The Conservatives' Misguided Plan to Force Balance in Colorado's College Classrooms
Colorado Governor Bill Owens, who attended the meeting where officials discussed the plan, has spoken out about the shortage of Republicans among our state's political science professors. However, there is no doubt that the proposal is also intended to address bias among historians as well.
The conservative activist David Horowitz, who also attended the meeting, has helped create a group entitled Students for Academic Freedom. They have drafted an Academic Bill of Rights that will serve as the basis of the Colorado proposal. It specifically states that, "Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences will respect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints."
The members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education are my ultimate supervisors. The State Legislature represents the people of Colorado, who are my employers. Most people do not contradict their superiors in public. However, like the students who David Horowitz has organized, I possess academic freedom and am grateful for it every time I step in front of a classroom. Conveniently, my use of academic freedom in this instance only reinforces the perceived need for this plan since the fact that I think this proposal is a bad idea obviously makes me part of the problem.
But this is the History News Network, not a Colorado Commission on Higher Education meeting. Rather than write about the problems with this bill with respect to academic freedom, I want to use my experience as a history teacher to explain why this plan would be completely unworkable if applied to my discipline.
Conservatives who want to change history teaching through this kind of legislation don't really care about promoting a diversity of opinions. The Students for Academic Freedom motto is "You can't get a good education if they're only telling you half the story." They ought to understand that there are more than two sides to any historical argument.
Consider the causes of the American Revolution. The American Revolution had both immediate and underlying causes. The immediate causes were events like the Boston Massacre and the British Parliament's passage of the Intolerable Acts after the Boston Tea Party. Underlying causes included the ongoing struggle between colonial legislatures and royal governors, as well as the development of distinct American economic interests over the course of the 1700s.
Which one of those is a conservative argument? Which one is liberal? What is the conservative way to weigh these competing factors? The only truly conservative argument I can think of would be to take the British point of view in this debate, and that would run counter to a lot of other aspects of most modern conservatives' political philosophy as this would make the Founding Fathers look bad.
Another reason that this proposal won't work in history classes involves evaluating the intellectual underpinnings of arguments. Suppose I want to teach students about the Holocaust when covering World War II. Do I have to offer students the position of people who deny it even happened? Most people, not to mention most historians, give no credence to this argument. But they are a dissenting viewpoint, right?
Holocaust deniers are not a respected minority. How about Confederate sympathizers? Certainly there are many left in the South. Should I have to explain the Civil War from the perspective of the South? Which part of the South should I start with, the Confederate Congress in Richmond, the Yankee sympathizers in east Tennessee or the slaves hoping for freedom?
And do I have to explain Reconstruction from the perspective of the KKK? If I mention lynching, do I have to explain it from the perspective of the lynchers? The variations on this argument are endless. If I even tried to cover all these positions in a survey class, I would never be able to get through the years in the course description. I'd run out of time trying to do justice to dissenting views.
Finally, let's consider the Ludlow Massacre, an historical event that I've written about previously on HNN. In 1914, the Colorado National Guard killed at least twenty-five people, mostly women and children, when they machine-gunned and burned a tent colony full of coal miners' families during a strike. I like to bring it into survey classes because of its significance to American labor history and because it occurred about seventy-five miles from my classroom.
What is the conservative side of Ludlow? Nobody I know of has denied it happened. Not even the mine owners believed that those women and children deserved their awful fate. The only conservative response to that tragedy is to change the subject or, better yet, not to bring it up at all.
What's ironic is that this strategy pretty much describes the whole effort to force the conservative agenda onto Colorado's campuses. In the last year, the state has imposed massive cutbacks on higher education to make up for state budget deficits caused by difficult economic times. In response, tuition at most Colorado schools has increased by at least 6 percent. Some University of Colorado - Boulder students are facing increases of 15 percent.
Rather than address these problems, the Republican-controlled legislature is planning to change the subject. They should have better things to do, both for Colorado's colleges and universities, as well as for the rest of the state.
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Lane Sweet - 10/27/2003
Notice that the outcry from the university community does not include any refutation of Horowitz's charges. Horowicz did his research, the facts are irrefutable, and the liberal professoria can only resort to the tiresome McCarthyism defense.
Those who purport to be intellectually honest would favor ideological competition. They would welcome a a balanced viewpoint in the soft science classrooms which have been comandeered by anti-capitalist leftists. This would not include prying into candidates' political affiliations, but simply scrutinizing their published writings, then giving fair consideration to those with conservative perspectives.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/22/2003
Your points are well-taken and I sympathize with your main concerns. I have no reason to question or otherwise doubt your experiences. I continue to feel that a few more conservatives on our faculties would contribute to the mission. If conservative students' pre-conceptions need to be challenged (they do), shouldn't liberal students' foundations be tested as well? This would happen more often if there were more conservative faculty.
Roger Wright - 9/22/2003
I've been around enough universities to have witnessed all the examples you cited, Mr. Hagedorn, and you could indeed term them "neo-Stalinist" in many, though not all, instances (naivite and other factors also being at work here). I've even seen actions of this type that border on downright Stalinism, without any "neo".
The "neo-Stalinism" of a Bill Heuisler is of a more grating and less forgivable nature. He is not 18 and away from home for the first time (one assumes, though his behavior may at times suggest otherwise). The key difference is that the neo-Stalinists who inhabit orientation programs, shout down campus speakers etc. do NOT at the same time regularly and indiscriminately denounce opponents from ANYWHERE else on the political spectrum (or off it) as Stalinist, in the kneejerk and hypocritical fashion of a Heuisler, who then has the shamelessness to come here and endorse Big Brother intrusions on academic freedom.
Roger Ramjet Wright - 9/22/2003
"Why parade your ignorance on a history site? Are you searching for redemption or humiliation ? "
Don't know where you cobbed that one, Bill, as you are not known for footnote citations to your neanderthal websites, but it fits you to a tee. I will remember it.
Meanwhile, in case anyone is bored enough to be reading these comments and has forgotten his high school chemistry, as you clearly have: If CO2 were not a greenhouse gas, this planet would be like Mars and none of us, not even those who act like Martians, would be alive.
David Salmanson - 9/22/2003
I appreciate your candor and I accept that most historians oppose Bush's Iraqi venture usually from leftist or libetarian perspectives. On the other hand, one only has to visit a Catholic University (of which there are many) to find vocal opponents of abortion in a history department (we could add many other institutions here as well, BYU, Calvin College etc.) But I attended two centers of raging leftism, Swarthmore College and U of Michigan. On both campuses I found most (but not all) teachers presenting a wide variety of view points and either being very forthright abuot their politics or leaving it out of the classroom altogether. As a teacher I perfer the upfront approach (I think this but other people think that..., give examples) but it also becomes clear to my students very quickly that they have a much harder time if they agree with me. Merely repeating back what I said in class doesn't show much thinking and isn't going to get you a good grade. Most of the students adn teachers I know understand, use, and like this system. I look at older Profs like Sidney Fine (self-proclaimed last of the true liberals) who pontificate from the pulpit yet draw students from across the spectrum. Fine is legendary in Michigan for having taught anywhere from 50-75 percent of the state legislature depending on the year and from both sides of the aisle. Undergrads appreciated the individualized attention he gave them (despite the fact that he had over 100 of them) and the fact that he worked them hard and held them to a high standard. I can name dozens of profs I had first hand experience with who were similar. My own core audience at Michigan was conservative christian students who appreciated my interest in religion and the fact that I pushed them hard to back up their views even though I disagreed with them. To my mind the biggest problem isn't bias in the academy, its low standards, disengaged kids looking for easy grades, profs with no interest in teaching, and administrators looking to fill seats based on courses "popularity." My beef with the twentieth century American wars course at Michigan wasn't that it was right wing or left wing or military history, it was that 250 kids every semester signed up for a class that was a guaranteed B with almost no reading (and none of it substantial) an almost no writing (ditto). And nobody cared because it helped the department meet budget. That's my beef.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/22/2003
Freshman orientation programs that contain heavy doses of political indoctrination; one-party (Democrat or the like) recruiting and hiring practices; close to 100% liberal speakers invited to campuses; conservative invitees "disinvited" or harassed; conservative, alternative newspapers confiscated or destroyed. So who are the neo-Stalinists?
Bill Heuisler - 9/22/2003
A "semantic" difference is a difference in meaning. Your quotes were wrong and your interpretation was wrong. Yet you insist. How can you be so wrong about so many things and still be smug?
Irrational? Complacent? Or just poorly educated.
Second, Political Science:
Horowitz and the Colorado Legislature are promoting:
"No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs." How can any modern educator have a problem with that? So-called Liberals should demand such egalitarian principles, but shallow scholars would rather keep their Leftist monopoly.
CO2 (carbon dioxide) is necessary for plant photosynthesis in combination with chlorophyll and water. The by-product of photosynthesis, oxygen, is of great importance to all living organisms. Virtually all atmospheric oxygen originates by photosynthesis. Greenhouse gas? You have been brainwashed.
Contras fought Sandinistas. Sandinistas tried to outlaw elections, but as soon as the Nicaraguan people could vote them out of power, they did so with an overwhelming majority. The US-backed Contras were “freedom fighters” to most Nicaraguans.
Why parade your ignorance on a history site? Are you searching for redemption or humiliation? Ideological blinders become embarrassing when the doctrinaire encounter the real world.
