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Friday, November 18, 2005

Mormon Bigamists and Other Organic Intellectuals

Wow, a whole blog on post-hegemony.  Do follow the link in Jon’s first comment to my last post—or the link I’ve just provided.  He provides a great critique of cultural studies and the notion of hegemony.  Here’s just one line to give you the flavor:  “Populism enables a series of substitutions that fetishize culture at the expense of the institutional, and establish transcendence and sovereignty in place of immanent process and micropolitical struggles.”

I come neither to praise cultural studies nor to bury it, and am mostly sorry for the red herring of the Hall quote.  Because the issue I am groping toward has nothing to do with populism, which (as the commentators have rightly pointed out) has no set content.  I am not playing the time-honored and now discredited game of the leftist intellectual looking desperately for some hint of his own views in the “people.” The Mark Hewitt example (and I don’t know the guy, who would be more than bemused to see the thoughts that I have spun off from that one encounter with him) is in the interest of form, not content.  And the Hall quote was to give me the concept/fantasy of the “organic,” not to derive some effective—and righteous—political power from the “grassroots.”

Let me try to explain.  (I’m having trouble here because I’m groping toward something I can find satisfying, as both an explanation of the current state of politics and as an avenue to pursue in the search for effective interventions.) The fantasy of the organic in my case is not about populism, it’s about (to use Yeats’s phrase) “unity of being.” Hewitt’s opinions (as I am glossing them) grew out of his experiences; that’s the organic part (note the metaphor of “growing” in the first half of the sentence.) But—and this is a big but—those opinions don’t have much of an outlet in practice.  Recognizing that the economic world, as currently organized, allows him to be a potter and denies others that work does not change what he does—or the markets to which he sells.  The opinions don’t go anywhere.  Similarly, I don’t feel like my opinions go much of anywhere—beyond their expression in print and in the blogosphere.  The “form” of what I do—teach my classes, write letters of recommendation, sit on various committees, try to get some writing done, etc.—would be no different if I had Glenn Reynold’s opinions.  I say my piece and write the occasional check to Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign, and the other usual suspects.  So the fantasy is of a life in which one’s daily practices are the expression of, the enactment of, one’s politics. Am I being “micropolitical” in the various daily choices I make about how to treat my students, negotiate my institution, and do my writing?  Maybe.  But it doesn’t seem to add up to much.  And I can’t help feeling that the “difference” between me and the conservative professor down the hall (yes, we have one or two of them at UNC) in terms of daily practices is so slight that “micro” may be overstating the case.  That’s why organic farming and various local cooperatives came to mind when I first tried to write about this in October.  There’s a marked stepping out from the daily round.

That’s why I am interested in the “form” politics can currently take.  On the one hand, there is the “traditional” political arena of 1) taking over the party or 2) influencing the sitting government.  On the other hand, there is something that looks like a “counter-cultural” carving out of spaces and places to live differently. (And, yes, Mormon bigamists are as good examples of this as organic farmers.) Does this binary exhaust the possibilities?  Let’s hope not.  Does an attention to “immanent process and micropolitical struggles” point to another way to think—and to practice—politics?  Perhaps.  But I’m skeptical because it sounds so close to Edmund Burke or to Hegel to me.  There are complex processes that are beyond any purposive control; people struggle within the whole and their struggles do produce the future, but not in any way that they can consciously direct.  The flows sweep us along; we can’t expect to channel the flows, but are instead caught up in our own very partial, very incomplete understanding of what it is we are doing.  The cunning (current) of history (not reason, which is why it’s more like Burke than Hegel) is trans-human.  Or: play the immanence card hard enough and you end up, paradoxically, with a new transcendence unless you just accept pure randomness.  And I don’t see how you can get a politics out of pure randomness.

But enough theory.  My last post was, in fact, being driven by a much more mundane concern about how politics is now practiced in this country.  Let’s start with “influencing the government.” Who is doing that influencing? Paid professionals called lobbyists.  It matters not a whit whether they “believe” or even care about the causes they espouse.  Like good lawyers, their personal opinions are neither here nor there.  Being good at what they do, or the thrill of the game of getting as much as you can from a piece of legislation, would be just as acceptable, and productive, motives for their activities as political conviction. Organic political convictions of the sort I have been imagining, deeply felt and central to one’s identity, haven’t got a prayer against organized, well-funded, professional lobbying.  To even get a hearing requires time and money that you can’t get unless you jettison the way of life from which your convictions spring; politics is now a full-time job severed from any roots in ordinary life.  (There’s my romanticism; it’s not about populism; it’s about organicism.)

