Academic Bill of Rights Wronged

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

When the Ivory Tower attacks something such as the Academic Bill of Rights that author David Horowitz is promoting, it shows, by its very opposition, the need for such a restraint.

Reading Donald Lazere’s attack on the Horowitz proposal in The Chronicle of Higher Education, I am reminded of a conversation that I recently had with my six-year-old daughter, Georgia. Pointing to a painting of an isolated cottage with a straw roof at the base of a mountain, Georgia said, “I wish that I could walk into that picture.”

“What would you do?” I asked her. She said, “I would walk up to that house, ring the doorbell and say, ‘Hey, come into the real world. It’s fun.’” Dr. Lazere should heed Georgia’s advice.

“Charges by crusaders like Horowitz that ‘the universities are totally dominated by the left’ tend to focus on elite liberal-arts colleges and some urban public universities, where liberal influences are strongest,” Dr. Lazere writes.

“But these charges are bizarrely disconnected from the experience of those of us who teach at the vast majority of campuses, such as the half-dozen provincial schools where for some 35 years I have taught introductory English courses, general-education requirements for students in majors mostly outside of the humanities.”

One of those “provincial schools” that Dr. Lazere spent a good deal of time at is the California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where he is a professor emeritus. Last year, I actually had the chance to interview another professor at that college whose own observations show that the overwhelming ideological tilt that permeates higher education holds true at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as well.

“Horowitz points to university labor institutes,” Dr. Lazere writes, “but how do the handful of those, and their financial backing by unions, drastically weakened by globalization, compare with the ubiquitous schools and departments of business and the equally business friendly studies in engineering, public relations and so on?”

Dr. Laura Freberg, a tenured psychology professor at Cal Poly, admits that one place where you will find conservatives at Cal Poly is in the agriculture department. She can, however, point to more specific examples of a leftward tilt in other departments.

“A student in a political science class did a study on speakers who came to Cal Poly and found that 99.9 percent of them represented one political viewpoint,” Dr. Freberg remembered. “His teacher flunked him.”

Dr. Freberg serves as the advisor to Cal Poly’s College Republicans. Her time at the school overlaps Dr. Lazere’s by at least a decade.

“I’ve had students come up to me and tell me, ‘We know you’re a Republican because of what you don’t say,’ because we’re not the ones beating the kids over the head with our ideology,” Dr. Freberg notes.

The indoctrination that Dr. Lazere does not notice is taking its toll, even cutting across ideological lines. “I’ve heard liberal teachers say, ‘I want to teach Shakespeare and can’t,’” Dr. Freberg says.

Dr. Lazere is a regular at the freewheeling Modern Language Association conventions that Accuracy in Academia has covered extensively. Ironically, he observes, “American students traveling abroad are embarrassed to find that their peers in other countries know far more that they do about American politics, history and geography.” Why should it surprise him? When you substitute ideology for information, ignorance is the inevitable result.

Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.