Coming to a campus near you: melodrama, paranoia and hypocrisy. One part controversy plus one part melodrama gives you the conservative take on modern-day colleges. I agree there is a liberal bias in higher education, but is it actually “dangerous?” And does this bias interfere with learning?
The complaint is that Temple is too liberal; on a broader scope, all of academia is too liberal. According to conservatives, not only is there a liberal majority, but colleges are indoctrinating their students with liberal, anti-American propaganda. One conservative brought his concern to national attention in the form of a book. David Horowitz’s The Professors charges, among 99 others, two Temple professors of being dangerous liberals. The Professors has to be one of the most paranoid books ever printed; Horowitz seems short of wielding a torch and pitch fork, screaming, “Lock up your children!”
The individuals he actually accuses, the supposed, “terrorists, racists and communists,” are anybody who questioned America’s principles or history, largely minorities. Seriously, McCarthy is dead and so is the red scare; so get over it already. As for these racists, they are only racist against whites and Jews; where are all the white supremacists? As for the “terrorists,” some did seem a bit extreme, but Horowitz even included those who were simply against the war and made it known.
While flipping through the book, two particularly pathetic examples of “dangerous” professors caught my attention. Mark Becker from Truman State University opposes celebrating Columbus Day; that is what makes him dangerous. Even I oppose celebrating Columbus Day and it’s on my birthday. It’s a sick choice for a national holiday, not to mention misleading and inaccurate. Thomas Castellano, from the Rochester Institute of Technology, developed the “Dirty Harry Syndrome,” or America’s acceptance of vigilantism, which is entirely valid. His bigger crime, though, was applying it to George W. Bush and the “war on terrorism,” again, perfectly valid. So naturally, they’re both anti-American. Scratch that – let’s just call them terrorists. It’s scarier.
Regardless, more important than what they advocate is this key question: Does that advocacy really harm the students? This “danger” theory paints students as extremely passive sponges with too little brainpower to question the information they are being fed. I can speak for us all when I say: Thanks for the vote of confidence. Seriously, do we seem that dense?
I have experienced two greatly different academic worlds – the conservative and the liberal, Temple being the latter. I have been one of many, but I have also been one of three atheists in a room of 40 people who all believed in the Christian God.
I wasn’t afraid to voice my opinion in either circumstance and I have seen students here at Temple raise their hands and voice their opinions when they were that one of three people in the minority opinion. In fact, most professors I have encountered encourage debate and want to hear all 30 different opinions, but time constraints and lack of student enthusiasm precluded them.
The conservatives who claim this liberal bias have developed an Academic Bill of Rights, which advocates, “Academic freedom consists in protecting the intellectual independence of professors, researchers and students …” and “intellectual diversity.” These are the same conservatives who are attacking liberal professors for voicing their opinions. They are supposed to encourage many different types of opinions, yet they don’t want anyone who disagrees with America’s accepted values and beliefs. But that’s not hypocritical at all.
In answer to the aforementioned questions, I answer vehemently, no. Dangerous is when a certain kind of opinion is silenced. Learning is stunted when people stop having their beliefs challenged. I don’t know who said it first, but a person can’t know what he believes in if he has never defended it.
Ashley Helaudais can be reached at email@example.com.