Here’s another practical worry along the same lines.  I think the large-scale demonstration has run its course.  The impact of the large civil-rights’ marches and the anti-war protests was significant.  They provided a way to by-pass parties and to address the sitting government directly.  (They also were effective ways to address the nation as a whole, to speak to the demos.) But the rhetoric of the mass demonstration no longer functions that way.  Politicians have become adept at paying them lip service as proof of the freedom to dissent in America and going on their merry way. The demos has tuned out, having grown used to the idea that there will be those who disagree noisily to various policies or actions.  I’d be interested in hearing your ideas about why the rhetorical and political effect of demonstrations has been lost, and on what alternatives there might be.  But my sense is that, for the current moment, the ability of citizens to address their government is just about zero.  Letters to one’s congress-person?  Letters to the editor?  A blog?  The Bush campaign’s decision to address itself only to vetted crowds of supporters perfectly captures how completely the channels of communication have been closed.  Only lobbyists and campaign donors need apply.

So that pushes those who wish to have some impact on the direction the nation is taking to the capture of a major party.  There, it would seem, one might actually gain some leverage.  That is certainly what various elements of the right—including, but not only, the Christian right—set out to accomplish. Their thought seems to have been: “we need to become the government ourselves, and the only way to do that is run for office (from school boards on up) and the only way to win when you run for office is to be the candidate of a major party.” If you read the leftist blogs, there is little effort put into influencing the sitting government.  It is mostly about paving the way for a change to Democratic rule—and worrying/strategizing about how to get the Democrats to do what the particular blogger wants once it does regain power (from my lips to God’s ear.)

The history of the Republican Party over the past 30 years is interesting in this regard.  The party elites have had to bend to the Christian pressure, but they have not broken.  They have, as Tom Frank tells us, used the Christian right for their own ends more than that religious right has managed to change the party—or its policies once in power.  But that hardly means the religious right has not had any successes, and it hardly means that their choice of tactics was misguided.  What other choice did they have? 

That’s the question.  What other choices are there for doing politics, since these two macro-ways present all kinds of difficulties, not least among them the time and money required to pursue them, so that one, almost necessarily, becomes a professional politician once embarking down either road, and thus loses any “organic” connection to the life (the way of life, the beliefs and practices) for which one wages the struggle in the first place.  That’s where I will try to go in the next post. 

Posted by John McGowan on 11/18 at 01:14 PM
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Potted Politics

“I tried on many occasions, and other people in British cultural studies . . . have tried, to describe what it is we thought we were doing with the kind of intellectual work we set in place in the Centre [for Cultural Studies at Birmingham].  I have to confess that, though I’ve read many, more elaborated and sophisticated, accounts, Gramsci’s account still seems to me to come closest to expressing what it is I think we were trying to do.  Admittedly, there’s a problem with his phrase ‘the production of organic intellectuals.’ But there is no doubt in my mind that we were trying to find an institutional practice in cultural studies that might produce an organic intellectual.  We didn’t know precisely what that would mean, in the context of Britain in the 1970s, and we weren’t sure we would recognize him or her if we managed to produce it.  The problem about the concept of an organic intellectual is that it appears to align intellectuals with an emerging historical movement and we couldn’t tell then, and can hardly tell now, where that emerging historical movement was to be found.  We were organic intellectuals without any organic point of reference; organic intellectuals with a nostalgia or will or hope (to use Gramsci’s phrase from another context) that at some point we would be prepared in intellectual work for that kind of relationship.  More truthfully, we were prepared to imagine or model or simulate such a relationship in its absence: ‘pessimism of the will, optimism of the intellect.’”
—Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies”

Forgive the wistfulness of this passage from Stuart Hall and forget its hint of a Marxist reliance on the elevator of history.  I use it to introduce the notion of “organic intellectual” and want to couple that notion with Gramsci’s insistence (I learned this from Grant Farred’s work) that “everyone is an intellectual.” And let me remind you that Gramsci distinguishes the “organic intellectuals” from “traditional intellectuals.” These last are the sanctioned wordsmiths in a society, the ones who have positions within various institutions—the church, the schools, the corporations, the government, the media—and whose job is to articulate “official” accounts of what those institutions are up to.  Traditional intellectuals are in the legitimation business; organic intellectuals are just trying to make sense of it all from the midst of where they stand in the society.  (That’s my post-Marxist spin, one that abandons any reliance on there being some “emerging historical movement.” There are just multiple struggles, and multiple conflicting accounts of who we are, what we need, and what we should do.)