Roger Wright - 9/22/2003
I can read fine, Bill, just as Benjamin could read "but some animals are more equal than others". Can you, for once, answer a straightforward question ?
I know there is a semantic difference between “thought” and “quality”, but how does a government bureaucrat decide what is or is not "quality" ?
For centuries it has been pretty much left to the "market" of academic discourse and publishing to determine quality. For reasons John Smolenski has outlined above, there are indeed tendencies for academia today to be less pro-business than society as a whole. This is not, however, some immutable law that requires the blunt and stifling heavy hand of state regulation to eternally pound against. It was not the case a hundred years ago, for instance.
True conservatives today are addressing imbalances in academia by exposing fallacies and publishing correctives. Bogus fake conservative opportunists are seeking a boost from anti-intellectual segments of the voting public by pretending that their neo-Stalinism has something to do with quality. Instead of your incessant rants, come out with some real examples of how passing regulations to censor college professors would improve quality, if you possible can. Just because you like to surf websites claiming the earth is flat, or created 6000 years as literally stated in the bible, or that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, or that contras were “freedom fighters”, is not a justifiable reason for having bureaucrats and charlatans like Horowitz force such garbage down the throats of college students. Furthermore, just because few college professors are willing tolerate your acerbic nonsense is no reason to regurgitate it all over this website.
Grad student - 9/21/2003
Come on pal, you know exactly what he means........
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/21/2003
The data are from The American Enterprise, September 2002, "The Shame of America's One-Party Campuses" and various sources are noted in the figures. No, this did not appear in a peer-reviewed journal. Then again, if their (and my) contention is correct about our "One-Party Campuses", what is the likelihood that a scholar will construct such a study and get it published? My answer is: not very good. It would not be helpful for his or her career, to put it mildly.
David, be honest with me. How many scholars (in the humanites and social sciences) do you know who support Bush's venture in Iraq or are pro-life on abortion or pro-choice on education or pro-2nd ammendment rights? How many are advocates of gay marriage and other gay rights initiatves, affirmative action, smart growth, etc., etc.? My experiences in the last year on campuses, at colloquia and conferences make me very comfortable with American Enterprise's numbers. Political party affiliation is a matter of public record, so it can be measured. Social, cultural and religious beliefs are a lot harder to measure, but political affiliation can give one a start.
The OAH session on the Iraq war in April was a joke, quite typically tilted far to the left. They should have had an empty chair at the dais for the token conservative who was absent. This is how we teach "critical thinking". It is a farce and most of the undergrads know it. They are lieing about their beliefs or repressing their opinions for fear of retribution. When they see no conservative professors or grad students can you blame them?
This absence of alternative viewpoints is a real problem if knowledge is our desired product. Orthodoxy has never worked well in the past. But this is about power.
David Salmanson - 9/21/2003
Tom, Your numbers make me a little twitchy. I count 20 Brown faculty members in Poli Sci. Does that mean the other 13 are ideologically neutral independents who call them as they see them? Or does it mean (more likely) that the whoel exercise is methodologically flawed and kind of silly.
Bill Heuisler - 9/21/2003
Apparently you can't possibly read slowly enough. Go back and read Simon's post again. He wrote, "governmental "intellectual thought control", didn't he?
Governmental means of the State, Mr. Wright.
The difference between thought control and quality control is obvious - the word "thought" as opposed to the word "quality".
1)Thought control is what the politically correct try to enforce on some campuses and what Stalin tried to enforce in the USSR.
2)Quality control means monitoring the excellence of a product or the worthlessness of Dogmatic Leftist college professors.
Having to point out the meanings of words to you makes me wonder if perhaps you might forget about "Animal Farm" and take some Freshman remedial reading courses instead.
Roger Wright - 9/20/2003
Attempting to read your comment slowly and carefully, as you request Simon to do, I remain puzzled. Even re-reading "Animal Farm", I am still unclear. What exactly is the difference between "intellectual thought control" (which Simon accuses you of advocating) and "intellectual quality-control" (which you do advocate) ?
Bill Heuisler - 9/20/2003
My apology for piercing your delicate sensibilities. I thought irony was acceptable due to your introductory post in this stream. Remember the loaded (and quite impressive)capitals you used to introduce yourself to me?
Let me remind you: "You seem to have perfect knowledge of what the "TRUTH" is. If that's the case, I'm awed by your super-human intellectual capacity. Congratulations!"
Doesn't the goose-gander thing work in your intellectual circles?
Never mind. Your misguided opinions of Capitalism prove my point about the pervasive academic misstatement of the engine that produced the Industrial Revolution and most of what we call Modern society. No one ever said Capitalism was supposed to make everyone happy. Capitalism is opportunity. Capitalism is a great leveller - the engine that gives people from every stratum of society the opportunity to succeed. Capitalism is the economic structure that merges human greed, desire to excel and innate concern for others into a unique, extra-governmental, self-driven process unparallelled in human history.
A poor woman on minimum wage with no health insurance is an indictment of Capitalism? You might as well indict a teacher for a failed student. And please supply me with the name of the tyranny with the free market. Economics mirrors and produces its society. Economics is pay for labor, prices for goods, private property, entrepeneurs and salaried. To enslave a man, take his economic choices away.
Lastly, name a single aspect of human existence that is "totally outside of the scope of economics". None exists.
Bill Heuisler - 9/19/2003
You referred to me as a,
"self-proclaimed advocate of freedom and capitalism wants to interject governmental "intellectual thought control" into American colleges."
But what I actually wrote was,
"People who do their jobs badly should be ejected by their peers or their bosses. Horowitz's Initiative may be the only way to provide a sort of intellectual quality-control in Colleges."
Govermental thought control wasn't mentioned, was it?
Thank you for reading "hundreds" of my posts, but you should read more slowly and carefully so you don't miss words and confuse some of the more complicated thoughts.
Rafael Gomez - 9/19/2003
why do you always have to resort to loaded and insinuating questions in your arguments?
I never said or even implied that professors should deceive students. How can you even ask such a silly question??
I have never been a fan of communism as an idea, and much less of the form in which it has been implemented. But I also do not believe that capitalism is the panacea that wil solve all problems and make everybody happy. And it certainly hasn't made everybody happy even where it is allowed to run the freest. Ask any single parent trying to raise a family on a minimum wage and without health insurance. And you can have both a tyrany and free markets, so capitalism by itself is no gurantee of freedom and happiness. Capitalism is just a set of ideas on how to run the economy, and there are numerous aspects of human existence that are totally outside of the scope of economics and thus of capitalism, unless you believe that Homo Sapiens is extinct and was replaced by Homo Economicus. I think capitalism is so far the best model we have on how to run the economy, but it has to be combined with a lot of other models dealing with all the other aspects of society in order to have real progress and some degree of satisfaction for the majority of the population.
It will be, in my opinion, as dishonest to teach that communism or socialism are the best while denigrating capitalism, as to teach that capitalism is the answer to all problems, and that every other idea or ideology is totally worthless.
Most "truths" in history are pretty open to debate. Even in physics, the most exact of sciences, some things that have been thought to be fundamental truths are later discovered to be wrong. So don't be so cock-sure that everything you believe is "THE TRUTH."
The Twain quote you provided is a very good summary of what I've been trying to say ("When in doubt, tell the truth"). When in doubt you say that you are in doubt, and that you are not sure what is true or false. And in most historical subjects, there are lots of doubts. That's the "truth" that should be taught, not a single interpretation of history that you or anybody else believes is true.
Derek Catsam - 9/19/2003
I am aware of that, of course, but given that among the schools cited in the poll discerning liberal faculty were Ivy League schools and their peers (Stanford, eg) it seems every bit as relevant. In other words -- if as your evidence that the faculty is skewed you use private schools, then I should be able to point out that church schools often carry their own faculty bias, and unlike in the Ivies and Little Three and others, that ideological slant is not mandated by the administration.
Simon Genesee - 9/19/2003
Of the many hundreds of convoluted and propagandistic comments from Bill Heuisler which pollute this website, this posting here is as good as any I can recall in revealing his uninformed hypocrisy.
Heuisler rails incessantly against Stalinists and Marxists. He throws out the terms so indiscriminately and unthinkingly at people who dare take issue with him, for whatever reason, that one wonders whether he has any real clue as to what he is talking about.
Now this self-proclaimed advocate of freedom and capitalism wants to interject governmental "intellectual thought control" into American colleges. Comrade Heuisler, Father Marx and Uncle Joe would be proud to see their dialectical fantasies so unwittingly yet stridently adhered to.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/19/2003
If we are historians, writers, parents, citizens, consumers, we should seek the truth, at times with uncertain results, at other times, sure that we are right. When two of us have found diametrically opposed "truths", those opposing "truths" should be debated and explored, both for our understanding and for the edification of observers. Out of that caulron, a better "truth" should emerge. That is why the current liberal hegemony in the humanities and social sciences is a brake on our understanding of the world. Ideas that never confront the fire of debate can't be trusted. That is where we are today with the humanites and social sciences.
