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Thursday, November 09, 2006

He. Who. Thursday

Hi folks!  I’m off to Chicago to give a pair of talks—one slightly humorous, one not funny at all.  Hope I don’t mix them up by mistake!  And you know what else?  The Chronicle of Higher Education is buying lunch for me and David Horowitz on Friday.  That should be a gas gas gas!  (Why did I agree to this, you ask?  Because I was bored!)

Coincidentally, the Chronicle is running an essay by David Horowitz this week (sub required).  (Hey!  What do I have to do to get my essay in print?  Last I heard, it was “in the pipeline.” Is that one of those Internets slang words?) In this essay, “After the Academic Bill of Rights,” David talks about his success, which, as I’ve noted before on this blog, is something David does no matter what, because it’s on page 18 of the playbook.  “When the sun goes down each night,” the text reads, “claim victory.” In this case, David writes, “no small part of my success can be attributed to my opponents’ tactics.” And since I am one of those opponents, David explains how my tactics have misfired:

My opponents have also consistently aimed their intellectual arrows at the wrong targets, allowing me to proceed with my agenda without any substantive opposition. In a September 17 article in The New York Times, for example, Michael Bérubé, a professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University, expressed concern about a legislative committee that I inspired, the Pennsylvania Committee on Academic Freedom, which held hearings in the state. He noted that during the hearings Penn State “revealed that it had received all of 13 student complaints about political ‘bias’ over the past five yearson a campus with a student population of 40,000.”

My response to that point? If there are just 13 abuses per campus at the top 100 universities, that would add up to 1,300 over five years. A study by the historian Lionel Lewis of academic persecutions during the McCarthy era (which, according to Lewis, lasted nine years) found only 126 faculty members involved in academic-freedom cases at 58 institutions nationally. Those cases led to an estimated 69 terminations, of which 31 were resignations at a single institution after it established a loyalty oath. Yet small as that number may appear among the thousands of universities and hundreds of thousands of professors, the author concluded, “It is apparent that their chilling effect on the expression of all ideas by both faculty and students was significant, although in fact there is no way to measure adequately their full impact.”

I think most people would concur: The chilling effect is the issue, not the absolute number, although each case is cause for concern. The real question is whether universities are set up to deal with such problems through established and well-publicized procedures.

Well, I can see three things wrong with this argument right away, but I’m packing my bags right now and don’t have time to elaborate.  Hey, I’ve got an idea!  Maybe you can explain what’s wrong with this argument for me.  That would be a Fun Game!  [Update: Dang, I really was blogging too fast while packing to leave!  I forgot to throw in the url of the New York Times essay which Horowitz cites here.  There, now check out what I say about those thirteen student complaints!]

Oh, and while we’re talking about Fun Games, is there anything you’d like me to say to David at lunch tomorrow?

Posted by Michael on 11/09 at 07:19 AM
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