Thursday, September 27, 2007

Peter Wood's Deal I Can't Refuse

Peter Wood at Phi Beta Cons responds to my posts: "if only we would criticize Horowitz! Then AAUP would presumably set some reasonable restrictions against political indoctrination on campus, imbalance in classroom presentation of controversial issues, and interjection into class of irrelevant political views." In a word, no. There should be no bans against political indoctrination, because it's a term no one really defines. There should be no rules imposing balance in the classroom, for the good reasons outlined by the AAUP. And there should be no formal restrictions on "irrelevant" political views, because relevance is often debatable and it's reasonable to allow some irrelevance by professors, whether political or apolitical. There are already reasonable restrictions on faculty: they can't punish people in grading based on their political views (or any other irrelevant criteria), and they can't ignore the subject of their class entirely with irrelevant discussions. Beyond that, the proper way to deal with professors who fall short of my teaching ideals is to criticize them.

I could write a whole book about leftist professors who say stupid things, and how faculty should seek to have a diverse range of conflicting ideas in their classes. But my ethical pronouncements about teaching will have to wait because it's much more important to examine the movement to suppress free speech on campus (from both the left and the right, although the right is dominant at the moment in the instinct to censor campuses). So my question is, why can't right-wingers simply denounce leftist professors without giving in to the instinct to ban speech they don't like? (I ask the same question to those left-wingers who want to censor conservatives.) And why are the conservative critics afraid to speak out against David Horowitz's efforts to squash free expression on campus and ban certain departments and programs, unless they actually agree with them? (I would ask the same of left-wingers, except there is no national movement to suppress conservative speech on college campuses or impose balance on the Business School, so I can't imagine what group I'm supposed to denounce.)

I do appreciate Wood promoting my new book on Obama, and I'm happy to exchange books with him. I'm also willing to debate Wood or any other conservative critic of academia, anywhere, anytime. I'm having trouble finding anyone interested in arguing with me for a campus event, so I'd appreciate anyone willing to host an event or engage in a debate (contact me at


Steven Horwitz said...


I'm new to your blog, so I don't know if you've ever discussed it before, but I'd be curious about your take on the Association of American Colleges and Universities statement on Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility.

My own view is that this gets it mostly right in a fairly even-handed way.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.