in Congress” – a heavily partisan claim and a peculiar one given that leading Congressional Democrats initially supported the administration’s decision to invade Iraq and shared its assessment of the threat from Iraqi weapons programs. Yet another section of the course alleges a conspiratorial link “between US policies concerning Israel and US domestic electoral calculations.”
Nowhere in the book do we suggest that a comprehensive, rigorously academic analysis of the war on terrorism is an inappropriate basis for a course. What we show, instead, is that Larkin’s course is a polemical attack on the Bush’s administration policies that blatantly violates academic standards.
So, what do we get wrong? To judge by the Free Exchange report, very little. The report points out that we were mistaken in quoting the syllabus as asking how “Bush and Cheney build the fiction that al-Qaeda was a participant in the 9/11 attacks.” As noted above, the syllabus actually asked students to consider how Bush and Cheney built “the fiction that Iraq was a participant in the 9.11 attacks?” We regret the error, but it is hardly a significant one – in that it does not for a second affect our charge that Larkin’s course is set up as a partisan attack on the Bush administration’s policies. This is self-evident from the syllabus, and indeed the Free Exchange report makes no serious attempt to argue otherwise.
The Free Exchange report does claim, however, that Professor Larkin includes “numerous perspectives on the war on terrorism.” This claim is demonstrably untrue. There are four required books in the course, of which one is not a book as such but the 9-11 Commission report. Each of the other required texts presents only left-wing perspectives on the war or attacks on U.S. foreign policy. For instance, one of the books is James Bamford’s A Pretext for War. According to the publisher’s description, the book details the Bush administration’s “misuse of intelligence to sell preemptive war to the American people;” as documented in a New York Times review, the book also identifies Israel as the “chief culprit” behind the Iraq war. Both these themes are echoed in Larkin’s syllabus. The second required text is Chain of Command: The road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, by the left-wing journalist Seymour Hersh, a partisan critic of the Bush administration. Among other sensational and thinly sourced claims, Hersh suggests in the book that the Bush administration pressured CIA analysts to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons capabilities. Accordingly, the book is marketed as an “unflinching look behind the public story of President Bush's ‘war on terror’ and into the lies and obsessions that led America into Iraq.” The last required book, Understanding the War on Terror, is a collection of articles from the center-left journal Foreign Affairs. Only in the cloistered world of modern academia could a reading list made up solely of virulent left-wing attacks on the Bush administration be considered evidence of ideological diversity or a reasonable scholarly examination of an issue.
THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
Mary Celeste Kearney
According to the Free Exchange report, we wrongly suggest that Professor Celeste Kearney, an Assistant Professor of Radio Television Film at the University of Texas at Austin, is indoctrinating her students in feminist theories in her course “Theories of Gender and Sexuality.” “In no way are they ever required to ‘espouse’ feminist theories if they do not share that view point,” the Free Exchange report insists.
Readers of One-Party Classroom will have little difficulty seeing through this claim. As we show in our book, the stated objective of Professor Kearney’s course is for students to “apply various feminist theories and methodologies to the relationship of women, gender, and feminism to television history, programming, and reception.” This goal – getting students to adopt and apply feminist theory – would be completely unobjectionable in, say, a feminist television workshop, but it has no place in an academic curriculum.
The Free Exchange report also takes issue with our suggestion that students in the course will offer “critiques of feminist politics at their peril.” To the report’s authors, this is baseless speculation. We beg to differ: Given the feminist aims of the course, which are reinforced by required texts that present exclusively feminist theories, where is the room for opponents of feminist ideology? How can they maintain their perspective without impugning the intellectual bona fides of the person who is grading them?
As an illustration of how desperate Free Exchange is to find some flaw in our book, and how determined it is to whitewash the academic malfeasance we uncover, its objection to our reporting on Katherine Arens and her course “Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies” is instructive.
In our book, we point out that “[t]he problems with this course begin with the professor and the curriculum. The course deals with complex historical, sociological, and psychological issues, and yet it is taught by a professor, Katherine Arens, who is trained in Germanic Studies.” After repeating our observation, the Free Exchange report puts words in our mouths, asserting that we mean to imply “that languages or humanistic studies cannot overlap with real-world issues.” In fact, of course, we imply nothing of the sort. We only suggest that university professors should have an academic background and professional expertise in the subjects they teach, as Professor Arens transparently does not.
