If the debate over academic freedom in higher education is a T-bone steak, it’s mostly fat.
The most recent example: Conservative activist David Horowitz’s recently released book The Professors, which is a guide to unmasking “The 101 Dangerous Academics in America.”
Horowitz, a nationally known conservative commentator who heads the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, is the driving force behind academic freedom inquiries across the country.
In Pennsylvania, Horowitz’s efforts in part – some would say in whole – contributed to the formation of a legislative committee that is prowling the state to see if professors are as outlandishly ideological as Horowitz and others claim. They’re not.
In his book, Horowitz targets two Temple profs, Melissa Gilbert and Lewis Gordon, as well as scholars at the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University, among others.
To make a long story short, Horowitz says the Temple professors are radical left-wingers who indoctrinate their students and smother debate – especially from the right side of the aisle. For the 99 other professors in the book, repeat.
Academia, as a whole, has long been regarded as a liberal bastion. And it is. Many professors, numerous studies have shown, regard themselves as progressive and contribute to liberal political candidates more than conservative ones.
But does that bleed over to the classroom in the form of indoctrination or coercion to the level Horowitz posits? No.
Academics, of course, defend their professional standards and say that they, regardless of their political bent, roundly promote classroom discussion.
Open dialogue, in the memory of great thinkers, is the way to attain the highest level of truth, they say. We agree, and would suggest that’s how scholars operate.
Smearing professors – all of them apparently liberal, according to Horowitz – without giving them an opportunity to respond is not the way to teach the truth or to solve the academic freedom debate.
In an interview with The Temple News a few months ago, Horowitz described an education as something that “should expose you to left and right. You should have multiple views.” Sadly, Horowitz’s book, which is in stores nationwide, does not live up to that creed.
Horowitz should bring more substance to the academic freedom discussion. Writing a book – especially one that weighs in at a portly 450 pages – that pounces on liberals but gives conservative professors a slide offers readers nothing healthy to bite into.