An example is the view of historians on the role of religious faith in the early republic and anti-bellum periods. The Enlightenment is exalted and the 2nd Awakening is always given a secondary role. I believe this is because the academy is much more sceptical (in a religious sense) than the rest of America and can not relate or understand people who have (or had) a very serious religious faith that drove their actions. They look in the mirror, they see the Enlightenment, they are sympathetic to those ideas and that colors their reading of history. If there were more than a handful of conservatives in their departments, they might get closer to the truth. At conferences, etc over the last year, I have observed that any religious reference almost always is followed by a condescending or cynical remark, which is usually followed by snickers and laughs. How can these people possibly come to a reasonably accurate analysis of, say, America in the 1830's? Well, the answer is, they are either blind to the impact of faith, or ignore religious influence and it damages their work.
Bill Heuisler - 9/19/2003
Sounds like Twain, but he also said, "When in doubt tell the truth." Are you avoiding the issue on purpose or do you believe professors should deceive students?
The truth is not some ephemeral concept we cannot grasp; the truth becomes evident by trial and error and human experience.
The Communist governments in this world are all tyrannies that govern through fear and secret police. Cuba is an example. Castro has concentration camps for homosexuals; Cuba has more political prisoners per capita than all other countries except maybe Communist China which keeps such records secret.
And the truth: A professor like Foner or Markowitz teaching the benefits of Communism or Marxism, while condemning Capitalism is teaching a lie and harming students. A professor, critical of Capitalism while promoting Socialism as the answer to social problems (without detailing the economic realities evident in the world today) is, at best, misleading.
Do we want students misled or lied to? Is perception of truth so difficult we must spend our lives in clouds of moral relativism?
Rafael Gomez - 9/19/2003
I was not trying to deny or confirm any particular facts about socialism, communism, capitalism, or any other -ism.
I was just commenting on the fact that you seem so sure of knowing the truth. If the truth was so evident and easy to know the world would be very different. And most of the time, especially with political ideas, what works and what doesn't depends greatly on whom you ask. Those who benefit from a certain political or economical system will always say it's the best one, while those that for any reason are left out or cannot benefit as much will say it's not good.
Neither liberals nor conservatives have a monopoly on the truth.
I have seen as many conservatives as liberals manipulating facts and information to suit their arguments and ideologies. So don't expect THE truth to be taught by anybody, liberal or conservative.
Some famous character, whose name escapes me right now, said "he who doubts is probably right."
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/18/2003
This issue is not just in hiring. It is also that a liberal faculty may be a self-perpetuating body by discouraging, perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentially, academic political science as a field. Conservatives may (I believe they do)self-select themselves out of the political science major or graduate school when they do not have ONE conservative professor.
Here are some recent numbers for you on the political affiliations (on primary voting records) of political science faculty: (Liberal=Democrat, Green, etc; Conservative=Republican, Libertarian, etc.)
Brown - 7 Liberal, 0 Conservative; Cornell - 16 Liberal, 1 Conservative; Davidson - 5 Liberal, 0 Conservative; Harvard - 20 Liberal, 1 Conservative; Penn State - 17 Liberal, 3 Conservative; Stanford - 26 Liberal, 4 Conservative (my, they might even have some debates, there!); Syracuse - 20 Liberal, 1 Conservative; UC Berkeley - 24 Liberal, 4 Conservative; UCLA - 16 Liberal, 1 Conservative; Colorado at Boulder - 17 Liberal, 2 Conservative; Maryland - 17 Liberal, 3 Conservative.
Are many liberal ideas so devoid of value, they are afraid to debate them?
Bam Zahraie - 9/18/2003
I'm actually curious. Has anyone thought to look at the proportions of political science professors with respect to liberal vs conservative viewpoints. I'd wager that it breaks down nowhere near 50/50. If doctorates in political science are proportionally more liberal...why would the faculty make-up be any different (which is what I would suspect).
Irfan Khawaja - 9/18/2003
It's not just that it happens, it's that it's considered a normal part of the hiring process. I wouldn't call it an "epidemic," but it's not a rare and anomalous phenomenon, either. Yes, anecdotal evidence has its pitfalls, but the point is, it can't be so lightly dismissed. Imagine trying to prove that racial discrimination or homophobia (etc.) existed *without* relying on anecdotal evidence. You might never "find" any--not because they don't exist, but because you insisted on throwing out the evidence that demonstrates that they do. I agree that anecdotal evidence should not be the basis of public policy (I'm against the proposed policy), but it's counter-productive to treat anecdotes as worthless. It's a form of denial that cuts both ways.
Stephen Thomas - 9/18/2003
Your original post seemed to suggest that I was attempting to force other men to adhere to some code of conduct. This reminds me of a conversation I had several years ago with a close friend who is gay. He said: "People should be free to live any life style they choose." I agreed, but then I said: "That doesn’t mean that every choice is likely to produce a good result. There is a reason why the traditional choices are traditional. Those choices have been shown to work over the long haul."
Traditional male values include: (1) respect for the elders simply because they are elders, (2) respect for tradition, (3) developing physical strength and athletic ability, (4) facing danger without whining or self-pity, (5) supporting and defending one’s family and country, (6) self-denial in favor of performing one’s duty, (7) being a good father and husband, (7) faith in God, etc. This is just a partial list. The cowboy has always been America’s favorite exemplar of male virtue, because the cowboy is self-sufficient, an individualist, capable of self-defense and answerable to nobody but God. My father, bless him, embodied all of these virtues.
Stephen Thomas - 9/18/2003
Mr. Gomez, there is much about your post that makes sense.
However, since I am well placed within the educational establishment to know, I will tell you that the watchwords of that establishment for the past 15 years have been "diversity," "inclusion", and "outreach."
By the standards of their own rhetoric, Women's Studies programs are failing. They should be looking for traditional religious women and encouraging them to enter their programs.
Instead, if the program at my alma mater is any example, most programs are recruitment centers for lesbianism run by middle aged women who are looking for young women to seduce.
Richard. - 9/18/2003
Dear Sir. Read your own writing in this coloum re the civil war you make Horowits point for him of course you should be covering the civil war from the south perspective as well or do you just tell your students that it was all about slavery?I by the way am a liberal.
Simon Genesee - 9/18/2003
If the publicity stunt underway in Colo. would somehow lead to more tolerant and diverse History faculties, fine. Unfortunately, "affirmative action" for Republicans-who-would-make-TR-and-Lincoln- wince will almost surely fail more miserably and be more counterproductive than affirmative action for racial minorities already has been. Ethnic quotas and peer-pressures create enough problems as it is. Government-bureaucrat-run thought control and ideological litmus tests would make things even worse.
Herodotus - 9/18/2003
The aim at present is to state-sponsored schools, like the university of colorado system. Church schools and private universites are obviously not affected.
Derek Catsam - 9/18/2003
I never said that incidents never happen. What I do want to know is what evidence beyond the anecdotal we have that it happens enough to be considered an epidemic, and whether or not the presence of liberals (there are far more liberals than leftists in academia, I will promise that) must be problematic. I also have yet to get an answer about religiously affiliated schools, or whether we are also going to vet business schools, trustees, and football coaches. I just do not think that anecdotes are an especially wise foundation upon which to create a public policy.
Rafael Gomez - 9/18/2003
your question about how often one can have conversations with graduate students and faculty that have positions similar to yours is a good one.
Unfortunately I cannot answer it in a way that would contribute a lot to this topic because I'm not in the liberal arts or humanities. I'm an electrical engineer.
Most of the graduate students I know in fields like history, sociology, etc. are pretty liberal and some are very much to the left. And the same is true back in my country. Fields like anthropology, sociology, history, etc. are dominated by people with pretty extreme leftist orientations. Thinking about the way it works back home I realize that it might have nothing to do with vetting. My feeling is that once a certain critical mass of people with a certain political orientation forms within a field, the field becomes "marked" or inextricably associated with that orientation, so that people with a different orientation, who are looking for a career, will feel that they have nothing to do in the field and steer clear of it on their own, without any vetting or intimidation. Once sociology, for example, becomes a career that you commonly associate with liberals, why would a young conservative consider it as a viable and rewarding field in which to work? And the critical mass of people can be formed by pure coincidence, not by any "conspiracy" to drive conservatives away. The process snow-balls and becomes self-perpetuating without any vetting driving it. That is not to say that vetting doesn't happen, I just don't think it's that prevalent or even conscious.
By the way, in engineering I think things tend to be more balanced, with maybe a slight slant towards conservatism especially among older professors. And certainly most people I know cannot be easily calissified as liberals or conservatives. The label will depend on the issue. But I haven't had too many chances to discuss political topics with my colleagues around here.
Clare Spark - 9/17/2003
I am bewildered by Jonathan Rees's complaint that there is not enough time in a survey course to present all the competing arguments that attempt to explain the major conflicts in history. If he understands his material there should be no problem.
Imagine if this debate were taking place among scientists. Say I am presenting my research results that appear to have revised previous opinions about a big concept in my field. Would I complain that time does not allow me to thoroughly adumbrate former descriptions and conclusions about the nature of my subject? Would I dare to distort the opinions of my adversaries or those who differed in less comprehensive ways?
I can understand the frustration of Rees or anyone else who is asked to dash through the centuries. The logical thing to do is to change or modify the curriculum so that at least one or two turning points can be addressed in sufficient detail so that students acquire the analytic tools to learn the rest on their own.
There is in this article a mixture of arrogance (e.g., conservatives don't get jobs because they are incompetent) and helplessness (e.g. they are asking too much of me) that I find deeply disturbing. But then such are the ways of middle managers.