It says a great deal about the declining intellectual standards of the modern research university that Professor Arens’s lack of academic credentials is not even the biggest problem with her course, which is that it is not an academic inquiry into complex subjects but an indoctrination in sectarian Marxist-feminist theories. Of the books assigned in this course, only one is critical of radical feminism, Professing Feminism, by Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, who write that they left Women’s Studies because the field was devoted to political ideology at the expense of academic scholarship. But as we point out, Professor Arens does not even pretend to be objective in her discussion of the authors’ views. This is how her syllabus refers to the book: “Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge, Professing Feminism, passim (note that this represents ANTI–women’s studies—prepare to refute it).” This instruction is a perfect illustration of the tragedy of current academy where students are no longer being taught how to think but told what to think. The fact that Free Exchange does not even mention this critical detail shows how little it actually appreciates the value of the “free exchange” it claims to support.
Repeatedly throughout its report, Free Exchange invents arguments that we never made and then proceeds to disparage them. One example is its attack on our analysis of Professor Dana Cloud’s course “Rhetoric and Ideology.”
The stated theme of the course is to “explore Marxist contributions to rhetorical theory and criticism, with particular emphasis on a survey of the concepts of ideology and hegemony.” In a dubious exercise in polemical mind reading, the Free Exchange report proclaims that what we disapprove of is “not the manner in which the course studies Marxist rhetoric and ideology, but rather the fact that it is studied at all.”
This claim is nothing short of bizarre. In our book, make a point of emphasizing that our objection is not to the study of Marxism but rather to the one-sided presentation of the subject in Professor Cloud’s course. As we point out, the only texts used in the course are written by Marxist writers or feminist authors who embrace Marxism, and nowhere in the course are students given the opportunity to review literature critical of Marxism. Professor Cloud, it should be noted, is a self-styled “Bolshevik” who has been ejected by campus police for obstructing a speech by David Horowitz because she objected to his ideas. Professor Cloud’s intellectual intolerance is on display in her syllabus and reading list and her course is inarguably indoctrination. Moreover, since we make this point in our book explicitly, one is left to conclude that the Free Exchange report is intentionally misrepresenting our arguments to further its own political agenda – precisely the charge it falsely levels against One-Party Classroom.
Similar to Professor Cloud’s course above, the Free Exchange report claims that we criticize Professor Janet Staiger, who teaches a course called “Feminist Theories,” for “studying feminist theories.” Once again, this claim inverts the truth. As we write in our text, our quarrel with Professor Staiger’s course is that it is not an “academic course analyzing feminist theories but a course that presents feminist theories as the only legitimate explanations of the status of women.” Others may be better able to explain why Free Exchange insists on distorting our argument to mean its exact opposite. For our part, we can only note that Free Exchange’s inability or refusal to debate our actual arguments betrays the fundamental weakness of its position and the closed-mindedness of those who would prefer to invent and then pummel straw men rather than confront the issues.
UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
In challenging our critique of the course “Feminist Theory,” taught by Professor Ann Janette Rosga at the University of Colorado, the Free Exchange report makes our case for us. In One-Party Classroom, we reported that the objective of this course is “to teach students feminist doctrine, not to instruct them on how to think about feminist doctrine.”
To illustrate the point, we quoted the professor’s synopsis for “Feminist Theory,” which acknowledges that that the course does not make “any pretense to comprehensiveness” and instead seeks “to ensure that students acquire sufficient vocabulary and familiarity with key texts to understand and work with these [feminist] theories.” In the second part of the course, moreover, students are instructed “to explore specific applications of feminist poststructuralist theory.” In short, students are expected not to think critically about feminist theories but to apply them – a prime example of the indoctrination that has become so widespread in higher education.
In its rebuttal, the Free Exchange report declares that we have “smeared” Professor Rosga. How did we do this? Apparently, by revealing, accurately, the ideological nature of her course. Indeed, the Free Exchange report excerpts the same course synopsis that we quoted, and then attempts to defend it this way: “When Rosga states that the course does not make ‘any pretense to comprehensiveness,’ she is referring to the fact that her course presents material on theories from the poststructuralist era and therefore is not indicative of the total history of feminist theory.”
This, of course, is our point: The course requires students to practice feminist theory – and a specific school of feminist theory at that – while making no pretense of approaching the subject with the proper academic detachment. Nowhere do students examine the underlying premises of postructuralist feminist theory; they are simply required to apply it. (Imagine the outraged reaction from the Left if a course instructed students to find “specific applications of conservative theory” – and that was the entire course.)
In pointing this out, we of course do not “smear” Professor Rosga, or any of the other professors whose courses we survey in our book. Smearing is what Free Exchange does when it misrepresents our arguments and then accuses us of lying.
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
The Free Exchange report claims that we misrepresent Douglas Becker’s course at the University of Southern California, “Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies,” when we describe it “as a training program in antiwar activism.” That description is entirely accurate and the Free Exchange report provides no evidence whatsoever to refute it.
