The Hyperbole of David Horowitz

Came across a link to this article by David Horowitz about "indoctrination" on college campuses (which really means "they're teaching things I don't like on college campuses"). He claims that the article is about "the active suppression of conservative ideas", and I know of a few genuine examples of that happening (the number of conservative speakers hounded off campuses and not allowed to speak is quite high, which I think is inexcusable). But listen to some of his examples of what he consders "active suppression":

Another form of ideological suppression conducted by faculty ideologues was the abusive treatment of conservative ideas and conservative students in the classroom itself. A not untypical example of such behavior was reported by Penn State student Kelly Keehan in testimony submitted to the Pennsylvania Select Committee on Academic Freedom in Higher Education. This Committee conducted a series of hearings from September 2005 through June 2006 on the state of academic freedom in Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities:

"I'm taking a Women Studies class because I thought it'd be a good class to take. Yesterday I was in class and people were giving presentations about women's issues and one group decided to do abortion. The next thing I know, we're spending the whole period learning about how abortion should be completely legal and that it's a good thing for society to abort babies and that people need to learn how to say the word "abortion" because women should be proud of the fact that they've had one. The professor made us start chanting "abortion, abortion," and to be honest, I started to cry. There was no place in that class for my pro-life opinion."

There is nothing in that story that even hints at "active suppression" of conservative ideas. There's nothing but the expression of liberal ideas. The Penn State student makes no mention of even attempting to offer her opinion, much less that it was "suppressed" by anyone. The argument here seems to be that someone taking a strong position contrary to yours amounts to active suppression of your opinion, and that is nonsense. If the same story were told by a pro-choice student, upset over a pro-life professor taking the contrary position, Horowitz would laugh if you claimed that this was an example of suppressing liberal opinion. This is ideological hackery at its finest.

When this and hundreds of similar cases were brought to light, far from generating an appropriate concern among academic authorities, the disclosure inspired a torrent of abuse from faculty spokesmen.

Hundreds of similar cases would prove no more than one similar case. The case shows nothing like what he's claiming it does. He then goes on to point out classes at the University of Colorado-Boulder that he doesn't like, again ostensibly as proof of "indoctrination" (which of course just means "teaching things i don't like") and the "suppression" of conservative ideas. This is the college, remember, that sacked Ward Churchill, the poster boy for far left politics on campus (and rightly so, the guy was a total nut and he lied to get the job). Here's his first example:

There are, in fact, a disturbing number of courses offered by the University that are neither academic nor scholarly but are frankly ideological and whose clear purpose is to the indoctrination of students in sectarian views of the world. This is an intellectual program that is inappropriate for a public educational institution and violates the fundamental principles of academic freedom to which the university community is pledged. The courses examined in the following text are an indicative sample and by no means exhaustive....

To begin with an illustrative case, Sociology 5055 - "Modern Marxist Theory" is course that clearly violates basic guidelines for any academic curriculum worthy of the name. An academic course devoted to a sectarian theory like Marxism would presumably teach about its origins, history and texts, and examine the arguments of critics. An academic course on "modern Marxist theory" might also be expected to confront the question of how a doctrine which appears to have been so discredited by the collapse of so many societies based on its doctrines could continue to find adherents. But, as is evident from its own course description, Sociology 5055 is not intended as an academic course in Marxism and does not propose to follow a scholarly approach to Marxism or the questions it provokes. Here is the entry in the university catalogue:

MODERN MARXIST THEORY
Sociology 5055 Spring 2000
http://csf.colorado.edu/gimenez/soc.5055/index.html
Instructor: Martha E. Gimenez

Course Description:

This seminar is designed to give students the ability to apply Marx's theoretical and methodological insights to the study of current topics of theoretical and political importance. Specifically, we will focus on historical materialism's object of study, causality and patterns of determination; the limits of methodological individualism; the relationship between structure and agency; nature as a material limiting factor; the social significance of space and time, and the postmodern agenda. The substantive topics we will explore to illustrate the relevance of Marxist theory are the following: Class, gender, and race/ethnic inequality; population growth/limits to growth; the changing nature and significance of work; information technology and inequality, and democracy, markets and the underdevelopment of development.

Again, the entire point here seems to be that he doesn't like the content of the class and therefore it's "indoctrination". And what kind of an argument is to say that it's a "sectarian view of the world"? All views are "sectarian" in that sense. No matter what issue or perspective you teach, there is always an opposing perspective. But of course, if a class taught the opposite, that Marx' theories were outdated and absurd and disproven by historical reality (a position I happen to agree with strongly), that would also be a "sectarian view of the world", but I doubt he would call that "indoctrination".

The irony of it all is that he is actually arguing that no one should be allowed to teach anything he disagrees with, and he does so while crying persecution of his own views. It's the very existence of a class teaching a perspective he doesn't like that he is objecting to, which can only be interpreted as a call to do away with all such courses. To do that in the name of "academic freedom" is highly hypocritical. He goes on to say much the same thing about various classes on feminism, which only proves the point that what he really objects to is the fact that people are allowed to teach things he disagrees with.

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I talked about a similar article a while ago here, but it was essentially the same thing except from a more Christian point of view.