Rafael Gomez - 9/17/2003
the purpose of my previous post was to understand what you mean by "traditional male values". I could come up with a list of what I imagine those are, but maybe they won't match at all those you have in mind. So it would be better if you tell us what they are.
If you want a discussion about disicrimination against people that have those "traditional male values," I think we need to know what those values are.
Chris Osborne - 9/17/2003
I agree with the substance of much of Ms. Markell's criticisms of Professor Rees' article. If a history survey course indeed does limit the amount of material which can be covered in an academic term, in my opinion the professor does have an obligation to expose his students to alternative viewpoints where historical controversy exists and expose them to the full marketplace of ideas, rather than indoctrinating them with one viewpoint.
Although Rees raises a valid point in stating that the position of Holocaust deniers is not worthy of serious consideration, he would have an obligation to discuss the matter if one his students brought up the issue. There are other historical events where students should study the opposing viewpoint, even if it is morally deplorable.
The Klan's viewpoint on Reconstruction was that the U.S. was imposing a corrupt occupation regime on the defeated South and was attempting to impose Black rule. A deplorable view indeed, but students should learn what animated Klan action at this time and their worldview. Jim Crow era lynch mobs murdered Black men because they subscribed to the wildly paranoid viewpoint that these men wanted to rape White women. The extraordinary brutality of lynchings which included stake-burnings, slicing off body parts, and using corkscrews to tear out flesh stemmed from the belief that as Blacks were supposedly a "savage and barbaric" people they needed to be thoroughly intimidated--a simple hanging or execution by firing squad allegedly wouldn't scare them sufficiently. Despite the unmentionable evil motivations of the Jim Crow lynch mobs, the history professor does have an obligation to state what drove them to behave in the way they did. Michael Perman's excellent book studying the disfranchisement of Black voters in the South on a state-by-state basis also illustrates the angle that White racial terrorism was part of a political war. Whites wanted to prevent Blacks from facilitating a Republican Party takeover of the "Solid South." They sometimes accused selected Black men of rape merely as an excuse to murder local Black leaders. The historian again, I think, has a moral obligation to inform his students as to why there was a campaign of terroristic violence to disenfranchise Black Southern voters.
Although I concede I don't know about the Ludlow Massacre to the extent Ms. Markell does, a possible "pro-management" viewpoint on the strike is that the demands of the miners might have been a threat to profits or that a company's founders were entitled to its profits. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the management take on the issue of the miners' strike, a professor should make at least brief mention of such a viewpoint.
I think that one danger posed by leftist academics is that they take a proposition which is actually true--that perfect objectivity is impossible in the social sciences--and use it as an excuse to sneer at the entire quest for objectivity; thus conservative writer Daniel Flynn's attack on Howard Zinn for his statement that objectivity is not only impossible but also not even desirable.
Chris Osborne - 9/17/2003
Although there are many examples available of leftist discrimination against or intimidation of non-leftists in the social science and humanities divisions on our university campuses (the books "The Shadow University" by Harvey Kors and Alan Silverglate and "Dictatorship of Virtue" by Richard Bernstein; and "tattling" websites such as NoIndoctrination.org), Professor Smolenski raises a number of compelling and food-for-thought points in his post.
I have a Master's degree in history (although I didn't go on for a doctorate) and thus had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for three semesters. My conservative students, some of whom were intellectually brilliant, indeed were not looking to go into academia after college. One of my best conservative students ultimately went into the diplomatic service. Another brilliant conservative student I had suffered from having his parents map out his entire life for him. They had decided he would pursue an M.B.A. once he had completed his undergraduate work. He truly loved history and begged them to let him major in it for his B.A. degree. They relented, but informed him his ultimate ambition in life still needed to be in corporate management. Indeed he didn't enroll in the history department as a graduate student.
Thus many conservative undergraduates are more pragmatically oriented in life. They are looking either for professions which have better pay rates or which have an infinitely better employment market than history. Liberal or leftist students appear to be more into education for aesthetic rather than for pragmatic value, thus a larger number of them may major in the social sciences or humanities IN SPITE OF knowledge that the job markets are so terrible.
If Horowitz is indeed looking for diversity initiatives for conservatives in academic employment, as he is accused of doing, he may find a modest shortfall of conservative students available at the graduate level in the humanities or social sciences.
Elia Markell - 9/17/2003
Glad to hear it. If this measure will induce your and other history departments to extend such courtesy into actually seeking out a wider range of views among colleagues, all to the better, wouldn't you say?
Simon Genesee - 9/17/2003
Mr. Markell, I did not say the employment obstacles based on political belief were "legitimate" or "acceptable", only that the proposed remedies, and counter-remedies to those remedies, discussed here would make matters worse not better. As for your personal statement about your environmentalist brother being well treated as an oil company employee, that reinforces my analogy. My PhD advisor is a well treated free-trade advocate in a History Department.
Bill Heuisler - 9/17/2003
You put it rather neatly. What do we do about it?
People who do their jobs badly should be ejected by their peers or their bosses. Horowitz's Initiative may be the only way to provide a sort of intellectual quality-control in Colleges. Tenure perversion and job-vetting corruption are impossible to prove without mind-reading, but the product has become debased and those who pay the bills are more and more dissatisfied.
Simplifying to the point of clarity may be oversimplification, but examining overwhelming results is informative. Institutions of higher learning have become Leftist and turn out Leftists with alarming regularity. Why? They treat Marxism, Feminism and homosexuality uncritically while examining Capitalism, the mainstream and the United States with intense condemnation. The norm is oppressor, the atypical is victim in nearly every case. Magisterial ignorance has become ingrained generalization.
A defender of the status quo on this site has introduced the rebuttal that religious schools and vocational schools do not share the bias of their more secular bretheren. Not the point. The erasure of all bias and the injection of pure truth should be everyone's mission in educating our children. Pie in the sky? Maybe, but the fact we're having this discussion highlights the terrible problem that visits our society when Professors promote ignorance, self-hatred and retrogression in order to fulfil their passion and cherished malice. Promotion of ignorance and hostility based of falsehood is socially destructive and should be rejected by everyone as unethical, unprofessional and immoral.
Steve Vinson - 9/17/2003
I love this. Conservatives can't get hired by elite private colleges, and they claim it's because of bias. But I ask: where's the proof, other than gross numbers, that conservatives are being discriminated against? Possibly conservative academics are simply not qualified. If we lower standards to hire more conservatives on University faculties, then all of us will suffer as less meritorious professors flood our classrooms, and better-qualified, liberal professors are forced to drive cabs or flip burgers. It would be better for aspiring conservative faculty members to do better scholarship, write better books, become better teachers, and earn their position in the classroom through merit, rather than expect to get a free handout, or benefit from something so un-American as a quota.
Elia Markell - 9/17/2003
Simon Genesee tells us,
"Yes, it is slightly harder for a free-trade advocate to teach college history, just as environmentalists have some extra challenges working for oil companies and Quakers find military service troubling. That is life."
Aside from being cavalier about academic intimidation to the point of imperiousness ("slightly" indeed), this statement makes false analogies that mask its readiness to embrace a propagandistic function for history teaching. For in fact it is not analogous to compare historians harrassing a free-trade historian to an oil company harrassing an environmentalist employee. The more accurate analogy would be to compare historians harrassing a free-trade historian to an oil company harrassing a trained geologist for his views about the formation of metamorphic rock strata. The notion that a belief in free trade is itself a semi-legitimate or somewhat acceptable or even at all understandable reason for placing obstacles in a historians way is particularly mindboggling, by the way, given the fact that economics as a field produces professionals who largely favor free trade.
Also, just as an aside and as a point of fact, I happen to know as a personal matter that oil companies do employ and treat civilly environmentalists, some of the best even. My brother, for example.
Herodotus - 9/17/2003
If you don't think the ossification of left-leaning power is dangerous (which ultimately is what these guys are challenging), then you ought to read Erin O'Connor's website today http://www.erinoconnor.org
and see what's going on at UVa...students won't be able to register for classes until they pass a mandatory social indoctrination class.
Stephen Thomas - 9/17/2003
You are very good at insults. Bet you are good at doing that to your students in class as well. Do you have any factual information to impart to your students, or do you just repeat the brutal indoctrination that was your "education?"
Obviously, you are not bored. In fact, I'd suggest that my comments are the first you've heard in a decade that were not the pitiful whining of a sycophant. You clearly like that response, and you've labelled it as a sign of intelligence.
Once again, I'd like to know whether you have any thoughts that are your own, or are you entirely the conformist product of the PC indoctrination system. (The answer is obvious.)
Stephen Thomas - 9/17/2003
The burden is on those who proposed legislation to convince us that that legislation will solve the problem, respect the rights of the individual, and not create a worse problem than the problem that legislation is intended to resolve.
Laws do exist, however, to punish those who engage in political vetting a job candidates, the common practice of the academy in the liberal arts. Laws suits and prosecutions under existing laws that proscribe political patronage, particularly at state institutions, are probably better solutions.
Stephen Thomas - 9/17/2003
Mr. Hagedorn, the question you asked could be rephrased.
Since Women's Studies programs purport to document the experience and history of women, where are the traditionally religious women in Women's Studies programs?
Women's Studies programs seem to either deliberately exclude the vast majority of women from employment in the field. Less than a quarter of American women describe themselves as feminists. Last time I looked at the roster of any Women's Studies program, every last faculty member described herself as a feminist.
