Intellectual Diversity on the Surface the Academic essay

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Intellectual Diversity

On the surface, the Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) sounds innocuous and even full of cliches and platitudes about pluralism and academic freedom for all. Given that its author is David Horowitz, however, a 1960s Leftist ideologue who transformed himself into a Rightist ideologue over the last thirty years, a deeper examination reveals a hidden political agenda. His Bill of Rights or any other project in which he is involved should therefore never even be considered by any university or legislature. Contrary to what he claims in the ABOR, he is not in the least interested in promoting balance, fairness or pluralism in the university or anywhere else in American society, and all his efforts are simply stalking horses for the far Right. A man like this should never be allowed to get his foot in the door, no matter how polished his verbiage might be. Horowitz was always an ideologue and shrill polemicist even when he was a member of the 1960s New Left, denouncing American capitalism, imperialism and racism and helping write biographies of Leon Trotsky. Only later did he become a conservative ideologue, a supporter of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan and everything else he once denounced as a radical. In spite of this shift to the Right, his polemical style and fundamental lack of tolerance remains the same.

In describing the central purpose of the university the ABOR pays lip service to the values of openness, tolerance and freedom of discussion and opinion, but the true Horowitz agenda has always been the exact opposite. According to the ABOR, universities and classrooms should "reflect the values -- pluralism, diversity, opportunity, critical intelligence, openness and fairness -- that are the cornerstones of American society" (ABOR 2007). Academic freedom means that the state should not impose any political or religious orthodoxy on university professors and students, which was commonplace during the 1950s. All of this is just pretense, and Horowitz soon gets to his real point, warning that liberal professors should never take "unfair advantage of the student's immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters in question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own" (ABOR 2007). Therefore, all public universities as well as private institutions not controlled by religious organizations should hire and promote faculty based solely on merit rather than their political or religious views. Students should be graded in the same way, while the curriculum and classroom reading lists should have "dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate" (ABOR 2007). None of the faculty will be permitted to "use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination" (ABOR 2007). Universities will also observe these principles in funding speakers and student activities, while also prohibiting protests and disruptions against invited speakers whose views the Left finds unpopular. Finally, all "academic institutions and professional societies should maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, their fields of inquiry" (Academic Bill of Rights 2007).

Graham Larkin, a fellow in the humanities and social sciences at Stanford University, denounced Horowitz in the strongest possible terms, even using language that was quite intemperate at times. Horowitz has always had this effect on many people, however, and in fact prides himself on the ability to provoke incivility and rage from his opponents. Larkin begins by calling him an "L.A. tabloid editor" and "liar extraordinaire and author of the incomparable bullshitting manual The Art of Political War and Other Radical Pursuits" (Spence Publishing, 2000). His methods and ideology were much admired by Karl Rove, and are hardly based on liberal pluralism or the model of the classroom and the seminar. Just the opposite, Rove and Horowitz are fascist thugs who also admire the dictums of Robespierre and Lenin that "in political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.'" So Horowitz believed when he was a Marxist and New Leftist and so he believes today, although he has simply found new paymasters on the Right. His methodology has always been to denounce, smear and lie about his opponents, and "go on college lecture circuits where you can use incendiary rhetoric to turn civilized venues into the Jerry Springer show, and then descend into fits of indignant self-pity when someone responds with a pie to your face." (Larkin 2005). Larkin regarded the Academic Bill of Rights as a "conservative-funded bill -- basically just a guileful attempt to sanction the Fox News agenda in the nation's universities," and pretended that four liberal professors, Todd Gittlin, Michael Berube, Stanley Fish, and Eugene Volokh supported him. In reality, none of them did when they realized who its author was. He continually denounces Horowitz as a liar and "consummate bullshit artist," spewing "a lot of the usual BS" and "audacious lies." Horowitz even lied about this on PBS and "settled into his customary rage" when his deceit was exposed (Larkin 2005). His statement that the AAUP supported speech codes against 'political incorrectness' in the 1980s and 1990s was also false, since it publicly opposed these in a 1992 resolution, proclaiming that the campus "is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden," and that "rules that ban or punish speech based upon its content cannot be justified." All of this was a "fiction designed to make a partisan power-grab look like a movement with mainstream academic backing" and "part of the same campaign of Horowitizian bullshit, lies and doublespeak" (Larkin 2005).

In contrast, Horowitz presents himself as a defender of academic freedom a liberal pluralism, against the radicals who have taken over universities like Stanford and the American Association of University Professors. These are the academics and bureaucrats who allegedly stifle all conservative voices and indoctrinate students with their rigid and narrow political views, although Horowitz in charge would be doing exactly that if he could. Instead of stating this openly, however, he asserts "far from being radical, the Academic Bill of Rights is entirely traditional and is merely an attempt to revive an understanding of academic freedom that the American Association of University Professors once held, but no longer does" (Horowitz 2005). Leftists supposedly promote their own orthodoxies and ideologies in the classroom without permitting any disagreement from the Right, which violates traditional academic freedom. Beyond that, Horowitz simply dismisses Larkin's views as "absurd," "tedious and unproductive," and "ridiculous," which is his normal style of debate (Horowitz 2005). He criticizes Larkin stating Academic Bill of Rights promotes "epistemological relativism" when "the dominant doctrines at Stanford and elite universities generally -- post-modernism, deconstructionism, pragmatism -- to name just three are indeed expressions of epistemological relativism. Why don't these disturb Larkin?" (Horowitz 2005).

In this case, the American Association of University Professors also opposed the Horowitzian version of the Bill of Rights, and the attempt of conservative organizations to get it passed through state legislatures. Even though Horowitz used the language of the AAUP's 1940 Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, "in reality, it pushes an agenda that is antithetical to the best traditions of American higher education" and was "a grave threat to fundamental principles of academic freedom" (AAUP 2006). Moreover, even though the American Right always complains about the supposed liberal of left-wing bias of the media and the universities, in reality studies show that the political views of professors have no impact on those of students, especially when compared to the influence of parents, peers or the general climate of the times. Horowitz and others on the Right simply use this issue of "intellectual diversity"…[continue]

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