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Victory in Pennsylvania By: David Horowitz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Last night, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a vote of 111-87 passed a resolution on behalf of intellectual diversity and academic freedom for all the public universities and colleges in the state. The resolution was squarely based on the Academic Bill of Rights.

This was a tremendous victory for academic freedom not only in Pennsylvania but for states that are watching these results across the nation. Opposition to the resolution, from the teacher unions – the American Association of University Professors, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, and all their allies in local Pennslvania media – was fierce, and their defeat is that much more bitter as a result. But in the end, they had an indefensible position: opposition to the pluralism of ideas, the very heart and soul of the American social contract.

This victory would not have been possible without the political courage and steadfastness of Representative Gib Armstrong, a former Marine who was the principal sponsor and driving force behind the legislation, and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House John Perzel, an astute and savvy political leader who managed the bill’s passage through turbulent legislative seas. The students of the State of Pennsylvania owe both these men a debt of thanks for their efforts.

The Pennsylvania resolution accelerates a tide that has begun to flow in the direction of academic freedom across the nation. Less than a month before the resolution’s passage, the American Council on Education and 28 national groups involved in higher education, issued a statement endorsing core principles of the Academic Bill of Rights. These included the recognition that, “Intellectual diversity and academic freedom are central principles of American higher education;” and that, “Neither students nor faculty should be disadvantaged or evaluated on the basis of their political opinions.” This was a reversal for the educational establishment which until then had been denying that any problem of political discrimination or hostility to intellectual diversity even existed. The Pennsylvania bill will go a long way in making sure that these noble sentiments are given practical implementation by university administrations.

The vote on HR 177 was mainly along partisan lines, although a few Democrats and a few Republicans crossed over those lines. We hope that as time passes, and tempers cool, Democrats will understand that the Academic Bill of Rights protects all students, left and right, conservative and liberal, from abuse by professors with political rather than educational agendas; that it is about the intellectual integrity of our institutions of higher learning, and that it supports the core values of an American education.

The Pennsylvania resolution sets up a Select Committee to “examine, study and inform” the legislature about the condition of academic freedom in the state’s universities. This is a huge first step towards prompting university administrations to do the right thing by seeing that academic standards are enforced and that faculty do not use their classrooms for political and other agendas that have no educational justification. As Stanley Fish, himself a liberal academic, has written: “Teachers should teach their subjects. They should not teach peace or war or freedom or diversity or uniformity or nationalism or anti-nationalism or any other agenda that might properly be taught by a political leader or a talk-show host. Of course they should teach about such subjects, something very different from urging them as commitments – when they are part of the history or philosophy or literature or sociology that is being studied. The only advocacy that should go on in the classroom is the advocacy of what James Murphy has identified as the intellectual virtues, ‘thoroughness, perseverance, intellectual honesty,’ all components of the cardinal academic virtue of being ‘conscientious in the pursuit of truth.” Amen.

This is the text of the resolution passed by the Pennyslvania House, lacking one minor amendment which was made too late to be included in this report.

        PRIOR PRINTER'S NO. 1280                      PRINTER'S NO. 2451
________________________________________
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
________________________________________
HOUSE RESOLUTION
No. 177 Session of 2005
________________________________________

        INTRODUCED BY ARMSTRONG, BARRAR, BENNINGHOFF, BIRMELIN, BOYD,
           CALTAGIRONE, CLYMER, CRAHALLA, CREIGHTON, FAIRCHILD, FICHTER,
           FORCIER, GABIG, GILLESPIE, GINGRICH, HERSHEY, JAMES,
           W. KELLER, KILLION, LEH, METCALFE, R. MILLER, MUSTIO,
           PALLONE, PHILLIPS, READSHAW, ROBERTS, ROHRER, SCHRODER,
           STERN, R. STEVENSON, E. Z. TAYLOR, TRUE, WILT, YOUNGBLOOD,
           DENLINGER, CIVERA, RAPP, FLEAGLE, FLICK, BASTIAN, BROWNE,
           HARPER AND PAYNE, MARCH 29, 2005
________________________________________

        AS REPORTED FROM COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION, HOUSE OF
           REPRESENTATIVES, AS AMENDED, JUNE 30, 2005
________________________________________

                                  A RESOLUTION

     1     Establishing a select committee to examine the academic
     2     atmosphere and the degree to which faculty have the
     3     opportunity to instruct and students have the opportunity to
     4     learn in an environment conducive to the pursuit of knowledge
     5     and truth at State-related and State-owned colleges and
     6     universities and community colleges in this Commonwealth.

