Friday, June 25, 2010

Debating on Fox News Channel

Yesterday, I appeared on Fox News Channel to debate Ashley Thorne of NAS about their study of summer reading programs:

It wasn't much of an argument, since the segment lasted four minutes and included an odd question about Frankenstein that I had to ignore, since I had no idea if that qualifies as an approved classic for the NAS.

Watching this segment, Nicole Hungerford of David Horowitz's Newsreal Blog denounces me as a “Left-Wing Academia Crusader” and writes about me as “founder of the absolutely absurd and manifestly gratuitous 'College Freedom Institute' which focuses on conservatism’s 'onslaught' on free education. (Give me a break.) Given the state of our campuses today, I can only conclude that this is some sort of hyperbolic delusion.”

I can't imagine what is “absolutely absurd” and “manifestly gratuitous” about defending freedom on campus. My website and my book, Patriotic Correctness, critique all attacks on academic freedom, from both the left and the right. I argue that the conservative threats are greater, but I can't see how that's “absurd.” I would challenge Hungerford, or any other conservative, to actually read my book and tell me which of the conservative attacks on academic freedom I document are fake, and what threats to freedom on campus I overlook.

As for my critique of the NAS report, the NAS still refuses to disclose exactly how they defined books (which they haven't read) as conservative or liberal, or which books they declared to be liberal. They must have a list. Why don't they reveal it?

As I pointed out on Fox News, is a brilliant graphic memoir like Persepolis “liberal” because it attacks the repressive regime of Iran, or “conservative” because it attacks the repressive regime of Iran? (The NAS classifies it as “Fantasy/SciFi” which proves they haven't read it or don't understand it.) If you define supporting freedom as “liberal” and supporting authoritarianism as “conservative,” then picking Persepolis is evidence of a “liberal bias.” However, I don't hold conservatism in such little regard.

Hungerford claims, “If we want to avoid controversy, then we accept that racial minorities and woman are systemically oppressed.” Actually, I'd love to know which of the books on the NAS list actually espouse this view (which is true, by the way). Does This I Believe? The Omnivore's Dilemma? The Last Lecture? Certainly, Three Cups of Tea probably argues that women are oppressed in Afghanistan. Would any sane person disagree?

Throughout all of this, I have argued that colleges should ask students to read more controversial books from both the left and the right, and they should hold debates about these important issues.

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