Friday, July 01, 2011

The Conservative War on College

The conservative attack on higher education has reached some new disturbing peaks in recent months. In the past, conservatives complained that colleges didn't teach the classics enough or force students to take more survey classes. But now you have a conservative movement attacking college as a "bubble" and urging students not to go to college. It's part of a growing anti-intellectual movement on the right that I document in my recent book on Rush Limbaugh, "The Most Dangerous Man in America."

There's also another side to the conservative attack on higher education, a growing hatred of academic freedom, and a desire to impose political agendas on faculty hiring. This was reflected in my debates with David Horowitz and Peter Wood on hiring preferences for conservatives among adjunct faculty.

Now, in the wake of the appalling Koch Foundation attempts to control faculty hiring at Florida State and other campuses, conservatives have actually come out and endorsed the political hiring controls of the Koch Foundation.

After repeatedly failing in their efforts to prove liberal bias in faculty hiring, the right has simply decided to declare that they must be right and the only solution left is to force colleges to hiring more conservatives.

In the most recent version of this, Mark Bauerlein at Minding the Campus challenges Cary Nelson of the AAUP over his criticism of the Koch deals, claiming that they are no different from the Ford Foundation encouraging racial diversity on campus.

Bauerlein is obviously wrong here, even if we accept his claim that diversity is an ideology. If the Ford Foundation is demanding a role in the hiring decisions over faculty, then that would obviously cross the line. But Bauerlein presents zero evidence that this is the case. Certainly, foundations are allowed to have whatever goals they want. It's the question of the faculty hiring process that's at stake here, and the imposition of ideological demands by outside forces.

Sadly, the only ones left with integrity and principle in this debate are liberals such as Nelson and myself, who argue that colleges should not impose any political bias in hiring. The conservative movement has decided to abandon the pretense of academic freedom and the principle of unbiased hiring, preferring to believe that the free market will allow them to purchase dominance on college campuses.

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