David Horowitz's $10,000 Challenge to the Historians of the AHA


Mr. Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.

David Horowitz has called out the Academic Left for its latest smear of his academic freedom proposal.

At its business meeting in Philadelphia on Saturday, January 7, the American Historical Association (AHA) passed a resolution claiming the Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) he has championed would “impose political criteria in areas of academic policy.” Further, the academic organization chided the ABOR for “giving power over such matters as curriculum, course content and faculty personnel decisions to government authorities.” Some 70 members of the 5,600-member organization voted at this business meeting.

Faced with such desperate and outrageous deception about his Academic Bill of Rights – which condemns basing hiring or grading decisions on political criteria – David Horowitz chose a unique response: he’s offering $10,000 to any member of the AHA who can “point out a sentence in this document” that would have the Orwellian impact their resolution pretends it would. If the AHA cannot, Horowitz says it should rescind its anti-Academic Freedom resolution and admit the measure was based on lies.

He can rest assured his wallet is safe; the AHA resolution flies in the face of the clear wording of the ABOR. The Academic Bill of Rights’ very first resolution states, “No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.” The remainder of the non-binding measure expresses the sense that professors should not use their classrooms as bully pulpits for their pet causes, that textbooks should express a range of opinion rather than echoing a political party line, and that students should not be denigrated or given inferior grades for expressing an alternative point of view. It says, in other words, that professors should teach, not indoctrinate, and students should learn to think, not regurgitate.

His critics seem to think this is precisely the problem. Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University – whose academic career has been dedicated to presenting 1950s Soviet spies as romantic altruists whose “political allegiances transcended national boundaries” – expresses a fear that the days of the Left’s unbridled advocacy are over. “Because of the job crunch,” she writes, “junior faculty are so insecure that they cannot now openly take political positions as they did in the 1960s.” (Forget the fact that most junior faculty did not take overtly political positions in the classroom in the 1960s.)

A further irony: the anti-ABOR measure was officially sponsored and supported in the business meeting by Historians Against the War (HAW), a group of mostly leftist historians united in their opposition to the Iraq War.

Although the AHA expressed concerns about the Academic Bill of Rights, it rejected an opportunity to condemn left-wing restrictions on the First Amendment – even though PC campus “speech codes” have been found unconstitutional in the past. David T. Beito, a libertarian Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama (and HAW member), offered an alternate resolution condemning both the ABOR and campus speech codes. Ralph Luker and Robert K.C. Johnson supported him, to no avail. In a blog announcing his measure’s defeat, Beito noted there is “some justification” that “that the AHA subscribes to a double standard of ‘academic freedom for me but not thee.’”

David Horowitz would have expected nothing else from this historical collection of leftists:

I'm not surprised the AHA refused to condemn speech codes, which are clear violations of the First Amendment. This shows the hypocrisy of the organization's claims to principle. The AHA resolution begins with a premise that is patently false – the Academic Bill of Rights would not give government the power over curriculum, course content and/or faculty personnel decisions, as the resolution claims. In fact, the Academic Bill of Rights specifically and explicitly forbids the hiring, firing, promotion, or denial of promotion of any professor for political/ideological reasons. The AHA resolution then proceeds to an even more outrageously false claim, viz., that the Academic Bill of Rights would “impose political criteria in areas of educational policy.” I will give $10,000 to the first member of the AHA who can cite a single sentence in the Academic Bill of Rights that would do this. Are these historians? Can they read English? The AHA resolution is a pathetic display of ideological prejudice on the part of the small minority of apparently hysterical academics who attended the AHA business meeting to vote on this matter, and fully justifies the concerns that led to the drafting of the Academic Bill of Rights in the first place.

The AHA’s position is even more transparently partisan, since just 366 days ago it drafted a statement nearly identical in approach to the Academic Bill of Rights. Its “Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct” declares a professor’s political or religious views should never result in:

the persistent intrusion of material unrelated to the subject of the course. Furthermore, teachers should be mindful that students and other audience members have the right to disagree with a given interpretation or point of view. Students should be made aware of multiple causes and varying interpretations. Within the bounds of the historical topic being studied, the free expression of legitimate differences of opinion should always be a goal. Teachers should judge students’ work on merit alone.

The AHA statements adds, “Integrity in teaching means presenting competing interpretations with fairness and intellectual honesty.” Just as the ABOR demands. The AHA’s new, anti-freedom resolution defies the academic guidelines and standards it adopted in its recent past in order to protect its members’ perceived right to indoctrinate impressionable young minds, under the guise of education.

This resolution comes as the Academic Left faces unprecedented pressure during the first-ever hearings investigating the state of academic freedom on state campuses, in this case in the state of Pennsylvania. The hearings take place today and tomorrow at Temple University in Philadelphia. David Horowitz will testify at these hearings tomorrow.

…And unlike his opponents, he’s shown he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.

This article first appeared at frontpagemag.com.

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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I read this article, and then clicked through all the links, and linked links, I could find, and sifted through a dozen pages on various websites, without ever locating the text of either the "Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR)" or the "Bill of Academic and Student Rights" (which may or may not be another name for the same thing) which this article is supposedly about.