Women's Studies seems to systematically exclude women who are religious, and who believe that women should play the traditional roles of wife and mother. And this is just an accident, right?
Well, no, the answer, as the Dresners of this world are quick to supply, is that those who are not feminist are stupid, and therefore unfit to be employed. It's a perfect circle.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/17/2003
Getting back to the topic at hand, I find Rafael's query to me instructive. Rafael (or other scholars who would care to respond), how often have you participated in exchanges (such as this one on gay rights) with graduate students or faculty who espouse the postitions that I hold on various "hot button" social and cultural issues? Would it be dangerous to hold those positions as a graduate student or a job applicant, or a faculty member seeking tenure or other promotion? The prima facie evidence seems pretty convincing that it would. Are there ANY women's studies faculty ANYWHERE who are pro-life? Are there ANY African-American Studies faculty ANYWHERE who oppose affirmative action? If there are, those poor harrassed souls should be canonized immediatly. If there are orthodox positions that one must hold in academia (humanities and social sciences), how does that affect the search for new knowledge? It seems to me we have a return to Aristotelian Scholasticm. If so, can someone please refer me to the authorities I am to consult before I start my quest for knowledge? Marx? FDR? New York Times? NPR? Jonathon Kozol? I promise I will never listen to Fox News again. I just burned my Bill O'Reilly book and have taken down my Reagen portrait and put it in the attic. Thanks, 21st century humanities scholars, life is so much simpler now that I don't have to decide what value system to take into my quest. You have found a morally superior system of beliefs and are protecting it by keeping any usurpers out.
Stephen Thomas - 9/17/2003
Mr. Heuisler gets close to the one troubling issue about Mr. Horowitz's initiative: Is it the right solution to the problem?
The discussion has focused exclusively on whether political vetting does exist within the liberal arts. Frankly, it's a no brainer. It does.
But a larger question might be: What do you do about it? I am not committed to Mr. Horowitz in any way, and I do not know whether the solution he has proposed will be effective. Whenever laws are enacted we must ask some very essential question: Does the problem really exist? Does the proposed law correct that problem? Does that law infringe on the rights of others? Does that law have consequences that are currently unforseen. It is the province of those who propose legislation to answer these question.
Stephen Thomas - 9/17/2003
Your traditional male values are your own business.
Those who have traditional male values face blacklisting throughout the liberal arts.
Jonathan Dresner - 9/17/2003
"Herodotus" wrote "The people who are pushing the quotas for conservatives are simply playing the left-wing/PC crowd at their own game."
Funny, that's more or less what I said at the beginning of this thread. It's ironic either way you come at it, I think.
Sorry, I never really followed the KC Johnson story closely, nor spoke on it in any forum, public or private.
We're playing dueling anecdotes here on an issue which is clearly multi-dimensional and where solutions could fundamentally alter the nature (not just the political make-up) of the academy. And I still think that the problems and precedents created by the Colorado plan are far greater than any remedy which it might (or might not) render.
Bill Heuisler - 9/17/2003
Thanks for your good will. But facts and evidence are better.
Name a Socialist State with a growing GNP and low unemployment. Name a Communist experiment that didn't result in dictatorship, loss of freedom and copious bloodshed. Marxist professors teach the history of human degradation as if it were Utopia; they malign America's experiment in freedom...in spite of history.
Capitalism has been a wellspring of Liberty and prosperity since the Hanseatic League. Disagree? Historic facts would be nice.
Or do you only comment from the sidelines?
Irfan Khawaja - 9/17/2003
I don't agree with Stephen Thomas, but doesn't your response go to the opposite extreme? Political vetting is necessarily a covert phenomenon. If people engaged in it, they wouldn't be leaving explicit paper trails documenting its existence. Racial/sexual discrimination isn't typically documented either, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that all anecdotal evidence of it is whining. A friend of mine was denied a position at one of the CUNY schools because he was in favor of capital punishment. He was explicitly told that. I'm against capital punishment, so I would have had a better chance at that job had I applied. Someone on the search committee of a poli sci dept. at a small liberal arts college once told me that if I were in political science, they would have hired me sight unseen in her dept. principally because of my ethnicity. Fact is, I'm not in political science, so they didn't. And I've gotten job offers because the person making the offer knew and agreed with my politics in a broad way. (It wasn't the only factor, but it was certainly a factor.) Etc. Etc. I'm hardly whining here; I'm telling you about undeserved advantages I (would) have had in the search process. It's anecdotal--yet real. This kind of thing happens all the time; to deny it is to be in denial. (Conservatives do it too. Everybody does it.) The point is, it can't be remedied by vetting from the other side.
Irfan Khawaja - 9/17/2003
Lord almighty, you hadn't even read the article before you responded to me! The Academic Bill of Rights is a ridiculous proposal that I was making fun of, not a contractual agreement.
If you go back and read the article, you'll see why it's absolutely pointless to even raise the question you're raising.
Should the Academic Bill of Rights be adhered to? Well, according to its authors, no one can be certain of the answer to that question.
Simon Genesee - 9/17/2003
I have seen Mr. Horowitz in action and it was a boring experience. I don't understand why anyone needs to give him the time of day: he only thrives on attention and publicity of any kind.
In business, in engineering, in the military, at hospitals, day care centers, and neighborhood associations...throughout modern America, Democrats and Republicans work together professionally to do their jobs. There is a time and a place for politics (the ballot box) and that is where it belongs, just as religion belongs at home and in the religious institution.
Yes, it is slightly harder for a free-trade advocate to teach college history, just as environmentalists have some extra challenges working for oil companies and Quakers find military service troubling. That is life. Millions have coped, cope now, and will cope. Most of the time politics is irrelevant. No new government laws are needed to make it "more balanced" in its irrelevance. Building a better mouse trap can be done by proponents and opponents of the flat tax alike. Doing high quality scientific experiments to find cures for cancer do not depend on one’s views re Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elia Gonzalez, Kofi Anan, or the Kashmir conflict.
The best way to resist the politicization of history teaching is (a) to recognize it and (b) ignore it. Recognize, for example, that HNN is part of the problem.
Bill Bailey - 9/17/2003
I agree with your basic position, Rafael, but think you misunderstood Thomas's point about the 100 year die out.
What he most probably meant was that if homosexuality were genetic, in the usual sense, it would have to confer an evolutionary advantage, and it is not at all obvious that it does because passing the "advantage" on to offspring requires heterosexual intercourse (until test tube babies). On the other hand it is also hard to argue that gayness is "cultural" since it occurs in practically every cultural environment.
Rafael Gomez - 9/17/2003
I think your answer reflects the stereotypical image of homosexuals as being more prone to "sexual misbehavior" than heterosexuals. And I think this stereotype has nothing to do with reality. I know of a lot more heterosexual people having "Causual sex with strangers in public bathrooms, parks, etc." than gays. After all, rapists and the clients of prostitutes are heterosexuals.
"It seems a bit provocative for a gay to identify himself or herself as such and then scream discrimination, since they are basically telling others what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms."
Declaring yourself a heterosexual or letting people assume that you are amounts to exactly the same thing; you are giving people information about what goes on in your bedroom. Is it provocative when they do it, but not when you do?
"If all were gay, the human race would cease to exist in about 100 years" ?!?!?!?!?!
Nobody is saying that we should all become gay. It seems to me totally ridiculous to think that encoding some gay's rights in the law will encourage everybody to declare themselves gay.
Herodotus - 9/17/2003
"It is clear to me, though that the solutions being proposed in Colorado are simplistic interferences with academic freedom and institutional self-rule. It is also clear to me that the solutions are, ironically, the same kinds of methods which conservatives generally decry: imposing quotas, restricting speech, treating people as labels rather than as individuals."
The people who are pushing the quotas for conservatives are simply playing the left-wing/PC crowd at their own game.
For people on a site that debated the KC Johnson story so extensively to overlook the fact that one of the pieces of evidence circulated by those out to get him were his postings to a center-right website is incredible. How can they in the same site then suggest that an anti-conservative bias does not exist or is not worthy of condemnation, regardless of one's personal politics?
Elia Markell - 9/17/2003
I have to agree with the first poster, Stephen Thomas. This piece is utterly disingenuous. It's a typical ploy though in responding to this mounting criticism of the academy's political biases. Polarize, and then attack the Pole.
Mr.Rees, after presenting some takes on the American Revolution, asks "Which one of those is a conservative argument? Which one is liberal?" As if the Academic Bill of Rights movement is asking him to present the "conservative" versus the "liberal" take on the Revolution. In fact, it is EXACTLY that sort of politicization of interpretation and inquiry that this effort is attempting to counter.
Then Rees adds the spice of strawman extremes to his efforts to discredit his opponents. The logic of their view, he tells us, would be to insist on teaching the KKK's point of view, for instance, or that of the Holocaust deniers. (I only know of Noam Chomsky's defense of them, but perhaps Rees has found others who will.)
The Academic Bill of Rights language Rees himself quotes puts the lie to his absurd mangling of it:
"While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints."
Or does Rees deny that other viewpoints exist WITHIN his profession, and that the historians duty is to teach a wide range of those in order to open the debates up to students and welcome them in?