But on the point of "conservative speakers being hounded off campuses". I'm a student at Stanford, and last year President Bush came to speak with some Fellows at the conservative Hoover Institute on campus. There was a massive protest, so big that the President couldn't even get through campus. Student e-mail lists were ablaze with the news that the "evil dictator" had been turned back. In reality all that happened was the President was inconvienced (he took a different route and met the fellows at a different place) and our institution made look like it was full of ignorant fools. I could have understood a civil protest, but three students were arrested for impeding his progress. How is that a victory? And what did we win? All I saw was a bunch of kids filled with irrational hatred. That's a real victory, and an excellent impression to make. I suspect other politicial will now be hesitant about coming to campus, which is exactly what an institution of higher learnign should be about: shunning those who you disagree with.

It's just too bad that politics has become so polar. But that's an entirely different discussion.

Stuart-

Unfortunately, things like that go on all the time at colleges around the country. More often than not, it's just a conservative speaker like Ward Connerly or even Horowitz himself (who I generally cannot stand, but who clearly has a right to speak). One group on campus will invite them in to speak and other groups show up to shout them down, or even to storm the stage and take over the event, and they don't ever get to speak. And rarely are students disciplined for this kind of behavior, or even admonished for what they did. I find the attitude appalling, the notion that if you don't like what someone has to say you can prevent them from saying it. And I find it just as appalling when it's aimed at those I disagree with as those I agree with. You have every right to hold a counter-event, or an after-event, to dispute what they said; you do not have any right to disrupt the event. Yet virtually no instance that I'm aware of does the university actually do anything about it. In such instances, I think conservatives are right to be upset about it and right to complain of political correctness on college campuses. But with things like the complaints above, they show that they're not really any different than those who seek to censor them they just have different tactics. If they could, they would just as quickly censor the other side and throw them out of academia. It's all quite ridiculous.

The professor made us start chanting "abortion, abortion," and to be honest, I started to cry.

Um, does anyone actually believe that?

Horowitz would have a little more credibility if he hadn't been busted publicizing falsified complaints on a number of occasions.

Yeah, the chanting part seemed pretty farfetched to me too. But even if it's accurate, it's merely stupid not "suppression".

Oh dear, if Horowitz is concerned about college campuses indoctrinating students with sectarian views of the world in Sociology and Women's Studies, just wait till he sees what they're doing in the Theology department...

Horowitz would have a little more credibility if he hadn't been busted publicizing falsified complaints on a number of occasions.

Horowitz would have more credibility if he were the boy who cried 'wolf'.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 18 Sep 2006 #permalink

My favorite example of Horowitzian lunacy is his listing of Earlham College's Caroline Higgins as one of America's 101 Most Dangerous professors. Her crime? Teaching a "peace studies" course at a college dedicated to the guy who gave us the Sermon on the Mount (which now that I think of it IS filled with some pretty radical ideas).

at a college dedicated to the guy who gave us the Sermon on the Mount

Osiris? :-)

Recognize that Horowitz is an ex-lefty. In the 1960s and early 1970s he was editor of the far left magazine Ramparts. Sometime in 1973-74 he had an "epiphany" in which he became a far-righty.

I've read his explanation of his conversion and it makes no sense--the only thing I can conclude is that he is an opportunist. He saw the far left yammerkatzen as going down economically, and jumped ship to the economically rising far right yammerkatzen. He's landed a gig with what has become a a far right-wing sponsored internet magazine.

BTW, self-reporting by that anti-abortion woman in the womans' studies class should be taken with a very large grain of salt. If she had a tape of the class, that might be a bit more persuasive of her report, but, otherwise, no.

Stuart Coleman: "You have every right to hold a counter-event, or an after-event, to dispute what they said; you do not have any right to disrupt the event."

Eh BS. Civil disobedience has a long standing and often useful place in this country. It may not always be enormously successful or end in a "win", but neither does any other form of protest.

If protestors were to always let themselves be sidelined into little counter/after events then they would be made impotent. They may not have only inconvienced Bush, but in doing so they made their statement more prominent than if they had only orchestrated an unobtrusive after event.

It wasn't Stuart who said that, it was me. And I stand by it. Civil disobedience is refusal to follow a government law to protest government action; it is not action that denies another citizen's right to free speech. Civil disobedience is done in response to government destruction of liberty, it is not done to destroy liberty. You cannot violate someone else's right to free speech just because you don't like their message. And if you try to do so, the government can rightly prosecute you (because that is the job of government, to protect our rights).

The primary source for this allegation is Kelly Keehan of Penn State, not Horowitz. Keehan made this statement in testimony to a state legislative committee.

If the incident she testified to is a fabrication, as you guys seem to think, it would be trivial to prove it by making a few phone calls to students who had also taken that particular class.

If it's true, I'd say it makes Horowitz's point: making a bunch of students chant "ABORTION!! ABORTION!! ABORTION!!" sounds like indoctrination to me.

Don't think it would have made me cry: it might have made me piss myself laughing, though.

Andy-

I don't know whether it's true or untrue, but even if it is 100% true, it's absurd to list it as an example of "suppression of conservative opinion." And frankly, calling it "indoctrination" is subjective drivel - if someone had them chanting "abortion is wrong", would he still call that "indoctrination"? Not on your life. Silly and stupid? Absolutely. But it's not "suppression".