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Defending Our Republic: Reforming Our Universities

November 21, 2010

David Horowitz’s latest book, Reforming Our Universities, is above all a clarion call to action on the part of all who believe in the founding principles of the United States of America and wish to preserve it as founded.  That is to say that there are forces intent on transforming the U.S. into a European socialist-style nation, and that one of the most effective weapons in their arsenal is not just the domination of liberal arts faculties at American universities by leftist ideologues, but the way in which these professors often brazenly indoctrinate students into their belief systems without fear of reprisal by their administrators. Horowitz’s account of his seven-year campaign to have his Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) adopted by major universities and his very limited success in doing so to date is a cautionary one.  It is important for freedom-loving people to understand the sad state of affairs that exists at liberal arts colleges throughout the nation and the grave threat this poses to American exceptionalism. These institutions are training our future K-12 public and private school teachers, a fact that will, if academic freedom rights for university students remain unenforced, inculcate leftist principles into our nation’s youth and thereby ensure that our existing constitutional republic is radically altered, if not completely dismantled, in favor of the socialist model.

I would in fact argue (though I am by no means certain Horowitz would agree) that Barack Obama could not have been elected President, nor could the Democrat Party as currently constituted have achieved its recent dominance in Congress if it were not for the sorry state of American public education over the past 40 years and the increasing promotion of leftist ideas in our public schools.  These ideas, as Horowitz has demonstrated in The Professors and in One-Party Classroom,  are taught uncritically as accepted doctrine by many university professors, often in courses where such ideas are irrelevant to the subject matter at hand.  They are not settled facts, but highly controversial issues for which any responsible academic would expose students to opposing sides of the arguments and encourage students to evaluate the evidence and form their own opinions.  This is clearly not being done in far too many instances, and as Horowitz’s long battle illustrates, the situation is being perpetuated by the dominance of radical leftists on university faculties and teacher unions and their intimidation of administrators.

Herein lies another important lesson of Horowitz’s campaign for ABOR and the massive resistance and campaign of misinformation waged against it everywhere he has attempted to encourage its adoption:  leftists will relentlessly attack and misrepresent what has been essentially a basic tenet of liberal education since 1915, when it was officially promulgated by the American Association of University Professors.  That basic principle is simply a commitment to professional standards based upon the scientific method, without regard to religious or political orthodoxies.  One might well ask why institutions which ostensibly support this principle would fight so hard against the adoption of Horowitz’s ABOR, which simply codifies this idea and explicitly secures academic freedom rights to students.  The answer is an unpleasant but obvious one:  the leftists who now dominate the vast majority of university liberal arts faculties have no interest in dispassionate inquiry into these controversial matters.  Rather, they seek to break away from the model of the modern research university and return to a secular version of the American university as it existed prior to the second half of the nineteenth century – as a means to instill religious doctrine.  Their religious doctrine is their radical leftist orthodoxy, in which the United States is a racist, sexist, homophobic, imperialist force of evil in the world.

Horowitz recounts in the introduction the depressing fact that no major conservative policy organization supported his campaign, and further, that it was ignored by such notable conservative intellectual journals as National Review and the Weekly Standard.  He attributes this to a general discomfort among conservatives regarding organized movements and in particular, institutional reform campaigns.  Further, he notes a general aversion among conservatives for arousing the ire of the intellectual establishment and inviting ad hominem attacks.  I’d add to this that the Republican Party leadership has exhibited this same aversion over the last 20 years, allowing the abuses of the political left to remain unchecked, and to in fact intensify.  Hence we find ourself at this critical juncture in American history.

Reforming Our Universities does provide, however, in its account of Horowitz’s hard-won ABOR campaign successes, a blueprint for continued progress.  Conservatives in general and the Republican Party in particular must make the enforcement of student academic freedom rights on university campuses a priority.  Without grass-roots support along the lines of the Tea Party, and continued pressure upon Republican Party leaders to support the adoption of ABOR-supportive resolutions within state legislatures, the effort to have our universities re-embrace the modern research university model will fail.  To be clear – Horowitz explicitly rejects the idea of legislative control of curricula – what he is suggesting is that pressure be brought to bear on the many good people within university administrations to adopt and enforce a set of academic freedom rights for students.  The story of Horowitz’s noble campaign and his detailed accounting of the obstacles he has faced and overcome in its course suggests that with wide public support for these reforms and subsequent pressure on university trustees and administrators, much greater success can in fact be achieved.  If we wish to preserve this nation as founded, conservatives must get involved and aggressively advocate for this reform.  It is a battle we must fight and win.

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