Perhaps he does deny this. Mr. Rees tells us he likes to bring Ludlow into his class. Fine. He is absolutely certain, also, that no "conservative" take on that massacre is possible. I could offer one actually, and one that would do honor to the men, women and children viciously and wrongly murdered. But the fact that such a possibility is beyond Mr. Rees's powers even to imagine argues more persuasively than anything else could for exactly the kind of corrective the Academic Bill of Rights is designed to bring about.
Jonathan Dresner - 9/16/2003
I take exception to your charge of defamation. I have called your posts ahistorical, wrong-headed and boring, but I don't believe I've called you anything. In fact, I've already defended your right to be ahistorical, wrong-headed and boring once today.
The definition of a liberal, and of a Stalinist, seems to shift, too. That's the problem: political ideology doesn't work as a protected class because the definition of it is nearly impossible. You clearly don't accept my definition of conservative, and I don't accept your definition of liberal/Stalinist. So who decides when the population is "balanced" or when the content is?
If there is political bias, and political vetting going on, then the solution, as you point out, is obvious: make it clear that politics, like age, marital status and race, is a non-issue in hiring. I've been through a couple of hires on both sides, and I've seen no obvious evidence of political vetting on either side. I've seen a few candidates whose methodologies and academic biases were questioned, but mostly those who were "too radical" in their approach.
I've never been told, by the AA/EEO officers of the various schools, that personal politics were off limits and actionable (I just assumed it was irrelevant). That may be a failing on their part, or it may be that the law has not actually clearly marked that distinction between personal and academic views.
Asking someone if they are a Democrat or Republican, and basing hiring on that alone, certainly would fall under the category of political patronage. But it's not at all clear to me that what's happening is anywhere near that clear or simple.
It is clear to me, though that the solutions being proposed in Colorado are simplistic interferences with academic freedom and institutional self-rule. It is also clear to me that the solutions are, ironically, the same kinds of methods which conservatives generally decry: imposing quotas, restricting speech, treating people as labels rather than as individuals.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/16/2003
My main problem with this is the diminution of heterosexual marriage, the most important institution in our society. My basic political beliefs are libertarian, so I favor no laws that would sanction their sexual practices, as long as they do not endanger public health. Causual sex with strangers in public bathrooms, parks, etc would seem to fit that definition, as well as to potentially offend many others. Sodomy or whatever in the bedroom should not be a crime. It should be kept private. I doubt that there is much discrimination against "in the closet" gays, with whom I have worked and got along with quite well. I believe most surveys show gays have above averege income, net worth, education, etc. It seems a bit provocative for a gay to identify himself or herself as such and then scream discrimination, since they are basically telling others what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms. The gay "program" seems to be to force others to accept as morally acceptable their sexual choices. I do not agree based upon my religious beliefs and what I would call "natural law" (If all were gay, the human race would cease to exist in about 100 years).
Derek Catsam - 9/16/2003
Stephen Thomas writes the following:
"The reason that conservatives are not represented on faculties is that they are intentionally weeded out by the political vetting process. Universities are breaking the law."
ou accuse. Thus teh responsibiliyt is on you to show the evidence. That is what we as historians do, and that is what anyone must do who is asserting that universities are breaking the law (which anyone who says we should search based on ideology is doing,by the way.) Absent that evidence, what we have here is a whole lot of whining. So a study showing that universities test for ideology. A series of letters. Examples beyond your anecdotal assertions that it is simply so. Do you have any?
Derek Catsam - 9/16/2003
What about the political party affiliations at the literally hundreds of church related schools in the US? We are talking about schools wgere to walk in the door requires a heavy dose of ideological conformity. These schools produce thousands of students. Are we going to extend this idea to all departments? What if we find (GASP!) that we have more Republicans than Democrats in business schools? Surely we'll engage in the same correction? And of course, is someone going to prove to me that we liberals can't also teach in a way that conveyts all side of the debate? Does having an ideology make us all ideologues? I just assigned a paper on 9-11 in my wsurvey asking students to think historically about an event they all lived through. The whole ideological spectrum was represented. I criticized bad writing and shallowly conceived ideas that blamed Clinton for the war. I criticized similar sentiments about Bush being an idiot who just wanted war. Many of us who are left of center do not see our jobs as inculcating ideology but rather as teaching students not only about history, but also how to reason, think, and justify whatever argument they take. Many of us have known and respected far too many conservative colleagues in graduate school and (believe it or not) beyond to think that our way is the only way to think things through. That many of us are liberal seems to be irrelevent unless you can demonstarte some sort of causqality between our ideology and our teaching and even our writing.
Rafael Gomez - 9/16/2003
I know this is totally out of topic, but I'm very curious about your reasons for being anti-gay rights.
I have a few friends who are homosexual and they seem to me to be wonderful people deserving of all the rights they want. All of them have very successful careers, are very honest and hard-working, and they are very loving, caring, and faithful with their partners.
What goes on in their sexual lives is none my business at all, and it certainly doesn't threaten or harm me in any way.
Why can't we allow gays to serve in the military, or to have access to any job or occupation?
Why can't we allow their homosexual partners to have some of the same rights a heterosexual partner (wife or husband) has? (jail or hospital visitation, insurance coverage, inheritance, etc.)
How are those rights going to threaten you?
Rafael Gomez - 9/16/2003
Wow Mr. Heuisler, it looks like you have accomplished what no human being had ever been able do. You seem to have perfect knowledge of what the "TRUTH" is. If that's the case, I'm awed by your super-human intellectual capacity. Congratulations!
Bill Heuisler - 9/16/2003
Your thesis is excellent; you've clarified the matter admirably.
You wrote of your experience: "...some students feel that their history professors are too critical of capitalism. (In my experience, I would say that it is true that history professors are generally fairly critical of capitalism)."
This is the crux: Knowledge vs Ignorance and Passion vs Truth.
If not, how can competent historians with a thorough knowledge of the rise of Human Civilization be critical of Capitalism? Capitalism has distributed wealth throughout modern societies and given liberty, dignity and prosperity to millions. None but blind fanatics could tout the successes of Marxism or Socialism on the world stage. But these zealots are legion on campus. You may have noticed many history professors combine their critique of Capitalism with a righteous advocacy of Socialism, so-called Labor History or outright Marxism.
Leftist Historians are not insignificant and they're apologists. Consider the Labor and Working Class History Association; go to the H-Labor discussion Network. These are True Believers. At faculty meetings mention Foner, Chomsky, Aptheker, Hobsbawm, Dubovsky, Weir, McCartin, to name a few, and notice the nods of approval, the unraised eyebrows, the uncritical acceptance.
Conservatives shouldn't ask for affirmative action, they should demand an end to ideologically-driven ignorance. Conservatives should insist our Universities teach the truth.
F.H.Thomas - 9/16/2003
Dear Mr. Thomas
What a well-written piece, lucid and flowing, which is even better that it comes from the heart.
Chruchill said, "Anyone who is not a socialist in college has no heart, and anyone who is afterward has no brain".
Churchill's comments show that this is an old problem, and won't be solved easily. The infiltration of educational institutions to control the thoughts of the young is a key objective from Lenin's "Principles of Cultural Bolshevism", 1926.
It seems that this initiative is intended to move aside arrested-development types in favor of those who have made the intellectual leap beyond "overaged college student".
Let's hope it works! I wish you all good things in your career.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/16/2003
Thanks for your very reasoned contribution to this string. There certainly is some self-selection (opting-out) going on. But some of that is based on who the students see and hear in their undergraduate lectures. I don't think they are hearing any conservatives (at least, almost none). I think they hear liberal viewpoints overwhelmingly. They see the "hand-writing on the wall" that they are not wanted in academia, they see no models ahead of them and they chose another line of work. Frankly, I think at this point, they may be right to do so. Would it be safe for you to be pro-life,pro-2nd ammendment, against gay rights, against affirmative action, for choice in education, a backer of Bush's War on Terrorism, as I am? Even if it would be safe job-wise, how uncomfortable would you be? How alone in your viewpoints?
NYGuy - 9/16/2003
But you say:
"The "Academic Bill of Rights" says: "Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences will respect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints."
Second, selectivity is not propaganda--it's a pedagogical necessity.
Perhaps I did misread your post. I had thought that you said as a scholar you were bound by some rules in the profession which you labeled as, "Academic Bill of Rights". This appears to be a contract between the college and the student who pays to attend the college. If this Bill of Rights is not adhered to, is the student being cheated, or is it that academia just likes to deal in verbage? And when he is finished is the student a responsible citizen who can make critical judgements or is he just another automon for the protest line.
Irfan Khawaja - 9/16/2003
First, you've misread my response just about as thoroughly as is humanly possible. Second, selectivity is not propaganda--it's a pedagogical necessity. Third, there is no dichotomy between being a scholar and having the right philosophy about human knowledge--having the wrong one can obviously mess up your scholarship. And as for "bargains," in the 2002-3 academic year, I taught eight sections and made a grand total
of $20,000 pre-tax. If the people on the receiving end of that weren't getting a bargain, there's no such thing as a bargain.
NYGuy - 9/16/2003
I live in the real world but I am able to understand what professors profess from what they say and write. Not difficult. Or do your words not have meaning. Interesting what goes on in the classroom, and the price tag is only $20-30,000 per year. No wonder students claim they can't get a job.