It would be hard-pressed to do so, since Professor Becker’s course is candid about its enthusiasm for antiwar activism, asking students, “What can peace- minded individuals and groups do to lessen the outbreak of war and/or ameliorate its consequences?” This open-ended antipathy for war – apparently any war -- is a succinct concession that anti-war activism is the main theme of the course.
Additionally, each of the assigned texts in the course echo the antiwar and activist position on matters of war and peace, and make no attempt to consider armed conflict from any position other than antagonism, a typical example being War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, a collection of essays by the radical journalist Chris Hedges that assails the U.S.- led war on terrorism as an imperialist “crusade.” Yet another book used in the course, The Political Economy of Armed Conflict: Beyond Greed and Grievance, is based on research from the International Peace Academy, a group “dedicated to promoting the prevention and settlement of armed conflict.” These books are in keeping with the antiwar themes of the course. That does not mean that they have no place in an academic course. But the absence of books that provide a more fair-minded and objective treatment of armed conflict makes it difficult for students to draw their own conclusions about the merits of antiwar activism. Such an academic inquiry is plainly not the aim of this course.
The Free Exchange report alleges that our book ignores texts that would undermine our argument that the course promotes antiwar activism. This claim is easily disproved. It is true that we did not discuss all the books in the course. But discussing them would have made no difference, a fact that Free Exchange ignores. For instance, one of the texts assigned that we did not discuss is called Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion in Conflict Resolution. Just as its title suggests, the book is a collection of profiles of anti-war activists. Among those profiled is South African activist Nozizwe Madlala- Routledge, who is singled out for her opposition to the Iraq war and commended for affirming “her commitment to peace by sending out a Christmas card with a message advocating nonviolent opposition to war.” (Curiously, the Free Exchange report omits this text from the list of books whose discussion it claims would have provided a different perspective of Professor Becker’s course.) Another book included in the course is Children at War by P.W. Singer. Although a fine book about child soldiers, and perfectly appropriate for academic study, it’s inclusion does nothing to add nuance to the course’s singular focus on anti-war activism. In short, Professor Becker’s course is exactly as we described it in One-Party Classroom.
Free Exchange claims that we understate the “diversity of subjects” that are examined in Professor Anthony Kemp’s course “Theories of History, Ideology, and Politics” and otherwise misrepresent its content. As readers of our book will know, neither charge has merit.
Here is the ideological foundation of the course, as explained in the course description by Professor Kemp:
“Ideological thought posits that the conscious and semi-conscious idea- systems of a society are manifestations of false- consciousness, a covering, concealing, mystifying, containing screen for the reality of social relations, that is, for privileged, exploitative interests of material and economic power.”
Based on this summary, which Free Exchange does not dispute, we conclude that Professor Kemp’s course “centers on the radical claim that society is a façade for sinister class interests.” The above course description is a crude statement of standard Marxist theory, and the fact that it serves as the organizing basis of an English course is yet another example of the ideological groupthink in some academic departments.
Tellingly, Free Exchange sees nothing amiss with such ideological corruption of the English curriculum. Indeed, its report accuses us of holding the apparently “simplistic” notion that “English classes should be limited to reading literature.” We’re not the only ones so benighted: To encourage students to major in English, the USC English department boasts that its program examines the “rich historical swath of British, American, and Anglophone literatures that traditionally constitutes academic study with the literary cultures of the US-Mexican border, the larger sphere of Latin America, the African diaspora, the Pacific Rim, and the circum-Atlantic world” (emphasis added). In the case of Professor Kemp’s Marxism-inspired course, this inducement to the study of literature would seem to be so much false advertising.
Free Exchange takes issue with our analysis of Professor Paul Kockelman’s course at Columbia University, “Labor and Exchange.” According to Free Exchange we were wrong to report that Professor Kockelman uses only two texts in the course, one of which is Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. If that is the case, as it was not when we were researching the course – at the time, we found only two texts listed – then we welcome the news that Professor Kockelman assigns a more diverse reading list, one that includes such esteemed works of classical liberal economics as Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations and David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Assuming they are assigned in the course (the Free Exchange report provides no link to the new syllabus), it is a modestly encouraging development.
