An Emergency Solved by a Questionaire

That’s the funny thing about David Horowitz and his “Academic Bill of Rights”: It’s an attempt to conjure up an emergency situation in academia—when one just doesn’t exist. Gib Armstrong, Horowitz supporter and State Senator from Lancaster, where hearings on a Pennsylvania bill based on the Horowitz campaign were held the last couple of days, seems to recognize that himself. On some level, he knows he’s involved only in creating that ole tempest in a teapot:

Armstrong said that while universities are quick to defend ethnic and racial diversity, they are often loathe to stand up for right-leaning political speech. “All we’re asking universities to do is to live up to the policies they have in place,” Armstrong said.[…] However, Armstrong said legislation was a last resort and that common-sense solutions could be reached. Those solutions may include adding questions about political bias to student evaluations of professors, he said.

Is that all? He wants legislation passed because he doesn’t think the questions asked tell enough? Personally, I don’t mind questions on evaluations concerning political bias, but I certainly would mind if it were state mandated. And that’s the real problem and real purpose in all of this: There is no room for politicians in the classroom—but Armstrong and Horowitz want to put them there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the hearing, though they were held only an hour from where I teach—no matter what Horowitz thinks, we college teachers have a lot more work that the six hours a week he imagines—but I have been trying to keep track. LancasterOnline.com, a website from the Lancaster newspapers, also quoted Armstrong as saying:

“I’ve learned a couple things,” Armstrong said before today’s testimony. “First is that there is evidence within our state system that some professors are indoctrinating when they ought to be sticking to education,” he said.

Just how has he learned this? Was evidence of “indoctrination” presented? No. This is a carbon-copy of the sort of statement Horowitz throws about—and is just as meaningful… er, meaningless. Putting forward political beliefs in the classroom is not indoctrination. College students are mature enough, smart enough, and able enough to recognize political views for what they are—and to evaluate the views of another in light of their own. They do not accept what the professors say at face value—in fact, their training in college is meant to insure that they do not—and also are able to divide what their professors say into categories: expertise and opinion. Anyway, if these professors are indoctrinating, where are the results? Anyone seen the resulting automatons marching around with their Little Red Books? I thought not. No, and that’s the final proof that this isn’t a campaign for protection of poor little students. What we have here is an attempt to bring the universities more directly under political control. Protecting “Academic Freedom” has nothing to do with it.

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