John Smolenski - 9/16/2003
First, it seems to me from reading through some of this debate that one of the difficulties here is in defining what would represent "conservative" or non-PC view points (basically, the kinds of viewpoints that it is argued are being squeezed out of the university). Many of the letter writers here are going on the theory "I know it when I see it." I'm not saying they're wrong--I might agree with them on specifics--but that is a formula for talking past each other (which we are). So I do wonder, in particular, what viewpoints, exactly, people feel are being quashed from the academy. I am familiar with some examples from my discipline--history--but I would be interested to hear more about the philosophical/political/intellectual approaches that some individuals feel are being kept out of the academy. (I am not phrasing this this way to be judgmental, but am trying to use neutral language).
And second, I think we at least need to consider if there are some reasons why people of a more liberal/leftist background are drawn to academia and some people of a more conservative bent are not--outside of accusations of academic Stalinism or McCarthyism. Before anyone gets irate here, let me give an example from my own experience. In discussions with my students both as a teaching assistant (when a grad student) and a professor, I have had a number of students raise the issue of academics and free market capitalism; some students feel that their history professors are too critical of capitalism. (In my experience, I would say that it is true that history professors are generally fairly critical of capitalism). But when I would talk to students about what they wanted to do, many of the students most vocal in this criticism had plans to go into business for themselves, either after going to a professional school (like law school or business school) or starting their own business.
This made me believe that there may be an ideological selection here that goes beyond professors and PC. Many of these students sincerely believed that free market capitalism was the bedrock of American society and the essence of American democracy; they firmly believed that an entrepreneurial spirit was what created the United States. Most of these students--some of them very proudly self-described conservatives--never would have dreamed of going into academia--but not because they felt they would have been squeezed out. Instead, I think it was because these students simply valued entrepreneurship more than they valued scholarship; they really did believe that in going out and trying to make a living for themselves (and employing other people) they would be helping themselves and helping society. It's very hard to see how someone who would value the free market so heavily would find academia appealing; in my experience, students who valued free market principles so heavily found careers in business--actually participating in the market economy in a more direct way--overwhelmingly more attractive than careers in academia. Speaking as a historian, I think I can say that people who are really pro-business are more likely to actually go into business than go into the history profession and teach American history from a pro-business angle; the former is really just more appealing, for reasons which I think are understandable. I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with that, but if this assertion is true it would at least partially explain some of the trends about scholars and ideology.
This anecdote is limited, of course, but I think we should at least consider if there are other factors of self-selection going on when people choose to go to graduate school or to do something else with their life. Some of this self-selection may be political--and I suspect it happens in academia and in other careers as well. I realize that “conservative” can’t be simply reduced to being pro-capitalist, and “liberal/left” can’t be reduced to being anti-capitalist--but attitudes about American capitalism do shape people’s political views (and the Republican party in the United States does define itself to a significant extent as being free market, a statement I hope people on different ideological sides of this debate can agree upon). It doesn’t, of course, say a lot about cultural conservatism and the academy, I admit. But is it worth asking whether or not there are reasons--outside of any alleged ideological vetting graduate programs and search committees do--there are reasons why people of a more liberal/left bent are more drawn to a career in scholarship than people of a more conservative bent? I think there may be, and that it is worth talking about.
Irfan Khawaja - 9/16/2003
Sorry, I sent my response to the wrong place earlier.
As I said there, you need to learn the difference between
Stalinism and a reductio ad absurdum argument. You literally
have not grasped the point of my argument. I am not the
one who is saying that anything is "uncertain." YOUR allies
are. What I've shown you is just how absurd their argument
is: it's self-contradictory. On the one hand, their claim
is "everything is uncertain." On the other hand, their
claim is, "We need balance!" Well, if everything is uncertain,
there is no way to be certain that we need balance. What we
have here is people who cannot argue their way out of a paper
bag but purport to know how classrooms ought to be run.
As for "political vetting of job candidates," I know it
takes place: I AM a job candidate. But you can't deal with
one form of political vetting by introducing yet another.
Two wrongs don't make a right--another piece of logic that
our conservatives might do well to learn.
Irfan Khawaja - 9/16/2003
You need to learn the difference between Stalinism and a
reductio ad absurdum. A person who can't tell the difference
is not in a position to be dictating what goes on in
Rafael Gomez - 9/16/2003
I'm a white heterosexual man.
Can you please explain to me, Mr. Thomas, what my "traditional values" ought to be?
This discussion is pointless unless you explain to us what you mean when you talk about "traditional male values." Or are you assuming that those "values" of yours should be evident to everybody, and especially to other white heterosexual men?
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/16/2003
Getting back to the article that started this string, the real issue is whether there is intellectual diversity in the humanities. I have had some contact in the last year with current scholars in history and I have found they are almost without exception liberal in political, social, cultural and religious (or lack therof)outlook. When I bring this up, I always get anecdotal exceptions, but no attempt to disagree with my generalization. Several opinion-oriented periodicals have done non-scholarly studies of faculty political identification, using voter registration records. They often find 90 to 100% liberal voting registration (democratic, green, etc.). Try though we might (and some won't) to be even-handed in our work (I am a writer), who we are is a strong determinant of what we do (what topics interest us, what actors in history do we find common cause with, who would we like to work with, who would we like to advise for a Ph.D., etc) Do you agree that there is a remarkable absence of political, social, cultural and religious conservatives on your campus, in your department? I can ask you that question with confidence, because I have seen the results of some of the above studies and I don't even know where you work. I am not aware of any university that trains for the Ph.D. in history anywhere near 50/50 politically. Socrates would be puzzled by the curious composition of most departments in the humanities. In 2001, Brown, Cornell, Stanford, UCLA and Colorado had 6 faculty with conservative party affiliation (from public primary registrations). They had 149 faculty with liberal affiliation! Your defense, please.
David Salmanson - 9/16/2003
Sorry Thomas, I just don't buy it. Of the four "minority" students in my big 10 graduate program American history cohort, none landed a tenure track jobs. Americanists were split about 50-50 male female, one man and one woman landed tenure track jobs. Because of my particular field, I know a lot of folks in a particular Ivy league school's program from around the same cohort. Men and women were getting jobs in approximately equal numbers, there was one "minority." He did get a job. I saw his job talk at my Univeristy (we didn't hire him) and it was very solid. So far, of my cohort and colleagues only one has come up for tenure. She didn't get it.
I maintain that the real issue here is administrators only wanting to offer courses that kids want to take and making sure they pass with flying colors. See Beito's many columns on grade inflation for an example.
NYGuy - 9/16/2003
"A brilliant claim. The only problem is, if "all human knowledge
in these areas" is "uncertain," it is also uncertain that conservative "balance" or "dissenting sources and viewpoints" a la David Horowitz are desirable. Personally, I am pretty certain they aren't, in which case I think I have better reason for maintaining the status quo than David Horowitz & Co. have for changing it."
As I read your response you say that what you teach is uncertain and therefore you can be selective and be a propagandist, which is what this discussion is all about. So you have a job not because you are a scholar but because you have the right philosophy about "all human knowledge." And, it only costs $20,000=30,000 per year. Wow, what a bargain.
Stephen Thomas - 9/16/2003
"...it is also uncertain that conservative "balance" or "dissenting sources and viewpoints" a la David Horowitz are desirable."
Stalinism in its purest form.
The reason that conservatives are not represented on faculties is that they are intentionally weeded out by the political vetting process. Universities are breaking the law.
Stephen Thomas - 9/16/2003
The issue is the political vetting of jobs in academia.
Your're being pretty silly, Mr. Dresner. Address the real subject, instead of trying to create a diversion.
The definition of a conservative or Republican has an odd way of shifting according to the need to defame... a tactic that you've mastered.
Address the real issue. It is a violation of the political patronage laws in every state to subject job applicants to political vetting as a requirement for a job.
Are you participating in this illegal activity at your institution? I'd suggest you stop because litigation and criminal prosecution are in the offing the the future for those who continue this illegal activity.
Irfan Khawaja - 9/16/2003
The "Academic Bill of Rights" says: "Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences will respect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas and provide students with dissenting sources and viewpoints."
A brilliant claim. The only problem is, if "all human knowledge
in these areas" is "uncertain," it is also uncertain that conservative "balance" or "dissenting sources and viewpoints" a la David Horowitz are desirable. Personally, I am pretty certain they aren't, in which case I think I have better reason for maintaining the status quo than David Horowitz & Co. have for changing it.
I am no leftist, but I have to say I find conservative whining about being "left out" of the academy vomit-inducing. These are the people who spend all their time trashing the universities. Then they wonder why there are no conservatives here. A classic case of those who can't teach whining about those who do. Also a case of those who can't think whining about those who can.
Jonathan Dresner - 9/15/2003
Affirmative action for conservatives? Conservatives as a "protected class"? If it shouldn't matter what a person's political views are, then it shouldn't matter that there are more liberals (whatever that means these days) than conservatives. If it does matter, then we're in for a fight worse than the fight over what "race" is.
Stephen Thomas - 9/15/2003
Oddly, there are jobs for women and black applicants. (And I should have added, there are jobs for women, gays and blacks, particularly if their area of specialization is feminism, queer studies and black nationalism. I'm sure that even now Mr. McGettigan is preparing to explain to me that this is not an indication of political vetting of job applicants. After all, only bigots are not proponents of feminism, queer studies and black nationalism. And we can't have bigots teaching at our universities, can we?)
