Monday, July 03, 2006

Academic Freedom - A Current Oxymoron

Photo Cartoons - GOP Playing Cards - David Horowitz. Image Credit: Internet Weekly

It's time to open up the academic "tent"!

It is easy to tell when someone is goring (not Al) the ox of the status quo when in intellectual honesty; one puts himself at risk of ridicule.

It sure seems funny how tradition based religion and academia has swapped their traditional approaches to the value each brings to the human pursuit to life.

Religion helps to anchor the human experience with strong unwavering cultural values direction to living as a rudder would give a vessel, whereas academia helps to explore the human intellect by broadening ones point of view through dialog as sails give a vessel power.

Why is it that we humans want our cultural experience to become "Sails" while our academic experience becomes a "Rudder" on which it may run the risk of getting stuck in the mud?

Enter David Horowitz and the Academic Bill of Rights ...

Excerpts from The Washington Times -

Academic manifesto takes root
By Valerie Richardson - THE WASHINGTON TIMES - July 3, 2006

DENVER -- Three years ago, David Horowitz came to Colorado to promote his newly inked Academic Bill of Rights, a plan the radical-turned-conservative activist said was needed to liberate students from an oppressive atmosphere of liberal groupthink at the nation's universities.

Critics had scoffed at the assertion by Mr. Horowitz -- who in the 1960s had been a prominent left-wing student activist -- that freedom on 21st-century campuses was being crushed by a tyrannical regime of political correctness.

But as then-state Senate Majority Leader John Andrews listened to Mr. Horowitz over breakfast at the Brown Palace Hotel, he agreed the time was ripe for an intellectual revolution.

"We were finishing each other's sentences, because this has been a concern for conservatives for such a long time," Mr. Andrews recalled. "I started working on and researching legislation right away."

A few months later, the Colorado legislature became the first to broker a deal with state universities on policies to protect students from political discrimination.

Since then, the Academic Bill of Rights, which says students should be graded and faculty should be hired and promoted without regard to their political or religious beliefs, has inspired the introduction of legislation in 18 states. Ohio and Tennessee struck deals with their universities on protecting academic freedom in lieu of legislation.
In April, Princeton University became the first institution of higher learning to pass a version of the Student Bill of Rights by a vote of the entire student body, surprising even Mr. Horowitz, who had no hand in the election.
Of course, it hasn't all been good news. A well-known conservative writer and activist, Mr. Horowitz was never the most popular guy on campus, and the academic freedom movement has cemented his status as a persona non grata.

Demonstrators greet Mr. Horowitz's every college appearance. At Duke University, associate professor Diane Nelson urged students to pull off their T-shirts to protest his March 7 speech. During a talk last year at Butler University in Indiana, he was hit in the face with a pie.

"The left knows there's a battle on, and they're in it," Mr. Horowitz said. "Conservatives are still hung up on this legislation thing -- they don't want to do anything that requires legislation. It's going to take a little time."
In February, a coalition of teachers unions and civil-liberties groups, including the center, founded Free Exchange on Campus, an organization designed to counter Mr. Horowitz and his quest.

Jamie Horwitz, who acts as a spokesman both for Free Exchange on Campus and the American Federation of Teachers, said the opposition was slow to react because "we dismissed it at first as the rantings of an ideologue."

On its face, few would disagree with the Academic Bill of Rights, a two-page document that outlines principles protecting the free-inquiry and free-speech rights of professors and students while stressing the importance of intellectual diversity.

It says that professors should use their class time for education -- not indoctrination -- and that neither the political nor religious beliefs of students and faculty should be a factor in grades or promotion.

Despite the document's political neutrality, critics fear that if it becomes state law, it will be used as a hammer to promote conservative thought and squelch liberal dissent.

"I think what they're doing is curtailing academic freedom," said Adam Jentleson, policy and advocacy manager of Campus Progress. "I don't think they're really making that much progress because every state that's considered it has either voted it down or referred it to committee."
Indeed, university professors have been the document's biggest critics, arguing that the cure is worse than the purported disease. Already, they say, the debate has created a climate of self-censorship on campus as professors increasingly steer clear of politically charged topics, such as global warming.

"Wouldn't it be worse to have laws that restrict free speech in the classroom?" Mr. Horwitz said.

To those who ask for evidence of liberal bias in academia, Mr. Horowitz has two words: Ward Churchill. The University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor transformed the debate in February 2005, when it was publicized that he wrote an essay comparing victims of the September 11 terrorist attack to Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

"Churchill is huge," Mr. Horowitz said. "I don't think this movement would have happened without Ward Churchill. I know I wouldn't have written 'The Professors' if it hadn't been for Ward Churchill."

Nowhere was his influence greater than in Colorado, where Mr. Churchill literally rescued the movement. After the Democrats took back the legislature in November 2004, state Sen. Bob Hagedorn introduced a bill that would have erased the state's groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding with the state universities on academic freedom.

A few weeks later, the Churchill story broke, and Mr. Hagedorn, a Democrat, withdrew the bill.

"Everything changed," recalled Mr. Andrews, now a fellow with the Claremont Institute. "Churchill became the poster boy for abuse in the classroom and destroyed whatever chance Hagedorn thought he had to pass this protective layer on university professors."

"This is something people are talking about, on talk radio, on the street, in the papers," Mr. Schuberth said. "I think it's a winning issue for us, to be honest. It's playing well, and any candidate who talks about academic freedom is going to win support."
Read All>> (free suscription)

No comments: