Home | Away

Meanwhile . . .

From the Pitt News at the University of Pittsburgh:

Bias hearings begin at Pitt

By BILAL MUHAMMAD
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 on 11/11 at 10:11 AM
  1. Since the NAS is self-avowedly right-leaning, conservative-identifying political advocacy group, didn’t someone ask Balch to just recuse himself and his entire group from advocating at that moment?

    Just sayin....

    Posted by DocMara  on  11/11  at  11:45 AM
  2. I’m confused.  I thought the purpose of universities was to equip people with the skills they need for an ever-changing global market—“an academic environment conducive to critical thinking and independent thought” would directly contradict that.

    Posted by Adam Kotsko  on  11/11  at  11:59 AM
  3. Most professors are liberal....Hmm...could it be that a connection exists among being a critical thinker, being educated, and and being liberal? Hmm.....

    Really, though, I am frustrated by students who take my requests for evidence and logos to be attacks on their ideology.

    Posted by ms lynch  on  11/11  at  01:23 PM
  4. Is Balch proposing some sort of affirmative-action based hiring advantage for conservative scholars?

    I understand the appeal, based on the terrible discrimination and treatment conservative ideas and thinkers have received in the past, to try and “right this wrong.” But doesn’t he realize this will ultimately infantilize them?  They’ll be forced to compete on a field they aren’t really on, and will no doubt cluter near the bottom of their fields.

    Perhaps some sort of Head Start program would be better, to provide much needed help to at-risk conservative scholars in pre-school.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  01:29 PM
  5. I started reading this thinking it was another parody news story.

    My smile faded as the punchline failed to emerge.  You mean these loons are SERIOUS???

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  01:29 PM
  6. holy cow.  my first thought is, exactly how intellectually pathetic does balch believe the university students of the great state of pennsylvania to be?  how did they get into these universities if they are only able to adopt the personal opinions of their teachers? 

    second thought:  the ideals of independent thinking and critical thought are essential to a basic liberal arts education—this is true for thinking people of all political stripes.  that is why every decent professor i ever met challenged students to think things through deeply, from various perspectives.  some professors were open about their own beliefs [usually presented as a disclaimer]—but they strongly invited other ideas, and rewarded genuine efforts in both promoting and challenging a particular line of thought.  some did not disclose their own beliefs, but provoked discourse and thought by throwing out different takes on a particular topic.  “devil’s advocate” questions were very common in my own education—undergrad and post-grad.  i can’t imagine the basic task of helping students think well has changed a whole lot since i left the academic realm.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  01:46 PM
  7. Bob, that’s not the half of it. From the comment thread on Pandagon in which Amanda Marcotte fisked that stupid piece by a Penn State junior:

    As for this assinine Berube screed, what a jackass. Just because there is equality doesn’t mean a guy can’t be “chivalrous”.... What an ignorant way to attack feminism, even for moron like Berube. I mean, it’s like he’s not even trying! The Repubs must be really slipping lately.

    In other words, Michael’s so deft at political satire that he gets credit these days even for the stuff he ends up satirizing. Now them there are some writing chops, my friends.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  11/11  at  01:49 PM
  8. thanks MB!

    and that ain’t the *half* of it! i was there. Balch is insane (also, he has this weird tick or something where he continually slaps one foot against the ground like he’s really mad, for the entire two or three hours he was speaking!)

    in addition to the evidence outlined in the article, he also “proved” his concerns were valid by conducting word-counts on websites and determining that “the word ‘diversity’ appears 3 billion times on the Temple University site, therefore LIBERAL BIAS!!!”

    and, he is really in love with quotes from 1915--but hey, who does NOT want to get back to THOSE good old days!?

    also, good luck if you are in Women’s Studies or Social Work, which are apparently liberal by virtue of their very existence! (unless your school of Social Work happens to “advocate” for social IN-justice, and to eliminate social programs--and, by extension, Social WORKERS--in which case i guess they would be A-OK then. i’m pretty sure that Women’s Studies is irredemiable.)

    it was tough to sit quietly for that long.

    (actually, i didn’t. some of the students got rowdy, and then i took my chance to complain about the apparent plans to BORE us into submission with a PowerPoint we couldn’t even see, while looking at the back of a man we could not hear, and having no idea of the schedule for the day, just so the PCNC cameras could prove that regular people attended. this made one of The Suits very mad, but it did result in many of us getting copies of the materials that had been provided to the Very Diverse Select Committee of entirely white men, but NOT to any of us.)

    Balch’s junk is also up online, if you’d like to see how many of Penn State’s Profs gave more than $200 to Dems, Republicans or Libertarians (as well as how NOT to put together a PowerPoint Pres.)

    sorry to go on so long--but i’m mad, and, actually, slightly freaked out!

    here’s the Pitt kids story on Day Two:
    http://www.pittnews.com/vnews/
    display.v/ART/2005/11/11/43742398e539b

    the possible good news, though, is that the only legislators who spoke seemed to agree that this whole thing is a farce (except for the sponsor of the bill, who looks like a Nazi Ken Doll, and who did not even BOTHER to listen to most of the counter-presentation on the first day--he took off after Balch was done and was AWOL for like an hour. guess he had something better to do.) but i’m also guessing that the Repub/supporters of this thing did not bother to speak. maybe they gave their questions to the Sponsor, who obviously had set-up a whole series of “i’ll ask you this, and then you answer THAT,” staged q’s for Balch to “answer” with handy graphs that just happened to be right there on his table.)

    yoy. and, double yoy!

    Posted by Librarian  on  11/11  at  02:29 PM
  9. good comment, librarian!

    chris, that link seriously freaks me out.  i don’t even know where to start.

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  02:35 PM
  10. Oh Chris, that confused comment on Pandagon is *hiilarious*.  Even funnier, when someone straightened him out he said “oops.... I quickly followed the link to his site (hadn’t ever seen it before ) and got his picture mixed up with a smiliar one on a right wing moron blog site”.  That picture of PD up there on the main page is totally making my procrastination-filled day!

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  11/11  at  03:03 PM
  11. If this is a witch-hunt for intelligent liberal secularists, it should be opposed; if this is to rid Pennsylvania of postmods and maoists, fly on the daddy-o, my patriotic brothas

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  03:23 PM
  12. I too thought/hoped this was satire.  Upon realizing that it wasn’t, I went to the Daily Collegian and found this:

    http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2005/11/11-11-05tdc/11-11-05dnews-12.asp

    I have 2 comments:

    1.  Perhaps critics of “Marxist” and “postmodernist” theory should actually read some.  In so doing they may learn: (a) these are not actually the same thing; (b) much postmodern theory is critical of Marixsm; and (c) according to some Marxists, there are elements of pomo theory that are very conservative.

    2.  Michael, you have much more of a sense of humor about the YAFfers et al than I do, and I admire you for it.  (BTW, the new pic on your page sent me into fits of giggles.) --maggie

    Posted by Maggie May  on  11/11  at  03:33 PM
  13. "(BTW, the new pic on your page sent me into fits of giggles.)”

    Same here. Have you been eating a lot of corn lately?

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  03:57 PM
  14. Oh good lord that article Maggie May linked to quoted one of the YAFers saying Penn State should include more “classes taught from a Western perspective,” including Greek and Roman political thought, medieval studies and the Enlightenment.

    Sigh.

    Although part of me wishes I lived in a world where students were actually, truly clamoring for medieval studies courses (I teach medieval English lit), I don’t want it this way!  And ugh, why do they always assume that teaching the past is inherently conservative?!  Or that the teachers of it are also therefore conservative?

    That’s the problem with this whole witch-hunt:  too many people assuming that you are what you teach.  Or that you teach what you vote.  Too many overly simple and sometimes downright false assumptions of correlation.

    OK, I think my head just exploded.

    Posted by Dr. Virago  on  11/11  at  04:12 PM
  15. And ugh, why do they always assume that teaching the past is inherently conservative?!

    I think the problem with you history professors is precisely that you dwell way too much on teaching the past.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  11/11  at  04:16 PM
  16. "Perhaps critics of “Marxist” and “postmodernist” theory should actually read some.”

