Most have heard reports about the outrages in our schools: Ward Churchill writing that the 9/11 victims were “little Eichmanns”; 1960s terrorist, now professor of education, William Ayers addressing high school and college students; Al Gore propagandizing via his film An Inconvenient Truth in classrooms; and now President Barack Obama wanting to get elementary school children to scrutinize themselves on how they are fulfilling what he “asks” them to do.
I’d like to say these are exceptions, but after nearly two decades in education, I have to say that they are the tips of icebergs that aren’t melting.
Most of the public is unaware of how deep the ideology is. They are apt to dismiss the situation as being that of one or two professors that Johnny needs to deal with until the day he has a well-paying job and never needs to read “literature” again and be beaten over the head with illustrations of how his ilk have oppressed others. Many parents even think of the terms “academic freedom” and “social justice” as noble concepts.
Now that they have had four decades to take over the campuses, the radical Ph.D.s prop their Birkenstocked feet upon their large desks, until someone dares to question their “expertise.” Rushing to their computers, they then splutter out their invectives against assaults on their “academic freedom.”
Doug Steward, associate director of programs at the monopolistic Modern Language Association (MLA) and Association of Departments of English (ADE), is typical. He is upset about the intrusions by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), the National Association of Scholars, and David Horowitz. Writing in MLA’s Profession 2008, he accuses ACTA of “subordinat[ing] the systematic pursuit of truth and knowledge by thousands of highly trained and certified experts to the personal opinion of a tiny number of wealthy persons.” The “highly trained and certified experts” are the humanities and social science scholars “trained to make complex judgments about human values.”
Receiving little outside scrutiny, these “experts” grant each other degrees, offer each other recommendations, invite each other to conferences where they favorably quote each other in papers, publish each other’s books, hire each other at conventions, and promote each other to tenure where they enjoy rarely seen power and job security.
ACTA works to expose these goings-on with reports and surveys. They educate and encourage trustees who likely work in the real world. They educate alumni who may be under the illusion that professors at their alma mater still teach the sonnet form, when in reality they teach about Shakespeare’s “sexualities.” In short, they provide a critical check on the protected professors who believe that their “expert opinion” should be immune to scrutiny and criticism.
ACTA now has a new guide to colleges that surveys their requirements in core areas like composition, U.S. government and history, economics, and foreign languages. The dominant U.S. News and World Report guide categorizes by reputation, without regard to what is actually being taught. The fact that U.S. News and World Report quoted favorably a student’s paean to the fraud and communism-monger Bill Ayers indicates its limitations. Another guide put out by Washington Monthly grades schools on non-intellectual criteria, like the recruitment of low-income students, emphasis on “service,” and production of “cutting-edge scholarship” and Ph.D.s (which means wacky, radical theories and little emphasis on teaching).
ACTA’s report What Will They Learn? has received much publicity in the mainstream press because, program director Charles Mitchell says, “We’re saying something that’s true.”
But desperation has been evident in counterattacks. Steward described ACTA as part of “anti-intellectual movements” that “seek not merely to exercise the right to critique how universities run their affairs but to put the stopper on controversial scholarship and teaching, to defund institutions sheltering controversial professors, and to institute a kind of academic unfreedom [sic] closely monitored by trustees, governors, alumni, legislators, parents, and affluent think tanks.”