Aaron Barlow is an untenured academic at Kutztown university, which is part of the state university system in Pennsylvania where hearings on the state of academic freedom are being held by a legislative committee created for that purpose. The inspiration for the creation of the committee came from the Academic Bill of Rights and the academic freedom campaign. Barlow has written a critique of the hearings, the bill and the campaign on TPM Cafe which is useful in showing how vapid and intellectually dishonest the opposition to the academic freedom campaign generally is. Barlow's critique is written as a commentary on my blog about misrepresentations of the Academic Bill of Rights by Eckerd University president Donald Eastman. My replies to Barlow are in caps.
David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights: Restriction or Freedom?
By Aaron Barlow
Is it possible to promote academic freedom by forcing professors to present divergent viewpoint’s or is that itself an abridgement of academic freedom? On his blog David Horowitz responds to criticism of his Academic Bill of Rights:
“Anyone who bothers to read the Academic Bill of Rights, let alone
anything the author has written about it, would know that it is
designed to remove politics from the academic curriculum into which
it has been inserted by the radicals who oppose the bill. The very
first tenet of the Academic Bill of Rights, as I have been forced to
repeat to the hard of reading innumerable times forbids the hiring
or firing of faculty for political reasons. Yet here is yet another
article, this time by the aforesaid President [Donald R. Eastman
III, the president of Eckerd College] writing in the /St. Petersburg
Times/ called “Leave Politics Out of Faculty Hiring Choices"
asserting that black is white and up is down and I am the one
attempting to insert the politics and the tenured politicians who
have blacklisted conservatives for the last 25 years are academic
innocents who have not.”
What Horowitz’s ingenuity artfully leaves out is that the very attempt to enforce his Academic Bill of Rights through a political process makes Eastman’s point.
NO IT DOESN’T. EASTMAN SAYS THAT MY BILL WOULD INTRUDE POLITICS INTO THE HIRING PROCESS. IN FACT IT WOULD FORBID THE INTRUSION OF POLITICS INTO THE HIRING PROCESS.
Academic freedom is a freedom /from/ scrutiny over political belief.
YES AND NO. BARLOW SHOULD READ THE ACADEMIC FREEDOM STATEMENTS OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS WHICH BAR PROFESSORS FROM INDOCTRINATING STUDENTS (WITH THEIR POLITICAL AGENDAS) AND EVEN FROM INTRODUCING INTO THEIR CLASSROOMS CONTROVERSIAL MATTER WHICH IS IRRELEVANT TO THE SUBJECT. (ACTUALLY HE ALREADY HAS BECAUSE THEY ARE INCORPORATED INTO THE PREAMBLE OF THE ACADEMIC BILL OF RIGHTS.) THIS KIND OF SOPHISTRY ABOUT WHAT ACADEMIC FREEDOM ACTUALLY ENTAILS IS THE MOST COMMON DEFENSE OF THE STATUS QUO PUT UP BY OPPONENTS OF THE ACADEMIC FEEDOM CAMPAIGN. WHAT THEY ARE DEFENDING IS THE BLATANT POLITICAL PROPAGANDIZING THAT TAKES PLACE IN MANY OF TODAY’S CLASSROOMS AND WHICH WE HAVE DOCUMENTED AD NAUSEAM.
Horowitz wants to change that and, in so doing, would destroy it. He would make political scrutiny an active part of his own version of academic freedom. That is, to attain balance, he would insist that all professors be judged on a political scale and that university hiring, etc. be used to keep a spectrum of views on the faculty.
EVERY SENTENCE ABOVE IS FALSE. I WANT TO ENFORCE EXISTING STANDARDS NOT CHANGE THEM. THERE IS NO PROVISION FOR POLITICAL SCRUTINY IN MY BILL. I HAVE NEVER CALLED FOR “BALANCE.” I HAVE NEVER CALLED FOR PROFESSORS TO BE JUDGED ON A POLITICAL SCALE AND I EXPLICITLY OPPOSE POLITICAL HIRING.
Therefore, his own methods undermine his so-called end. His whole point is to insert a conservative element into academia, whether that element is qualified or not. In no way will that help bring about
BARLOW HAS SIMPLY INVENTED THIS CLAIM. MY ACADEMIC BILL OF RIGHTS IS EXPLICIT IN SAYING THAT PROFESSORS SHOULD ONLY BE HIRED ON THEIR ACADEMIC MERITS AND NOT THEIR POLITICAL VIEWS.
His use of the word “blacklisted” in response to Eastman also shows the extremely political nature of his jihad. He cannot show a blacklist against conservatives, nor does he have any example of anyone who can reasonably demonstrate that they were kept out of academia through such
a blacklist. Yet he throws the word around as if it were something “everybody knows.” In fact, the reasons that there are more liberals in academia, as I have written elsewhere have nothing to do with a blacklist but have everything to do with the nature of the beast. Academia is essentially humanist at its base and so, as liberalism and humanism fit together quite easily, it’s no
surprise that most professors are politically liberal no more so than business people being conservative for other cultural reasons.
I HAVE DEALT WITH THIS FALLACIOUS ARGUMENT AT LENGTH IN MY BOOK THE PROFESSORS. I JUST SPOKE AT THE WESTERN NEW ENGLAND COLLEGE OF LAW. THERE ARE THIRTY-EIGHT LAW PROFESSORS ON ITS FACULTY AND NOT A SINGLE LIBERTARIAN OR CONSERVATIVE. ARE THERE NO CONSERVATIVE LAWYERS IN SPRINGFIELD MASSACHUSSETS WHO WOULD LIKE A JOB AS LAW PROFESSOR, WHERE THEY WOULD MAKE OVER $100,000 A YEAR, FOR SIX HOURS A WEEK WORK, WITH A FOUR MONTHS PAID VACATION AND A LIFE-TIME JOB GUARANTEE AND THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRACTICE LAW AS WELL?
