Juan Cole: What's Wrong with David Horowitz's Demand for Ideological Diversity at Universities

Roundup: Talking About History

Juan Cole, at his blog (Oct. 4, 2004):

Graham Larkin of Stanford has penned an important article arguing against David Horowitz's sinister proto-Stalinist social engineering project of"balancing" universities ideologically. See also my "Are Professors Too Liberal?".

Larkin's essay is especially good in pointing out that there are no obvious evaluation mechanisms for ideological balance.

If we go by opinion polls, about half of Americans reject Darwin, so Horowitz's proposal would require that half of all biologists would have to be creationists. Then, with regard to party preference, opinion polls show that at some points in the past 8 months Ralph Nader has been favored by 6% of the electorate. At other points it has been 2%. So presumably between 2% and 6% of the professors would have to be Nader supporters. Indeed, we might have to put people on monthly contracts so that we can adjust the percentage in accordance with the latest polls. About 10% of Americans support radical fringe groups, so of course there would have to be a place for the American Nazi Party on the faculty, Horowitz seems to be arguing. Maybe we could have the supremicist teach modern German history; that seems to be the sort of thing that would make Horowitz happy. How sad that at present the Nazi period in Germany is usually taught by some wimpy liberal, Horowitz seems to be saying.

Moreover, there is no obvious reason that"balance" should be conceived only along the narrow US spectrum. A fifth of human beings lives under Chinese Communism, so the logical conclusion is that Horowitz is insisting that 1/5 of all US university professors be believers in Chinese communism. And, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood and Jama'at-i Islami would have to have its faculty representatives in proportion to the popularity of those fundamentalist parties in the world.

If we limited the political spectrum to just US Republicans and Democrats, then hiring faculty 50/50 by party affiliation would have ethnic implications as Horowitz envisions it. He argues that virtually all faculty in the liberal arts are Democrats. Outside the academy, we know that most Jews vote Democrat, and that 66% of Latinos, and almost all African-Americans do. If, as Horowitz desires, we must ensure that half of all university posts go to members of the Republican Party, then we'd have to fire those nasty democrat-leaning minority members and hire Republicans instead, most of whom would, proportionally speaking, be white Protestants. That is, the full implications of Horowitzism are a purge of higher education in the United States of African-American, Catholic and Jewish faculty members.

And, as I argued in my piece for the History News Network, why shouldn't the same rules apply to other professions? Military officers and CEOs, for instance?

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