So what I liked about the potter, Mark Hewitt, is that his work appeared to spawn his politics “organically.” His work (again, make allowances for the fact that this might all be fantasy; I am interested in why this fantasy attracts me first, before considering whether it tells us anything interesting about the possibilities of politics in our time, or whether it offers something that can be actualized) came first; the politics followed upon some basic reflection about what makes that work possible and who can do that work.  In his lifetime, he noticed, the potter with an old farmstead in North Carolina and a website can flourish; the potter in a Nigerian or Korean village can no longer practice his or her art.  Hence a set of ideas and attitudes toward what we loosely call globalization grows “organically” out of his daily rounds.

The next obvious question, it seems to me, is (once we place no stock in an “emerging historical movement” that could sweep up these isolated organic intimations and bring them onto the public stage) how to get to an effective political program from these nascent political ideas.  Cultural Studies has its answer to that question, one also indebted to Gramsci, and dependent on notions of “articulation,” “conjuncture,” “ideology” (understood much more neutrally than is usual in Marxist thought), and “hegemony.” To be very schematic about it, the grand miscellany of ideas must be “articulated” in such a way that at least a lot of them hang together in an “ideology” that suggests a somewhat (but never completely) coherent world view and blueprint for action.  The “articulation” (the work of the organic intellectuals who give this worldview—or political ideology—its words for describing itself) will move toward “hegemony” (achievement of a momentary and never total, but still effective, dominance in the sociopolitical field of contending forces) if the “conjuncture” of social forces in a given moment are aligned in such a way (while also being nudged into that position by the action of this group or that) to favor that “articulation’s” assumption of power.

In other words, Cultural Studies attends to—and provides an account of (no matter how implausible or abstract we might find it)—the movement from individual political convictions or insights to their being brought to bear collectively upon the body politic.  Perhaps the Cultural Studies story about these matters will lead us, eventually, to the notion of a political party, but that’s what Gramsci was trying to avoid (because he was trying to revise the Leninist conclusion that the revolution—along with all other forms of political action—can only find its agent in the party.) Whether Gramsci succeeded or not, in the absence of much thinking about these matters, politics-on-the-ground in the United States tends to offer two possible avenues of action.  Either individuals or a group or a coalition of groups can try to capture one of the major parties.  (Of course, there is also the recurring fantasy of—sometimes linked to valiant efforts to—create a viable new party, a feat only pulled off once in American history.) Or individuals or a group or a coalition of groups can try to address the sitting government directly, bypassing the parties.  To put the options another way: one can try to further one’s agenda by winning elections or one can try to further one’s agenda by influencing the actions of the current government.  Winning elections entails a prior step: making sure the person who wins the election with your vote is actually someone who will use the office gained in ways you approve.  Hence the need to capture the party, since it puts forth candidates for office.

So much for today’s installment.  I think a number of things follow from thinking about the scene of political action this way.  But let me hear your objections and thoughts first.  And then what I write on Friday will undoubtedly be very different from what, at this moment on Wednesday afternoon, I think I am going to write.

Posted by John McGowan on 11/16 at 02:01 PM
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Monday, November 14, 2005

Pottery and Politics

Yes, as Michael unkindly reminded you—and thus me—I promised some weeks back to return to questions of political activism. A problem, because I can’t remember what I was planning to say.  Michael’s more prominent, but not completely dominant (how boring would that be? plus fatal for a hockey player), kinder and gentler side has handed over the blog to me for the next week or so for my swan song.  I have a bunch of things on my mind that I am going to unload on you in four or five posts over the next ten days (after which you are all invited to my house for Thanksgiving dinner if you promise to bring some wine along with your charming selves).  Among those things are thoughts about political activism, but they are fairly scattered and random thoughts so I think I’m going to end up backing into them.

My wife and I were in London for ten days at the end of October and I learned nothing of moment during that time.  We went to see Schiller’s Mary Stuart and Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community, and took advantage of surprisingly good weather to walk from one end of London to the other, ducking into various museums for an hour or two for a breather.  Didn’t read a newspaper or a blog the whole time.  And thus I discovered what is either my inner aesthete or the aesthete that I was at age 20 but have long since ceased to be.