Typical HNN. Shrill opinions in all directions. No facts in sight.

Maura Doherty - 2/1/2006

David Horowitz has become a silly, old, angry man who could use some yoga, anger-management classes, and a long sabbatical, preferably on a remote island. He's only looking for attention (perhaps he could use some psycho therapy to work this out instead of distracting academia from the important issues) and probably more money (ie. for books and speaking engagements). He has become the "bitchy, braless broads" he has accused of the feminists. I'm all for healthy discussions of freedom of speech but let's not waste our time on his geriatic antics.

Lisa Kazmier - 1/22/2006

Having just read the AAUP's statement, I think they deserve the $10K.

John Edward Philips - 1/18/2006

I don't know, maybe for the same reason that most career military people vote Republican. Money.

When Governor Jerry Brown held up scheduled pay raises for professors, most of them voted Republican, without the Republicans even offering more money for education than Democrats.

Horowitz's proposal would open the door to "affirmative action" schemes to force departments to prove they weren't discriminating by hiring Republicans at the same rate they appear in the population at large.

In other words it would result in college professors too stupid to know what side of the aisle their bread was buttered on. Can you say "intellectual standards"? Neither can Horowitz. He would preside over the slaughter of a goose that is laying golden eggs for the United States. Think "research" think about all the foreign students who come to the United States to study not just science but liberal arts.

Maybe his supporters should think about the fact that so many smart people vote for Democrats.

Lisa Kazmier - 1/12/2006

Yep. I'm sure the "waaaa" crowd will see it as you say. I don't recall the Irving offer exactly, but it sounds like something he would do, as if not being able to have any takers means Deboarah Lipstadt lied.

Lisa Kazmier - 1/12/2006

Hey, if anyone finds a link, lemme know. I could use the $10K!

Trevor Russell Getz - 1/11/2006

I thought for this time before writing this, but here goes...

I was surprised how similar this challenge is to David Irving's reward of one thousand pounds stirling (later raised?) for anyone who could produce a written order by Adolf Hitler to annihilate the Jews.

I have no idea how Mr. Johnson's article is faring on FrontPage Magazine's website. But on this website, we have many scholars as readers, including historians. The vast majority of these scholars understand that in order to determine meaning we need to search for a CONVERGENCE of evidence. The fact that a single 'smoking gun' sentence is missing does not mean that the vast preponderence of evidence does not point quite clearly to a certain motive. In other words, we may not have a signed statement from Hitler saying 'exterminate the Jews' but we do have an awful lot of other evidence that points to quite a firm conclusion. Similarly, we may not have a sentence from Horowitz that says 'I want to take over the academy and fill it with people who think like me', but that is nevertheless a reasonable interpretation of his actions.

Admittedly, I hesitated in making this connection because the 'Nazi card' is played too often. I trust that those who read this post will realize that I am not mentioning the Irving case because I feel Horowitz or Johnson are in some way related to fascism, but because it IS an analogous case and an interesting comparison. ( No doubt someone at Front Page will say 'look, some member of the academic left [whatever that is] is calling Horowitz a Nazi, but that will be willful misinterpretation.)

Maia Cowan - 1/11/2006

"David Horowitz chose a unique response: he’s offering $10,000 to any member of the AHA who can 'point out a sentence in this document' that would have the Orwellian impact their resolution pretends it would."

Of course there is no one sentence in the David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" that, on its own and out of context, proclaims the intention to impose political criteria in areas of academic policy. It's the message of the document as a whole, and the way that the principles of the ABOR have been implemented by rightwing groups on various campuses, that have that effect. Challenging critics to find "a sentence" that by itself is subversive is like denying that the average weight of rocks in a bucket is 1 pound because the bucket contains no rock that by itself weighs 1 pound.

Joan R. Gundersen - 1/11/2006

The opinion piece tried to discredit the actions of the AHA by continually labelling the actions as "leftist." Its the old propaganda technique of attacking the person rather than the ideas. The bottom line, however, is the David Horowitz wants his Academic Bill of Rights enacted as legislation. The Pennsylvania legislature is holding hearing right now on such a possibility. That would give the LEGISLATURE a hunting license to decide what consituted balanced curricula, balanced teaching, etc. It is this legislative influence that makes the code different from the AHA's own professional ethics code which already mandates behavior that is respectful to the opinions of others.

I find it truly ironic that is conservatives arguing for more government interference, and liberals (some, but not all of whom might be called leftists) who are saying government should keep its hands off and let the private sector manage its own business.

Michael Green - 1/11/2006

First, you might try going to google or getting in touch with Horowitz's outfit for the info.

Second, reading and buying into Johnson's article, then accusing the AHA of knowing no facts, is a little like Kenneth Lay giving advice on business ethics.

Lorraine Paul - 1/11/2006

Is this the same Horowitz who is organising tourist groups to the UK in concert with Christopher Hitchens? The ex-Trot? - doesn't take far for the fruit to fall from the tree!