    Oh yass, there are humans--enve non-marxists, I would wager-- who would rather have The German Ideology or Capital taught--and debated, critiques, refuted--in college courses than to permit the hyperbolic, irrational bric-a-brac of “Of Grammatology” to enter the hallowed halls of academia; economic materialism is at least a claim, as are the various political and economic critiques which follow from it. Marxism is, though most leftist won’t admit it, a type of empiricism, and capable of refutation--I’m not ashamed to have a copy of Marx and Engels’ writings around. Of Grammatology, on the other hand, functions far more pragmatically than do M & E texts: paper kindling for campfires, stash dope in, doorstop, Charmin replacement, etc.

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  04:38 PM
  17. Marxism is, though most leftist won’t admit it, a type of empiricism, and capable of refutation

    Huh?

    I’ve got news for you, my little ranid friend. I’ve been hanging out with leftists for oh, I dunno, since the Nixon Administration. I have met, known, lived with, slept with, argued with, and eaten with leftists every day since then. And of all the leftists I’ve met in those years, the proportion that think Marxism is “incapable of refutation” is… well, I could give you his address.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  11/11  at  04:42 PM
  18. History should balance teaching the past with teaching the glorious future.

    Posted by mikez  on  11/11  at  04:44 PM
  19. The Troll of Sorrow: the irrefutable argument against unlimited free speech.

    Posted by Adam Kotsko  on  11/11  at  04:51 PM
  20. I’ve known quite a few lefties as well and do not think that it’s unfair to claim that for many--not all--Marxism is taken as a type of political dogma. You want examples? Point your browser to those wacky Zizekean marxists and Lacanians now featured at the Long Sunday cyber-sanitorium, or any numner of other marxist blogs.

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  04:54 PM
  21. Why don’t you suck my cock, Paddy Skokie O’Sunday-school, eh? You know as little about Marx as you do about logic or philosophy in toto.  Stick to your cate-jizm.

    Posted by MT  on  11/11  at  04:57 PM
  22. Does anybody know how to contact Balch?  I’d like to give him the email address of an ex-professor of mine who was so dedicated to his conservative ideas that simply being a female student was treated as a direct threat, punishable by public verbal assaults and grade deflation.  He’d like that guy.

    Posted by Heocwaeth  on  11/11  at  05:40 PM
  23. Isn’t there some way of attacking the loose interpretation of the word “liberal” which has caused it to become almost strictly, if not, indeed, entirely a political adjective?  Whatever happened to the more understandable and more acceptable concept of open-mindedness (which is essential in a learning environment along with the ability to nake mature distinctions)?  Or, asking you experts in languages, is there no way of saving a language from contamination by the over-usage of imposed new meanings?

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  06:00 PM
  24. In other words, Michael’s so deft at political satire that he gets credit these days even for the stuff he ends up satirizing. Now them there are some writing chops, my friends.

    Why, thank you, Chris my friend.  But I might as well come clean—I did write that “pro-chivalry” editorial in the Daily Collegian under a pseudonym.  I thought it would be funny, a kind of parody of an inept emulation of Leon Kass’s recent essay on the same subject.  Sorry I didn’t say so earlier.  11/11 is Unacknowledged Satire Day among my people.

    And Jason, if I can find a Maoist I’ll kick him (or her!) out of Pennsylvania and send him (or her!) right your way.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/11  at  06:18 PM
  25. "Wow, it’s a whole new evidentiary standard!  A preponderance of liberal professors, in and of itself, is grounds for state action.  Most interesting!”

    This sounds too familiar.  Something about choosing judges in criminal cases in Texas echoes in my thoughts.  Oh that’s right; if you are a financial contributor to the Democratic Party you cannot be allowed to judge.  Well at least can’t be allowed to manage the criminal trial of Tom DeLay!  With syllogisms like these who needs witchhunts??

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  06:46 PM
  26. That’s the whole point, however quotidian it may be. The liberal or leftist who works with data and confirmable ideas/methodologies can demonstrate the relevance of his work to administrators ; the postmod says that issue is not meaningful, and is pitched the F out.

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  06:54 PM
  27. Mr Toad, are you saying that empiricism is the only version of knowledge we should make available in our classes?  That does away with much of the philosophical tradition, yes?  It’s not only “postmodernists” who complain about the limits of empiricism.  Should Plato be “pitched the F out”, for example?

    Posted by Maggie May  on  11/11  at  07:03 PM
  28. How might one go about verifying the methodology itself?  Presumably the attempt would require a methodology, which itself would need verification, leading to infinite regress.