That I can’t decide which seems to me significant.  Scratch an English prof hard enough—even one as distanced from literary criticism as I now am—and you’ll find that hard core of devotion to, belief in, and reverence for “art.” We went to the Tate Modern and I hated it.  All that conceptual art, based on bad ideas, and with no faith at all in the power of images to communicate (the pieces are all at pains to explain themselves, almost always using words), and offering nothing that arrests the eye.  The stuff of the work isn’t sticky (in the world wide web sense of that word); it doesn’t hold the eye because it is only there to serve the idea.  Give me Mondrian or Ellsworth Kelly.  Art too smart to have any ideas.  Color and pleasure.  That’s what I want in an art museum.

The week after we came home, Jane and I went to hear master potter Mark Hewitt (an Englishman descended from three generation of porcelain makers who now lives in North Carolina) talk about his own work and the work of North Carolina’s great potters from 1850 to the present.  I have this fantasy, one that attaches to various people at various times, about people who are at one with their lives.  Someone who has found an occupation that is completely enthralling, challenging, pleasurable, and satisfying.  The person pursues this occupation with single-minded devotion for the whole of a life, each new step on that journey producing a new problem to be solved or a new way of seeing the whole enterprise.  But, meanwhile, there is also the satisfaction of things achieved along the way.  The life well lived as a career in making.  An honorable life devoted to producing things that the world values.  (No, I don’t’ experience my own life that way.  It feels like constant scrambling, with each thing done a messy compromise between what was aimed for and what time, circumstances, and personal limitations made possible.)

Mark Hewitt seems a good candidate as the embodiment of that fantasy.  In his own sphere, he is wildly successful.  He can’t make pots fast enough for all the people who want to buy them.  And he remains challenged by what he does, while also showing a great appreciation for and desire to celebrate the work of other potters. Mark has written a book about North Carolina pottery, and he has written lots of articles about pottery around the world.  His lecture introduced us to various forms of folk pottery—from Nigeria to Korea to Japan—that have influenced him.  Worries about a larger world that one cannot influence would merely be a distraction.  Clear the mind and focus on the difficult and worthy task at hand.  That’s the ticket.

Except, of course, it can’t quite be done, unless one cultivates a tunnel-vision that would be blameworthy.  In that most unpolitical of settings, addressing an audience of fans, Hewitt could not avoid reflecting, even if mostly through short side comments, on the fact that the “folk” in Africa and Korea from whom he had learned so much when visiting them in the 1970s no longer practice the art that has made him relatively rich and famous.  Manufactured goods have now replaced the hand-made pottery of those villages.  By a path as inevitable as the one followed by Ruskin and Morris (whom Hewitt actually mentioned briefly), an attention to the arts leads one to politics—and leads one to recognize the privileges that place one in a position to be an artist or to visit museums.  There’s no space of unconscious devotion to one’s art, untroubled by the social forces and structures that make any kind of devotion to art possible in the first place.

That came through most clearly in Hewitt’s comic—but also forlorn—relation to the problem of art as pottery.  He insisted that pottery was a fine art in the sense that it took great skill to make good pots.  But he also, in another part of his talk, urged us to use every piece of pottery we own.  Don’t set it up on display; don’t move it entirely from the functional world of its origins in those village pots made for use into the entirely different world of “art.” Which suggests that the very notion of “art” is constructed precisely to offer us a space apart from a social reality that doesn’t bear much looking at.  I want, as much if not more than the next guy, to visit the land of art.  It’s a great vacation, just like a trip to London.  But it turns out you can’t live there.  If you did, it would be an entirely different place.

Posted by John McGowan on 11/14 at 02:39 PM
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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Important announcement

Sorry if I kept anyone in suspense about this surprise weekend announcement.  I had some secret deals in the works, and I was hoping that Samuel Alito would withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court so that I would be named in his stead.  Failing that, I had an outside shot at teaming up with Judith Miller on an exciting new blogging venture, Turning Aspens Media.* But both of those possibilities fell through while I was at Villanova with Jamie, so tonight I have only one little piece of news that’s important for this stumbling blog.

