David Horowitz judged the teaching methods practiced by some Temple professors when he spoke on campus last week.
Horowitz co-wrote One-Party Classroom, a book accusing college and university curriculums of implementing political agendas in classrooms and enforcing left-wing beliefs onto their students. He devotes a chapter in the book to Temple titled “Temple of Conformity.”
Known for avidly opposing American liberalism, Horowitz visited Temple Thursday. Throughout the event, his voice maintained the attention of nearly 200 students, as well as a handful of interested faculty and three police officers who were present to control the crowd.
Horowitz began describing his quest for “academic freedom,” in which teachers should teach “with a diversity of viewpoint.”
Horowitz said Temple’s music department enforces liberal views to students, the women’s studies program “rams feminism down [students’] throats,” and “the race department is political garbage.”
“If [students] go through four years at Temple as an African-American studies major and come out with a B.A. in afrocentricity, you have been robbed of the opportunity to have an actual education,” he said. “Temple’s administration and faculty is intimidated to say this, but their race department is racist and an idiotic ideology.”
Temple College Republicans invited Horowitz to speak. Brian McGovern, the president of the College Republicans, said he is familiar with Temple’s left-wing agenda and described “horror stories” he’s experienced with certain instructors.
“My first day of class spring semester of freshman year, I was kicked out of [Intellectual Heritage] 52 for arguing with a professor who said America was a fascist nation,” he said. “And she told me to get out of her class, and I said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll never be back.’ I dropped [the class] that afternoon.”
Horowitz stressed Temple, as well as many other schools, is teaching students what to think instead of how to think, basing his information on class syllabi, lesson plans through Temple’s Web site and informational handbooks.
When asked if has he ever spoken to teachers he wrote about in his book or if he attended any of Temple’s classes, he replied with honesty.
“No, I haven’t,” he said, “but I haven’t been to Iran, either, to know that it’s a horrible and oppressive place.”
Dr. Keith Gumery, director of assessment and planning for the English department, said he disagreed with Horowitz’s claims.
Gumery said Horowitz manipulates context in an effort to make his point.
“David Horowitz, in this book and elsewhere, cherry-picks sentences, or even parts of sentences, to make his points,” Gumery said.
In his book, Horowitz wrote that Temple’s First-Year Writing Program uses gender roles in a biased manner that “overwhelmingly reflects only one [radical] perspective on what is admittedly a controversial issue…namely, radical feminists and radical agitators.”
Susan Wells, director of the writing program, said the curriculum encourages open discussion, and said it’s Horowitz’s book that is one-sided.
“He thinks that we’re teaching people about gender roles, and that’s wrong,” she said. “We’re not sociologists. We’re teaching people about writing while responding critically.”
Students from Temple and other area schools compared the event to a talk show.
“I felt like I was watching The View with all the screaming back-and-forth,” said Kate Barns, a sophomore health science major from Drexel University.
Before Horowitz arrived on campus, 20 students waited outside the Student Center in the anticipation of a fight. They held signs in protest that read: “Diversity University, Temple U for U,” “No Party Classroom” and “America was Built of Dissent.”
Many were stunned, however, when Horowitz expressed his empathy toward the LGBTQI community and told the protesting students he strongly believes in equal rights for them.
After Horowitz spoke, students peppered him with questions, some of which he said he found obnoxious. He threatened to leave three times during the event after “feeling disrespected.”
One student interrupted Horowitz because he was going away from the question she asked. He then interrupted her, and in return she made a sarcastic remark back, to which he replied: “I hope your children aren’t snot-nosed like you are.”
This prompted another student to stand up and offer his opinion.
“By intimidating [Horowitz] and disrespecting him, you have effectively proven his point,” the student said.
But to others in attendance, Horowitz’s points consisted of weak evidence and biased views. According to Temple’s Student and Faculty Academic Rights and Responsibilities, “The faculty member is expected to train students to think for themselves and to provide them access to those materials, which they need if they are to think intelligently.”
Horowitz said he believes teachers’ class-biases result in students’ academic-deficit, which limits their educations.
“The courses at Temple are devoted to indoctrinating [its students],” he said.
Wells called the book a rehearsal of Horowitz’s January 2006 testimony to the Pennsylvania House Subcommittee on Higher Education. During the testimony, he spoke about Temple’s First-Year Writing Program. The court rebutted his testimony, which Wells believes mirrors the ideas of his book.
“Not a single part of the testimony influenced or changed any of his ideas,” she said. “He ignored all ideas presented.”
But some at the event said they believe the education system needs to be reformed.
“I’ve seen the change of education through my children, and I’m really concerned about it,” said real estate developer Connie Winters, a mother of four college graduates. “I do believe they are being indoctrinated. There is too much of a prevalent attitude that the liberal way is the only way.”
McGovern also recalled e-mails from Temple listservs from professors who asked for donations to support then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
Michael Nerozzi, a senior political science major, said he encountered similar experiences.
“I had a professor that basically told me the pharmaceutical industry was placing extra chemicals in their medications to get us sick just to buy their products,” he said.
Nerozzi said he thinks the general atmosphere of the school and environment is very liberal.
“Some of his thoughts in theory are good, but his whole notion that Temple is saturating us with what to think and how to think is not well-grounded,” said senior women’s studies major Kate Moriarty.
In order to gain feedback about classroom environments, academic departments encourage students to anonymously write feedback about their courses and instructors on the end-of-the-semester evaluation forms.
Wells said since 2006, there have not been any evaluations about a professor’s “left-wing political beliefs” making students uncomfortable.
“Recognizing a historical fact is not a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing,” Wells said. “In education, it’s just about learning while judging for yourself.”
Matt Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.