The goal of this article is to explain you why I support David Horowitz's Academic bill of rights, a proposed policy intended to increase intellectual diversity at the U.S. universities.
http://frontpagemag.com/articles/ ... ID=12119
Those of us who have lived in the totalitarian systems are sensitive about the possible use of the educational system as a tool of political indoctrination. You know, the communists made a lot of effort to control the society in all conceivable ways. They applied all available tools to eliminate the "anti-socialist" people from the universities or even from the high schools. They have modified the history textbooks so that the children would learn "the right stuff". As far as Czechoslovakia goes, the communists were executing the people in the 1950s, but they were using much more "peaceful" strategies to achieve their goals in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Communist Party was dreaming about the "perfect" universities - and other schools - where all scholars support the Party; oppose the United States of America and its president, especially if he's a Republican, as well as the American and international corporations; where everyone appreciates free healthcare and education, as well as special rights of the working class; where everybody criticizes private companies, privatization, as well as religion; where everyone believes that almost everything should be redistributed and/or taxation should be sufficiently high for all the social programs; where the people are ready to fight against the evil called the capitalism or imperialism.
A picture to moderate your political excitement: a new kind of seahorse:
They were simply dreaming about scholars that are useful to support their power and to help the Party realize its utopia. Even though they tried to fire all of their enemies, the communists never quite succeeded, and at least 50 percent of the people at the universities were criticizing the Communist Party and admiring the West, although most of them were doing so in the privacy of their homes only.
It may sound surprising or amazing, but the communists' dream has almost become true 15 years later. Surprisingly not in Czechoslovakia but rather in America itself. ;-) Indeed, try to read the previous paragraph, and you will have to probably agree that
- roughly 90 percent of the scholars (professors, postdocs, students) at the well-known U.S. universities agree with most of the opinions listed in that paragraph
- approximately 95 percent of political opinions heard from these universities are left-wing opinions
- my estimate is that 85 percent of the people at these universities could be classified as left-wing people. This figure is smaller than the previous figure because the non-left-wing people are often being threatened, humiliated, and in some cases even "converted" into "liberals"
- the percentage of the left-wing people is extremely high in various social sciences and humanities in particular (especially various cargo cult sciences); it is lower in economy, at law schools, and in "hard" sciences
- Harvard's current president, Lawrence Summers, is a very wise guy who always prefers rational thinking and hard science over biased political activism and ideologies based on a priori prejudices about the good and the evil. His membership in the Democratic Party certainly does not lead to anything wrong.
- I think that we have other very smart and balanced "leaders" at various levels, like our department chair, but I won't discuss details.
- Finally, the undergraduate students at Harvard today are more conservative than you might imagine, even though it is often more about their conservative behavior than about their philosophy...
Conservative students at Columbia university were selling bakery with discounts for members of various minorities. And the reason why they got almost killed was that they included the college Republicans among the minorities. Of course that they seem to be the maximally discriminated minority at that university. Moreover, I feel that their left-wing colleagues realize that.
Finally, let me comment on some particular points extracted from the bill of rights
- All faculty shall be hired, fired, promoted and granted tenure on the basis of their competence and appropriate knowledge in the field of their expertise and, in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, with a view toward fostering a plurality of methodologies and perspectives. No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.
Of course, it's important that there is no political key for "hard sciences". On the other hand, I find it obvious that the students - who are rarely left-wing radicals - have the right to get the right education for their money. They can't get the whole picture if they only hear one half of it. (I did not invent this slogan.) It's obvious that many departments of social sciences have overly left-wing faculties. In these politically flavored fields, it is often impossible to "prove experimentally" which viewpoint and which scientific work is correct and which viewpoint is wrong. It's a matter of political consensus. Therefore the left-wing as well as the right-wing people should be able to influence the process of hiring the right people. Obviously, if it is done so, the percentage of hired conservatives will grow.
- No faculty member will be excluded from tenure, search and hiring committees on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.
Well, I know examples where this rule was violated, and I think it is very wrong. On the other hand, there are - and there have been - many renowned non-left-wing professors at the well-known universities, e.g. the late Robert Nozick.
- Students will be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.
I think that this is an obvious criterion that should already be followed today, although I doubt that it always is.
- Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate. While teachers are and should be free to pursue their own findings and perspectives in presenting their views, they should consider and make their students aware of other viewpoints. Academic disciplines should welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions.
This seems as an obviously legitimate point, too, and I have already commented on the "consensual character" of knowledge in many of these disciplines.
- Exposing students to the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints on the subjects examined in their courses is a major responsibility of faculty. Faculty will not use their courses for the purpose of political, ideological, religious or anti-religious indoctrination.
Sure. Incidentally, some students are really shocked when they first learn that there exist influential right-wing and libertarian think tanks, for example. Well, a student of political science may pay tens of thousands of dollars, but if he does not know, after the several years of study, who Ann Coulter or the Cato Institute is and what are their points, he will remain a naive simpleton who does not understand politics. I certainly believe that a fair representation of different political opinions at the campuses is more important for their intellectual life than a proportional representation of nationalities or genders.
- Selection of speakers, allocation of funds for speakers programs and other student activities will observe the principles of academic freedom and promote intellectual pluralism.
There have been many surprising events in which the money of all students were used to pay e.g. Michael Moore's speech. This guy is not really thin and that's not the only reason why he demands tens of thousands of dollars for one of his shows. Of course, the conservatives would not be paid, and the right-wing students must obviously feel suppressed.
- An environment conducive to the civil exchange of ideas being an essential component of a free university, the obstruction of invited campus speakers, destruction of campus literature or other effort to obstruct this exchange will not be tolerated.
Obviously, that should be one of the features at the universities, but I don't know particular examples of destruction of literature etc. ;-)
- ... Academic institutions and professional societies formed to advance knowledge within an area of research, maintain the integrity of the research process, and organize the professional lives of related researchers serve as indispensable venues within which scholars circulate research findings and debate their interpretation. To perform these functions adequately, academic institutions and professional societies should maintain a posture of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, their fields of inquiry.
I am not quite sure about the realization of this point, and there may be various detailed rules how to enforce the bill of rights that I would not endorse. Nevertheless, the whole proposal looks like a clear piece of progress to me.