John McGowan and I have reached a new phase in our experiment in sporadic co-blogging: the terminal one.  Over the past six months, as you may recall, John has made frequent guest appearances here at me.com: in May he took over for a full two weeks, just as I thought I was getting burned out.  (In retrospect, I was simply getting ready for an emergency appendectomy.  Who knew?) His posts were so sharp, so discerning, and so refreshing a change of pace that I invited him to post on Thursdays as permanent guest host; after August we changed the schedule to alternate Tuesdays, and more recently, to “whenever.” (No, that’s not quite true:  John’s simply been out of the country for a while.) His last post, on October 13, was titled “The Social Bases of Political Activism,” and he concluded it by saying he’d “be back in a few weeks with some further thoughts.” And so he will.

John will be taking the reins from Monday, November 14 through Thanksgiving.  (Yes, this blog has reins—Expression Engine is so cool that way!  it even has a bell and a whistle, though I rarely use them.) After that, he will keep posting on his own blog, Public Intelligence, which I recommend to you with a great recommendation, and then I’ll come back here all by myself.

It turns out—and this aside is for the benefit of you advanced theorists of blogging—that “sporadic co-blogging” is a particularly difficult thing to pull off.  There are solo blogs, dynamic duo blogs, terrible trio blogs, and supergroup blogs, but sporadic co-blogs seem to pose special structural and compositional problems.  Basically, you’ve got one person (say, me) who has a blog (for example, this one) and who posts on it most of the time, and then someone else who guest-posts here and there.  And when the name of the blog is Michael Bérubé, and the other person’s name is not Michael Bérubé, well, that only makes things more awkward. 

But I have to say that John is just the kind of guy you’d imagine from his posts: gracious and then more than gracious.  Never once has he objected to the overwhelming Michael Bérubéocentrism of this meocentric blog, and he’s negotiated our different blogging styles with élan.  OK, yeah, there was the one time he complained about the Hansons logo on the top right, insisting that the picture of Hannah Arendt and Kenneth Burke sitting on the Boston Bruins bench (in that famous 1969 photo with Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito) would be more “dignified.” I patiently explained to John that I had changed the template for the same reason that I was hitting the tour bus with a sledgehammer: to make it look mean.  He didn’t care for that at all.  But otherwise, he’s been great.  (And I’ll change the front page for the next ten days, just to make things simpler for John and for everyone who stops by without reading this post first.  The Hansons will remain on the comments page, though.)

So, dear friends, while I take a breather, please welcome back John McGowan for one last run.  John, take it away. . . .


* I really was asked to join Pajamas Media about a week or so ago.  I got a very flattering email from someone who’d been sent my way by one of my favorite contrarian lefties, Marc Cooper.  (Good luck, Marc!  I’ll be rooting for you.) But I decided that my life was already quite complicated enough as it is without turning this shy, retiring (and sometimes really exhausted) blog into a professional enterprise.  UPDATE:  I forgot to add that I never, ever blog in my pajamas.  But if any liberal venture capitalists out there want to start up an enterprise called Formalwear Media, I’ll be front and center.  In my blogging tux.  UPDATED UPDATE:  a diligent reader has located the Arendt-Burke-Espo-Orr photo, and I’ve revised the post accordingly.  Thanks, Anne!  People were beginning to accuse me of making things up around here.

Posted by Michael on 11/13 at 08:25 PM
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Mister Answer Man:  Special Keystone State Edition

Dear Mr. Answer Man:  While you were being airlifted to temporary safety in Michigan, your fair Commonwealth was much in the news.  The University of Pittsburgh hosted hearings on “liberal bias” at the state’s public universities; President Katrina lashed out at pesky liberal skeptics who keep suggesting that the Administration lied to the American people about the rationale for war in Iraq; the Young Americans for Freedom at your very own campus erected a Berlin Wall to protest the Communist introdoctrination for which Penn State is famous; and the Reverend Pat Robertson warned that the town of Dover might be consumed by a plague of locusts or boils as the result of God’s wrath at the recent defeat of school board members who support the teaching of Intelligent Design.

Do you think it’s safe for you to leave the state again?  Don’t you have a responsibility to the sane citizens of Pennsylvania to stay home and serve as a First Ideological Responder? —W. Penn, Orbisonia, PA

Mister Answer Man replies: Are you kidding me?  Orbisonia?  Don’t make me look up your IP address, Mr. Penn.  There can’t really be a town in Pennsylvania called Orbisonia.  Next you’ll be telling me that there’s a town called Nanty Glo.

