"Balance" and the Melt Down

David Horowitz continues to melt down in the wake of his attempt (with outgoing representative Gib Armstrong) to hijack the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom report. A draft reflected his views but was altered by the committee to show the real state of academic-freedom affairs in Pennsylvania—and became a final report that was accepted unanimously.

Yet Horowitz, master of Newspeak, continues to claim victory.

On his blog, Horowitz quotes Cathy Young, who he seems to assume is a libertarian who “should” agree with him. She characterizes his “Academic Bill of Rights” as something that “would not only protect dissenting students from classroom retaliation but also guarantee the inclusion of balanced viewpoints in the curriculum.”

For some reason, this send Horowitz further into his liquid state. He writes:

I have never advocated any measure to “guarantee the inclusion of balanced viewpoints in the curriculum.” I never use the word “balance” because I don’t believe you can balance ideas. I have advocated making students aware of dissenting points of view on matters that are controversial. One would think a libertarian could support that position.

Well, if he had read carefully, he would have recognized that Young wasn’t disagreeing with his position—and that she wasn’t using “balance” as the center of some sort of academic fulcrum. She was using “balance” as meaning (in Horowitz’s own words) “making students aware of dissenting points of view.”

Strangely, while I am getting bored with the puddle that used to be David Horowitz, I am getting more and more interested in questions relating to academic freedom. It’s a fascinating topic, especially if you go back and examine the forces that led to the creation of the modern research university in the middle of the 19th Century. Also, I’ve been seeing how the meaning of “academic freedom” has been manipulated in the past fifteen years or so, making the phrase have more to do with First Amendment questions than it ever had in the past. This was done as part of the fight between supporters of Fourteenth Amendment rights on campus and Free Speech advocates. With campus speech codes, the Fourteenth Amendment people seemed to be winning—until “academic freedom” began to add weight to the First Amendment arguments.

That had one ramification relating to Horowitz: it opened the door for claims like his that students are somehow covered by “academic freedom,” claims that could be used, in turn, to try to bring the classroom under legislative supervision (for all of his denials, this was Horowitz’s goal).

Academic freedom, of course, is a profession right that carries with it professional responsibilities. The student rights that Horowitz twists to try to use against the faculty are covered under different concepts, primarily under the First Amendment.

But that argument is over. All Horowitz can do anymore is whine, like the Wicked Witch of the West, “I’m melting.”