Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paranoia, Lies, and David Horowitz

David Horowitz has a blog entry
where he calls me a “paranoid professor” and then admits his title is inaccurate: “He is not himself a professor but he is an academic,” whatever that means. Horowitz also makes the common error of stating that Illinois Academe is “a publication of the American Association of University Professors.” Illinois Academe, which I edit, is published by the Illinois AAUP, not the separate national AAUP organization.

But my key complaint about Horowitz is not these small inaccuracies or his insults against me: “I'm attributing paranoid tendencies to Wilson because in person he's a civilized individual and I don't like to call him a liar.” I would like to thank David Horowitz for displaying the kindness of calling me insane rather than a liar. Being called paranoid by David Horowitz is like being called an asshole by Dick Cheney.

What bothers me is Horowitz's denial of everything he's stood for. Horowitz complains, “no matter how many times I say that I do not advocate and would be adamantly opposed to governance of the university by legislatures or any other outside agency, people like you refuse to believe me.” There's a reason why I refuse to believe Horowitz. It's because he's lying. Can the man who formulated the Academic Bill of Rights and tried to have it passed by state legislatures seriously claim that he is “adamantly opposed to governance of the university by legislatures”?

Recall that Horowitz tried to get the Academic Bill of Rights enacted by legislators around the country after seeking to have trustees at only one institution enact it: the State University of New York. Is Horowitz now repudiating his past activities and urging legislators to oppose imposing the Academic Bill of Rights on universities? If he is, that's major news. But somehow I suspect that Horowitz is just engaging in more deception.

It's undoubtedly true that Horowitz would prefer to have faculty themselves engage in political repression. That's probably because he has failed miserably to convince trustees and legislators to enact his reforms. In his interview with me, Horowitz claims that he wants “faculty peers” to ban the courses he dislikes. But in his new book, and in everything he has said in the past, Horowitz has a very different answer.

In his chapter on Columbia University (which he calls “Uptown Madrassa”), Horowitz writes, “faculty activists have had to violate (and administrators have had to ignore) explicit Columbia regulations that obligate professors to observe an academic discipline in the classroom.”(63) Repeatedly, over and over again, Horowitz declares that these courses violate the university’s policies on academic freedom and demands that administrators and faculty step in to stop them: “It is disturbing that the university has allowed them to proceed for so long.”(231) He writes about “the abdication of university authorities and the shirking of their legal obligations to students and the public.”(253) He concludes, “Most disturbing of all is the unwillingness of administrators and trustees to defend their institutions and enforce the professional standards of a modern research university.”(278)

If Horowitz relies solely on “faculty peers” and doesn't want administrators and trustees to intervene and suppress “political” courses, why does he repeatedly denounce administrators and trustees for failing to intervene and "enforce" Horowitz's delusions about professional standards?

As I note in my book, Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies, this is not the first time Horowitz has deceived people about his repressive goals. Horowitz proclaimed in 2004, “There is no enforcement proposed in the Academic Bill of Rights. This would be up to the institutions that adopt it. Horowitz even declared, “My Academic Bill of Rights explicitly excludes private institutions,” despite the laws proposed in Ohio, Tennessee, and other states imposing it (and requiring grievance procedures) on private colleges that were enthusiastically supported by Horowitz.

If Horowitz is now opposed to legislative interference, why does his Students for Academic Freedom website continue to promote the legislation imposing it on colleges?

If Horowitz is opposed to legislative interference, then it's strange that his website promotes the Students for Academic Freedom Handbook which states, “The passage of a state statute, however, creates a new law, usually proscribing or requiring certain behavior, and imposing penalties for non-compliance. Both are approaches that many state legislators could pursue, and you and your SAF organization need to be ready to support and assist legislators in their efforts.”(page 41) Does that sound like someone who is “adamantly opposed to governance of the university by legislatures”?

I am happy to debate Horowitz anytime, anywhere, in any forum. I would certainly like to hear him explain his contradictory statements and why anyone should believe what he says.


Joel Harris said...

Interesting take on things Mr. Wilson. The part that I find interesting is that you seem to find Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights as something that is "imposed" on a university. This seems a bit strange to me. When the Bill of Rights (the original one) was "imposed", it increased freedom. I have read the academic Bill of Rights and it does not sound like an onerous document to me. Why don't you itemize WHY it is a document that limits freedom.

Unknown said...

I would also be interested to hear what Mr. Wilson finds so abhorrent and restrictive about this Academic Bill of Rights. It occurs to me that the only people who would ever be worried about the adoption of such a framework of academic conduct are those who do perceive ideological indoctrination to be a proper role of education.

The kind of teachers who use math class to raise "social issues," for example (see for instance the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice in Brooklyn, at which was held a three-day conference on "Math Education and Social Justice.")

The motive of such educators is not to provide our young people with a framework of intellectual skills upon which to build a rational view of the world. Nor is their motive to impart our young people with the marketable skills they need to succeed at making a living. Rather, their motive is a political one - to indoctrinate kids with their preferred political views, presumably in the hope that in doing so the prevailing political balance of America will be shifted in their favor.

Such teachers should not have positions in public learning institutions. It is possible to hold strong political views personally while presenting a balanced, impartial take on knowledge professionally. The ability to do so is what makes a good teacher.

My history teacher from 25 years ago, Mr. Bains, was one such teacher. I took history lessons from him for two years and never once was able to figure out what his political views were, despite his lessons covering almost every aspect of political history. It wasn't until years later that I found out through another teacher that he and his wife were members of the socialist Workers World Party.

THAT is a good teacher. If Mr. Bains can hold such strong views and yet educate impartially then there is no reason at all why this standard cannot be held by all teachers.

Those who cannot teach to such a standard have no business working in a public educational establishment.

Anonymous said...

Having been trained by Horowitz in the labor-saving methodology of close-reading websites for political bias, I must say I am shocked by the blatant indoctrination practiced in Penn State's Jewish Studies program. (It's every bit as horrific as that practiced over at Women's Studies. I can't imagine how Horowitz missed it. A simple oversight, no doubt.)

In the site's "Message from the Director" we read that the program has a "focus on the experience of modern Jews, as they encountered both the horrors of the Holocaust and the opportunities in America and elsewhere in the Diaspora as well as worked to build modern Israel." Completely excluded here is the political perspective of those anti-Zionist Jews who worked against the creation of modern Israel. The pro-Zionist political bias is obvious.

Even worse, the site provides access to the Penn State Israel Alliance, whose purpose is to indoctrinate students in Zionist ideology. No links are provided to pro-Palestinian sites.

The whole program, of course, is based on a balkanizing conception of identity politics that gives short shrift to the universal principles of the Enlightenment.

Horowitz is SO right. Academia is corrupted by political bias and identity politics through and through. John, please let him know about the political bias of the PSU Jewish Studies program--trust me when I say that he's a straight-up guy who recognizes political bias wherever it is found, not merely when it concerns women and other special-interest groups.

Joel Harris and Lark, I trust you will share my sincere outrage.