As for my travels: yes, it’s true that the forces of the Right—from conservative students to the National Association of Scholars to doddering Christian jihadists to the President himself—read this blog regularly and schedule their local uprisings for days on which I’m otherwise occupied.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, because there’s really nothing I can do about it, but this time the consequences have been severe: according to my sources, sometime early this morning, Dover, Pennsylvania was wiped from the face of the earth by an angry God.  I am not sure that I could have done anything to stave off His righteous wrath, being mortal and all, but perhaps if I’d been home yesterday I could have warned people in the area that the Almighty does indeed attend to off-year school board elections (omniscience, you know), and that based on the early exit polls, he would surely smite the infidels and evolutionists before the weekend was out.

My apologies to the people of Dover and their loved ones who live elsewhere.

Dear Mr. Answer Man: Aren’t you going to receive your two millionth visitor today?  Aren’t you excited about this milestone?  Don’t you remember what a big fuss you made over visitor one million, back in April?  And if it took you fifteen months to get to one million and only another seven to get to two million, won’t your readership continue to increase exponentially until you achieve world domination by 2009, as you have long hoped? —C. Eames, Powers of Ten, Nevada

Mister Answer Man replies: That’s not one question, Mr. Eames.  That’s four questions, and I think that’s really annoying.  Still, here goes.  First question first: yes.  Third question second: yes.  Fourth question third: I hope so!  And second question last: not really.

Dear Mr. Answer Man: Not really? —C. Eames, Powers of Ten, Nevada

Mister Answer Man replies: No, not really.

Dear Mr. Answer Man: How come? —C. Eames, Powers of Ten, Nevada

Mister Answer Man replies:  Because yesterday morning, Jamie reached a much more important milestone: while I was in Ann Arbor, he traveled down to Villanova with his Special Olympics volleyball team.  Without Janet.  That’s right, he made his first-ever solo road trip without a family member accompanying him.  And this morning, Janet and I woke up to an empty house for the first time since 1986.

Dear Mr. Answer Man: Holy shit!  And he’ll be off by himself all weekend, at the tender age of fourteen? —C. Eames, Powers of Ten, Nevada

Mister Answer Man replies: No, I’m driving down to Villanova in about half an hour to meet him.

Dear Mr. Answer Man:  Cool!  Just stay in the state this time, all right? —W. Penn, Orbisonia, PA

Mister Answer Man replies: Will do.  And I’ll be back tomorrow with an important announcement.

Posted by Michael on 11/12 at 11:28 AM
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Friday, November 11, 2005

Meanwhile . . .

From the Pitt News at the University of Pittsburgh:

Bias hearings begin at Pitt

Assistant News Editor
November 10, 2005

State representatives listened to testimonies from academic experts and professors in the William Pitt Union yesterday, at the first of four hearings in Pennsylvania investigating liberal bias at state-funded universities.

About 10 state representatives are part of the House Select Committee, which is charged with determining if state-funded universities infringe on students’ academic freedom.

House Resolution 177, introduced by Rep. Gibson Armstrong, R-Lancaster, grants the committee the power to examine bias at state-funded and state-related universities.

The resolution also grants the committee permission to investigate this bias—either from professors or departments—that could hamper students’ access to an academic environment conducive to critical thinking and independent thought.

Specifically, the committee can investigate whether or not professors grade based on subject knowledge and performance or ideological views.

Stephen H. Balch, the president of the National Association of Scholars, testified in favor of the resolution yesterday.

“I think [the committee] should communicate to the legislature from the university that there is need for reform,” Balch said.

In his presentation, that lasted more than two hours, Balch concluded that there is enough evidence in universities across Pennsylvania—specifically Temple, Penn State and Pitt—to suspect political bias among faculty members, making these collegiate environments ripe for indoctrination.

After defining advocacy, activism and education, Balch explained how state universities should separate education and advocacy.

“In an academic context, advocacy transforms education into indoctrination,” Balch said in his statement.

Balch defended his position at length against comments made by committee members such as Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny.

“I don’t think we are brainwashing any students, which is what you are implying,” Frankel said.

Balch continued to answer committee members’ questions, but he eventually came to an ultimate conclusion: because of the number of faculty members at state-funded universities in Pennsylvania who identify with a particular political group, state legislatures should make sure that no advocacy, as he said, exists.

Wow, it’s a whole new evidentiary standard!  A preponderance of liberal professors, in and of itself, is grounds for state action.  Most interesting!

Fortunately, I was airlifted out of the Commonwealth to safety just as the hearings began. 

Posted by Michael on 11/11 at 10:11 AM
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