7 RESOLVED, That


10 
11 (lines 7-11 were struck):
  
     12   WHEREAS, ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY   ARE      
    13  VALUES INDISPENSABLE TO THE AMERICAN COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES;
    14  AND
    15     WHEREAS, FROM ITS FIRST FORMULATION IN THE GENERAL REPORT OF
    16  THE COMMITTEE ON ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND TENURE OF THE AMERICAN

    1  ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS, THE CONCEPT OF ACADEMIC
     2  FREEDOM HAS BEEN PREMISED ON THE IDEA THAT HUMAN KNOWLEDGE IS A
     3  NEVER-ENDING PURSUIT OF THE TRUTH, THAT THERE IS NO HUMANLY
     4  ACCESSIBLE TRUTH THAT IS NOT, IN PRINCIPLE, OPEN TO CHALLENGE,
     5  AND THAT NO PARTY OR INTELLECTUAL FACTION HAS A MONOPOLY ON
     6  WISDOM; AND
     7     WHEREAS, ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS LIKELY TO THRIVE IN AN
     8  ENVIRONMENT OF INTELLECTUAL DIVERSITY THAT PROTECTS AND FOSTERS
     9  INDEPENDENCE OF THOUGHT AND SPEECH; AND
    10     WHEREAS, STUDENTS AND FACULTY SHOULD BE PROTECTED FROM THE
    11  IMPOSITION OF IDEOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY, AND FACULTY MEMBERS HAVE
    12  THE RESPONSIBILITY TO NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR AUTHORITY
    13  POSITION TO INTRODUCE INAPPROPRIATE OR IRRELEVANT SUBJECT MATTER
    14  OUTSIDE THEIR FIELD OF STUDY; THEREFORE BE IT

    15     RESOLVED, THAT A SELECT COMMITTEE COMPOSED OF THE
    16  SUBCOMMITTEE ON HIGHER EDUCATION OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE,
    17  PLUS ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF
    18  REPRESENTATIVES AND ONE MEMBER APPOINTED BY THE MINORITY LEADER
    19  OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, examine, study and inform the
    20  House of Representatives on matters relating to the academic
    21  atmosphere and the degree to which faculty have the opportunity
    22  to instruct and students have the opportunity to learn in an
    23  environment conducive to the pursuit of knowledge and truth and
    24  the expression of independent thought at State-related and
    25  State-owned colleges, universities and community colleges,
    26  including, but not limited to, whether:
    27         (1)  faculty are hired, fired, promoted and granted
    28     tenure based on their professional competence and subject
    29     matter knowledge and, in the humanities, social sciences and   <--
    30     arts, with a view of helping students explore and understand
    20050H0177R2451                  - 2 -    
________________________________________

     1     various methodologies and perspectives;
     2         (2)  students have an academic environment, quality life
     3     on campus and reasonable access to affordable course           <--
     4     materials that create an environment conducive to learning,
     5     the development of critical thinking and the exploration and
     6     expression of independent thought and that the students are
     7     evaluated based on their subject knowledge or ability to       <--
     8     defend their perspective in various courses; and
     9         (3)  THAT STUDENTS ARE GRADED BASED ON ACADEMIC MERIT,     <--
    10     WITHOUT REGARD FOR IDEOLOGICAL VIEWS, AND THAT academic
    11     freedom and the right to explore and express independent
    12     thought is available to and practiced freely by faculty and
    13     students;
    14  and be it further
    15     RESOLVED, That the Speaker CHAIRMAN OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON     <--
    16  HIGHER EDUCATION OF THE EDUCATION COMMITTEE of the House of
    17  Representatives appoint the chairman of the committee from among  <--
    18  the members of the SHALL BE CHAIRMAN OF THE SELECT committee,     <--
    19  that committee vacancies not affect the power of the remaining
    20  members to execute committee functions and that committee
    21  vacancies be filled in the same manner as the original
    22  appointment; and be it further
    23     RESOLVED, That the committee may hold hearings, take
    24  testimony and conduct investigations within this Commonwealth as
    25  necessary, each committee member having the power to administer   <--
    26  oaths and affirmations to witnesses appearing before the
    27  committee; and be it further
    28     RESOLVED, That the Chief Clerk, with the Speaker's approval,
    29  pay for the reasonable, appropriate and proper expenses incurred
    30  by the committee; and be it further
    20050H0177R2451                  - 3 -    
________________________________________

     1     RESOLVED, That the committee make a report of its findings
     2  and any recommendations for remedial legislation and other
     3  appropriate action by June 30, 2006, and that the committee may
     4  extend the investigation for additional time, if necessary, but
     5  no later than November 30, 2006. 4 -


David Horowitz is the founder of The David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the new book, One Party Classroom.


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