Horowitz is imagining a blacklist because he wants to change academia, to rid it of that humanist base and to create something else --not a place of exploration, but a place of transferal (as if knowledge is a thing and not also a process). His Academic Bill of Rights, at first glance, seems to deny this (a rather devious placement, designed so that Horowitz can use those passages to try to rebut people like Eastman), but a reading of the whole thing gives a different picture and it is a reading of the whole thing that Eastman has done.
MORE FANTASIES MADE UP OF WHOLE CLOTH.
Consider these points:
4. Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences
should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human
knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting
sources and viewpoints where appropriate. While teachers are and
should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in
presenting their views, they should consider and make their students
aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a
diversity of approaches to unsettled questions. 5. Exposing students
to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects
examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty.
Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political,
ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.
Who decides what are unsettled questions?
WELL, IF THERE WAS A NON-LEFTIST VOICE ON A FACULTY YOU WOULD KNOW IF QUESTIONS WERE UNSETTLED, WOULDN’T YOU? THIS IS NOT ROCKET-SCIENCE.
Who enforces all those examples of “should”?
WHO IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF A UNIVERSITY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAINTAINING ACADEMIC STANDARDS? WHOEVER IS, THAT’S WHO.
Though couched in terms of broadening debate and exploration, these points actually narrow it. Academic Bill of Rights supporter Stephen Balch, in testimony the Select Committee of the
Pennsylvania House of Representatives in Pittsburgh on 11/9/06, said:
The legislature must expect a full accounting on progress toward
these goals each time the state’s universities seek new statutory
authority and renewed financial support. If a good-faith effort is
being made to overcome these problems, it should leave the remedial
specifics to the universities’ own decision making. If a good-faith
effort isn’t made, it should urge governing boards to seek new
leadership as a condition of full support. Failing even in that, it
might, as a last resort, consider a full-scale organizational
overhaul, to design governance systems and institutional
arrangements better able to meet the obligations that go with
In other words, academic freedom would cease to exist if certain standards were not met.
PROFESSOR BARLOW APPARENTLY HAS TROUBLE READING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. THE CONCERN IN BALCH’S TESTIMONY IS TO ENFORCE THE UNIVERSITY’S OWN STANDARDS NOT TO IMPOSE NEW STANDARDS LET ALONE POLITICAL STANDARDS ON THE UNIVERSITY. BARLOW’S AGENDA IS THAT UNIVERSITIES SHOULD BE ENTIRELY UNACCOUNTABLE FOR ANYTHING THEY DO, EVEN IF THE SYSTEM ITSELF IS CORRUPT. SO IN BARLOW’S WORLD, IF A STATE UNIVERSITY TURNS ITSELF INTO A TEMPLE OF RACIAL HATE, TO PICK ONE POSSIBILITY, THEN THE LEGISLATURE THAT FUNDS IT SHOULD NOT EVEN ATTEMPT TO REFORM ITS GOVERNANCE TO RESTORE THE STANDARDS OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION THAT IT CLAIMS TO OBSERVE. IN OTHER WORDS, IN BARLOW’S WORLD “ACADEMIC FREEDOM” MEANS “ANYTHING GOES.”
Freedom is not freedom if it is restricted. Through its demands, Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights is a limitation of freedom absolutely -- its own words to the contrary notwithstanding.
One other thing Horowitz would do is limit the range of exploration open to any one professor. In an article titled “Academic Hanky Panky” Horowitz writes:
The first point I made was that as a trained animal psychologist
Barash was academically unqualified to write an academic text on the
complex issues of geopolitics and in particular the social,
cultural, and economic causes of war and peace. In other words,
Barash’s co-authored text was not a scholarly work and should not be
presented as such to students.
In other words, Barash’s work should not be judged on its own merits, but on the academic background of the author!
IN OTHER WORDS, ACCORDING TO BARLOW, : YOU GET A PHD IN BIOLOGY OR MATHEMATICS AND IT QUALIFIES YOU TO TEACH AN ACADEMIC COURSE ON WAR AND PEACE. WHY NOT JUST HIRE SOMEONE OFF THE STREET WHO HAS WRITTEN A BOOK AND GIVE HIM TENURE AND A PLACE IN THE CURRICULUM? IN FACT, THE PROBLEM I HAD WITH BARASH’S BOOK WAS NOT THAT IT WAS A TEXT IN THE COURSE BUT THAT IT WAS THE TEXT FOR THE COURSE. WHAT QUALIFIED ACADEMIC BODY BY THE WAY JUDGED BARASH’S BOOK ON ITS MERITS AND DECIDED IT WAS OK TO BE PUT IN THE CURRICULUM? THE PROFESSOR WHO ASSIGNED HIS BOOK AT BALL STATE UNIVERSITY IS A PROFESSOR OF THE SAXOPHONE.
Such reasoning doesn’t deserve much of a reply, but a quote from Edward O. Wilson’s book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge is appropriate:
A balanced perspective cannot be acquired by studying disciplines in
pieces but through pursuit of the consilience among them. Such
unification will come hard. But I think it is inevitable.
Intellectually it rings true, and it gratifies impulses that rise
from the admirable side of human nature. To the extent that the gaps
between the great branches of learning can be narrowed, diversity
and depth of knowledge will increase. They will do so because of,
not despite, the underlying cohesion achieved. The enterprise is
important for yet another reason: It gives ultimate purpose to
intellect. It promises that order, not chaos, lies beyond the
horizon. I think it inevitable that we will accept the adventure, go
there, and find out.
FURTHER EXPLORATIONS OF THE LEFTWING DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE PROFESSORS CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.DANGPROFS.COM
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