You see how it works. Those who don't agree with PC ideology are bigots (or Republicans). And it's the duty of the enlightened to prevent bigots (or Republicans) from obtaining a job. The McGettigan's of this world are blinded to reality by a total belief in their own virtue and usually by a besotted belief in the need to save the world from... Well, it gets a little hazy here. So, you see, Mr. McGettigan, I can play the same game.
Stephen Thomas - 9/15/2003
Your point is well taken. I graduated from the U of Illinois in 1971 and the handwriting was on the wall even then. The imposition of racial and sexual quotas by 1973 didn't help.
That does not really change what I have to say. Adherence to PC ideology is demanded in almost every liberal arts field.
Oddly, there are jobs for women and black applicants.
I am very glad that I did not get a doctorate in English and continue in that field. It's a cesspool of stupidity, posturing and laziness. It's become a kind of flat earth society, filled with idiots who still subscribe to Marxist doctrine more than a decade after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the revelations of the Soviet archives.
The English department at the University of Illinois is now an intellectual embarassment.
The job vetting process is real. And, yes, I've found a way around it. I'd suggest that you check around at some other sites to discover how older men are being driven out of their tenured jobs by phony claims of sexual harassment.
Stephen Thomas - 9/15/2003
Mr. McGettigan, it's easy to mock what I have said.
There is a role for the hetero white man to play in the academic world -- the role of weasel. If you engage in the general expression of contempt for traditional male values, you will indeed find a welcome in the academic community. The acceptable role for a white hetero male in the academic community is that of a white Stepin Fetchit. Read this site if you don't believe me.
You are mistaken in believing that I have not taught at the university level. I have. Nor am I a Republican. The Republican party is no more interested in protecting the rights of men than the Democratic party, although I will admit that the Republican party does not publicly condemn white hetero men as the Democratic party does. Since the issues of racial and sexual quotas, gay marriage, etc. never appear on ballots, I see no practical purpose in voting.
The attempt to phrase this as an issue of political affiliation is simply a lie, and you are lying. Your assumption of my political affiliations tells it all. You are attempting to force this discussion into a battle of political labelling. This has become the standard PC tactic. Label somebody, and then the hell with the substance of what that person has to say. You are very good at it, and that's a good indication that you are probably a protagonist in the McCarthyite blacklisting that is standard in the liberal arts.
Your age is also a factor. I received my B.A. in 1971, almost precisely the date that racial and sexual quotas came into effect. I've noticed that men who acquired their position before that time are quite enthusiastic proponents of the quota system. After all, it doesn't hurt them, and they might actually gain stature and credibility by attacking men younger than them.
I'm not a stranger to academia. I have degrees from the University of Illinois, from New York University and from the State University of New York. I've taught at the State University of New York, New York University and the New School in New York City. I deliberately departed the humanities in 1973 because the handwriting was on the wall. I now work in a technological field, because I can get a job there.
I'd suggest that you listen carefully to what is happening to your fellow men and cease characterizing it as an issue of political affiliation. That's just a way to trash the issue. One of the characteristics of men is to think very badly of other men, and the PC establishment of the university is extraordinarily adept as using this against men.
David Salmanson - 9/15/2003
If S. Thomas chooses to believe that he did not get a tenure track job in English 30 years ago b/c of his politics that's fine. However, 1973 was the beginning of the long and still unended job crisis in the humanities. Simply put, supply far outstripped demand, proptionally fewer folks got jobs. The situation continues to be bad. No rational person enters a PhD program in the Humanities thinking they are going to get a job b/c they will have a PhD. All you need to do is to link to invisible adjunct or "So you think you want to go to graduate school?" to get the straight dirt on that. So most folks who are inclined to certain conservative viewpoints (like the value of the market being paramount) go into other fields. Of the three self-described conservative graduate students in my program, all got jobs. Many of us liberals, myself included, did not. Somehow, Ralph Luker, David Beito and the other Liberty and Power authors all got jobs too so the "conservatives don't get hired" thing doesn't really wash with me. Most historians, particularly 20th century US historians with an MA or higher, will not land a tenure track job.
The real problem here is the tension over two competing visions, that the University runs itself as an autonomous entity dedicated to knowledge as it sees it and the other that it serves the interest of the state. Both of these are wrong assumptions. Colleges and universities are increasingly dominated by market values. They attack tenure because it prevents them from adding faculty quickly and then dropping them when interest blows over. Do you think all those Soviet history experts classes fill like they used to? When a new course is proposed the only question chairs and provosts ask is "will it fill" not is it worthwhile or needed to diversify our offerings. That's the real problem on campuses today and it is not going away anytime soon. It's the problem that leads to grade inflation and the problem that leads to the devaluation of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/15/2003
Mr. McGettigan, I doubt that you will give a straight-forward response to my query, but here goes. How many of your fellow scholars are pro-life, or pro-2nd ammendment, or "pro-family" on gay rights, or fiscal conservatives, or backers of Bush on Iraq, etc, etc, etc. In my world, there actually exist people who are "pro" and "con" these positions. How often are the above positions espoused by faculty on your campus (or where you matriculated)? I would be shocked if your answer isn't very seldom. As a "scholar", don't you find that just a bit troubling?
Timothy McGettigan - 9/15/2003
This is extraodinary! Thomas and Hagedorn state that white, heterosexual "manly" (Republican?) males can no longer get jobs as professors. Does this mean that all those white guys I work with--including myself (yikes!)--are politically-liberal sexual deviants?! Heck, since the majority of professors are white males, I was sure that at least a few of us had to be manly men. Thank heaven there are some brave non-academics like Thomas and Hagedorn who can cite so many true* facts about university hiring patterns. I guess the last thing you'd want to do is take a professor's word (hint, hint) about what's going on in universities. Perhaps it is time for manly ment to kick all the effete intellectuals out of their ivory tower offices. Until they do, you can bet those darn intellectuals will continue manipulating the hiring process. What chance do manly men have in an environment that is simply choked with intellectual bias? Intellectuals will insist upon hiring other intellectuals. Of all the nerve!
I suppose that until universities are prepared to act on Thomas and Hagedorn's sound advice, manly men will simply have to find another place to gather--somewhere where they won't be subject to abuse and victimization. What about starting up a fast-pitch softball league?
Department of Sociology
Colorado State University-Pueblo
*While unorthodox, we should accept as valid Stephen Thomas' assertion that he can extrapolate a nationwide pattern of liberal McCarthyism from his lone, personal experience of victimization. After all, it's only wimpy academics who need to make reference to documentary evidence to support their arguments. Real men don't need to rely upon intellectual crutches; real men say what they believe, and because they are tougher than the rest of us, we should all believe them. So there.
Thomas Hagedorn - 9/15/2003
I couldn't have said it better than Mr. Thomas, so I won't try. A system that proports to seek knowledge, like the humanities, and then stacks its' positions ONLY with those who adhere to the current (liberal) orthodoxy is a fraud. Why are historians so surprised when they are underfunded and disrespected? They made their bed, but are SOOO uncomfortable in it. (Take at look at McPherson's latest rant in the AHA journal)
Stephen Thomas - 9/15/2003
Haven't read as deliberately disingenuous an article in years.
The purpose of Horowitz's initiative isn't to do anything that Mr. Rees says. The purpose is to stop the political vetting of job candidates that is standard business in the liberal arts.
Liberal arts professors aren't dominated by Democrats and liberals just by chance. Throughout the graduate school process and the job interview process, candidates are screened for adherence to the party line. You won't get a job in an English department if the hiring committee discovers you are not a proponent of feminism, gay rights, etc.
This is a fact. The left is practicing McCarthyism on a grand scale. And, how do I know? I am a victim of it, although I long ago gave up on the liberal arts within the university. 30 years ago it was obvious that no macho heterosexual white male was going to get a tenure level job in an English department.
The political vetting process now has expanded to include almost any profession tied to the liberal arts. I am now an instructional designer for a large publishing company. Fortunately, I landed a job at a company that does not engage in the practice of political vetting. When I was job hunting, every other firm I approached made it clear that I would not get the job if I dissented from the party line.
The methods of doing this were fuzzy, but tremendously effective. One of the largest textbook publishers assigned me a demo project on "The Male Gaze" as my skills test. This project was an offensive indictment of everything traditionally male. A large e-learning site interviewed me for a job. The interviewer vetted my politics very cleverly by talking about her attitudes toward men who hunt and fish, and waiting to hear my response. I interviewed for one job in the deep south, and the interviewer spent quite a bit of time querying me about my attitudes toward good old boys who like football.
I am capable of lying, but who in the hell wants to work in an environment dominated by hatred of white hetero men?
Mr. Rees is either ignorant or he's an intentional liar. Political vetting is standard in academia and in any industry even obliquely connected to the liberal arts. I'm looking to advance myself by finding a new and better job, and once again I'm going through all the coded queries as to whether I ascribe to PC ideology and whether I share in the general condemnation of heterosexual white men.
Keep pretending, Mr. Rees. These practices are a violation of the political patronage laws in every state in the union. One day, the administrators of colleges will find themselves facing huge punitive fines and perhaps even jail for these violations of my right to an equal shot at a job. I hope they pay big time.
- David Rosand, an Art History Scholar Whose Heart Was in Venice, Dies at 75
- NYT interviews Rick Perlstein about his book
- OAH issues a statement in support of the AP standards