    Posted by Adam Kotsko  on  11/11  at  07:05 PM
  29. As indicated earlier, I largely agree with Quine’s points regarding truth as “synthetic a posteriori,” and requiring that statements/theories be subjected to domain-wide confirmation as specified in “Two Dogmas.” That’s not “methodology” per se, that’s updated empiricism and it describes how research works. There are no good grounds for denying the efficacy of scientific materialism (at least in terms of applicable knowledge), and ethics and politics should follow from that perspective (and does, except for postmods or theists). Russell once yawped something like “better a day with Newton than a year with Plato” and this is not entirely mistaken, however unpleasing it may sound to aesthetes.

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  07:41 PM
  30. Balch’s evidence may be viewed here:
    http://www.nas.org/reports/Balch_PA_Reps/pa_legisl_statmt.pdf

    presumably you can also send him email via this site?

    Posted by  on  11/11  at  07:46 PM
  31. And it’s amusing how so-called philosophy people find Quinean nominalism and the “synthetic a priori” so radical and troublesome, when in fact Aristotle himself asserted that the premises of his categorical syllogisms were to be confirmable (sound)-- verification from 2400 years ago. Doesn’t Kant also specify that real knowledge of phenomena requires acquaintance with the objects of perception? He also distinguishes this type of knowledge--the basis of physical science-- from the far more speculative knowledge of “noumena.” That’s empiricism, bayby. But most postmods or lit. people do a spit-take with their lattes when they hear that Kant was an empiricist: even when someone shows them the section in the 1st critique (under Transcendental Analytic ich weisse).

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  08:21 PM
  32. that is, Quinean nominalism and the “synthetic a posteriori”

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/11  at  08:22 PM
  33. Toad, I think it’s interesting that you fundamentally agree with the Republicans that the University needs to be purged of undesireable intellectual currents.  You may identify the enemy to be purged slightly differently, but you agree that a purge is a good thing.

    Frankly, i disagree.  I think the marketplace of ideas needs to work things out by itself, through argumentation and discussion, allowing truth to conquer naturally, rather than by imposition and the removal of its presumed enemies.  I’m not very big on postmodernism myself, but i think they deserve to stake their claim, and defend it as do the rest of us.  I find the notion that the intellectual commons should be purged of undesireables by force of law to be frankly quite alarming, no matter who the so-called undesireables are.

    Posted by Zenji  on  11/12  at  08:57 AM
  34. Wall, if I was part of the Penn. Ministry of Information, the Pitt. or Penn. Duma as it were, and had a vote on any purges, I’d have fundies or Catholic croppies or Islamic idjits purged too.  Bring on the Logocracy. Welcome to Russellville, and please visit the Virtual Museum of Instantiation on Integral Tree Lane…

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/12  at  11:42 AM
  35. That’s a trifle reductionist perhaps. Here’s how to settle it: let the accused professors play chess against the accusing administrators. Even Sartre pushed some mean pawns they say. There were some marxists who spieled a decent game of schach, Trotsky and VI Lenin included.

    Posted by Mister Toad  on  11/12  at  12:08 PM
  36. probably the coda, expecting nothing other than silence:

    back in 2001, several days after 9/11, at my university in the midwest, I had to give a before-everyone speech in thanks for the teaching award I received, and I said something banal about the glories of a liberal arts education. You know.

    The wife of the provost—the wife of the provost—accosted me at the reception to wail, “You are responsible for the death of all those babies in the planes!” She was in tears.

    The mention of “liberal.”

    That’s when I started wondering how to worry appropriately. If “liberal” in “liberal arts” causes such response....

    The wife of the provost.

    I make even more time in class now to discuss the slow fineries of definition, context, and thought. Carefully but flamboyantly.

    Posted by  on  11/12  at  01:13 PM
  37. Well, a day late, she had a point—after all, many of the 9/11 hijackers were liberal arts majors.

    No, wait, they were engineers.  Hold the phone.  You would have been within your rights to say, “I’m sorry, Mrs. Provost (if that indeed is your real name), but I find your remark profoundly offensive.  I suggest you take a few days to reconsider it, and to think about what kind of apology you might offer for blaming me for anyone’s death.” I find that one always works!

    Posted by Michael  on  11/12  at  10:56 PM

Name:

Email:

Location:

URL:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:


<< Back to main