Unfortunately, the Free Exchange report’s focus on the syllabus neglects the far more serious problem with Professor Kockelman’s course that we raised in One-Party Classroom – namely, that Kockelman is an assistant professor of anthropology, and as such clearly lacks the academic credentials to teach a course in economics. It is just one of the many signs of the decline of academic standards that we document in our book, and it is a telling commentary on Free Exchange and its agenda that in disputing our assessment of Professor Kockelman’s course it declines to challenge – or indeed even to mention – our main concern.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT COLUMBIA
The Free Exchange report claims that we misrepresent the qualifications of Professor Sam Bullington to teach an introductory course on “Women’s and Gender Studies.” On the contrary, we correctly note that Bullington, despite being listed as a professor of “Geography and Women’s and Gender Studies,” does not possess even the minimal academic credentials to teach this course.
Consider that the course in question is billed as an examination of the “processes of differentiation which create social categories such as gender, race, and class around which social life is built.” Social life is of course an immensely broad category, involving multiple academic disciplines, and one might reasonably expect that the professor in this course would have some expertise in at least one of them – sociology, perhaps, or anthropology. Professor Bullington’s qualifications? He has a doctorate in “feminist studies.”
Since Professor Bullington’s main qualification seems to be his feminist training, it should come as no surprise that his course is built around the feminist dogma that “gender” and “race” are social constructions. Outside the Women’s Studies Department – say in the biology or neuro-science departments -- such claims would be dismissed as unscientific babble; in Professor Bullington’s course, they are introduced as unassailable truths. This is bad enough. That the course is also taught by a professor whose chief academic distinction seems to be his allegiance to the feminist party line makes a double mockery of the intellectual standards in place in this department.
In one of the odder attacks on our book, Free Exchange complains, in effect, that we accurately report on Professor Prasad’s lack of qualifications to teach her course “Women’s and Gender Studies/Nursing.”
As we note in the book, “A reasonable expectation for a course on women’s health is that it be taught by an instructor with an expertise in the subject of medicine or public health. But Professor Prasad is a professor of sociology.” The Free Exchange concedes that this is precisely the case, although it then attempts to make the strained argument that, despite her lack of qualifications, professor Prasad is nevertheless qualified to teach this course.
To make this claim, Free Exchange refers to our finding that Professor Prasad has conducted one research project that deals in detail with an actual illness, in this case tuberculosis. Not only does Free Exchange distort the significance of this single project, referring to “research focuses” in the unmerited plural, but it never reveals the nature of her other research interests, as we do in the book.
There is a reason for the omission: Professor Prada’s “research focuses” have little to do with health issues and a great deal to do with her political preoccupations, specifically her view that “neo-liberal globalization” (i.e., free market capitalism) results in inequalities in women’s health care and that “feminist intervention” is necessary to counteract them – both themes that feature prominently in her course.
In other words, Professor Prada’s “research focuses” take a political – as opposed to a medical and scientific – approach to women’s health, and it is for that reason that we concluded that she was unqualified to teach a course on the subject. Free Exchange’s report has done nothing to rebut our original conclusion; it has merely re-illustrated it.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI
Mary Jo Neitz
In a criticism repeated several times throughout its report, Free Exchange suggests that in our book we criticize faculty “for merely investigating ideas” with which we disagree. As an example, the report cites our discussion of Professor Mary Jo Neitz’s course at the University of Missouri, “Feminist Research and Criticism.” But a closer look at our treatment of the course belies the accusation.
The syllabus for the course outlines its aims this way:
“This course is centrally concerned with how feminists in the social sciences
produce knowledge, what we do with that knowledge, and if the process is any
different because we are feminists. We will examine feminist critiques of social
science research methodologies, questions of feminist epistemology, and how
feminists struggle with those questions in our work. We will be reading exemplars
from anthropology, history, political science, psychology and sociology.”
For Free Exchange’s claim to be true, we would have to argue that Professor Neitz is wrong to teach a course about feminism. We argue nothing of the sort. What we write instead is that a professional academic course should present a scholarly inquiry into the subject. Since the subject of this course is feminism, one would expect it to include critiques of feminism and the feminist perspective in addition to the feminist perspectives. Yet this course, like so many others documented in our book, fails to consider any perspective that questions the feminist assumptions. As such, the course amounts to a “sectarian tour of a sectarian subject.” Once again Free Exchange ignores an argument we did make in favor of one we did not in order to refute it.
As we have seen, Free Exchange is guilty of the very sins for which it indicts our book. Its report is carelessly researched, with the authors failing even to find syllabi that we critique and then accusing us of making them up. Its account of our book is misleading, often extremely so. The report misrepresents and distorts some of our arguments, omits others that would contradict its claims, and on occasion simply invents others that we never made. In sum, this Free Exchange report resembles nothing so much as its previous effort, criticizing The Professors. It is a cynical effort to suppress uncomfortable facts about a political assault on academic standards which has troubling implications for the future of higher education in America.
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