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.”
One of the “controversial professors” Steward cites is Ward Churchill. Appropriately, ACTA published a booklet called How Many Ward Churchills?
Of course, most professors do not go so far as to call the 9/11 victims “little Eichmanns.” Instead, they use postmodern jargon to convey their contempt for bourgeois Americans. One fellow instructor at the University of Georgia a couple of days after that fateful day told me that he had provided historical context for his freshman composition students with descriptions of assaults against Muslims by the West from the Crusades and on. This was not an unusual way to provide context to college freshmen about the “tragic” day.
Another enemy of Steward is David Horowitz because of his “so-called Academic Bill of Rights,” which “purports to ensure ideological balance on university faculties by stripping the faculty of the right to choose whom to hire based solely on the person’s professional qualifications and the institution’s educational goals.” Were hiring decisions really based on “professional qualifications,” we would not face politically lopsided faculties; surveys consistently show at best a ten percent representation of conservatives or Republicans in the humanities.
Of course, in Steward and company’s estimation, their own work is entirely intellectual — having declared themselves “experts” who teach from a completely objective position. Accusing ACTA of “guilt by association” for suggesting that Churchill “represents faculty members’ lack of rigor,” Steward takes the organization to task for not visiting the classrooms and for “having no one on staff with expertise in native studies.” But he also considers the purview of “highly trained and certified experts” to lie in “social injustice, domestic violence, monolingualism, white power, jingoism, xenophobia, male supremacy, slavery, racism, poverty, homophobia, misogyny, orientalism, genocide, spread-eagle foreign policy, and third world exploitation.”
Steward gives away his ideology also in another sentence where he justifies the study of racism: “Scholars in the humanities and social sciences do not promote, for example, the beliefs of racism in their courses, because their professional study of the subject matter, to which they dedicate their lives, has led them to conclude that racism is a set of human values and practices worthy of opposition.” Fair enough, I say, as do all the other conservatives I know (although we do not take credit for “dedicating our lives” and instead give due to those who do — soldiers). Steward goes on to say that students studying The Tempest “need to know something about colonialism’s history.”
The student will get the ideological left-wing perspective from his textbooks. He will not get from Steward and his like-minded colleagues any mention about such things as African slavery or warfare between Native American tribes, or anything about the American founders that have given them the freedoms they enjoy and abuse.
Indeed, Steward’s pompous invective illustrates the American founders’ wisdom in recognizing the need for the separation of powers. It is in desperate need in the academy, which is ruled by ideological totalitarians who cover their intellectual vacuity with bombast.
Too many still accept academic titles as evidence of expertise. Do not be fooled. These are the people who have argued for replacing Latin with Spanish and sign language, for eliminating Old and Middle English, for replacing Shakespeare with multicultural “texts” written at the fifth-grade level, for teaching children’s books as literature, and for instituting “cultural studies.”
In fact, these are the people arguing for eliminating writing itself. They teach film, video gaming, and graphic novels (essentially comic books). In fact, one of the contributors to MLA’s Profession 2008 is Marjorie Garber, whose academic title says it all: “William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and Visual and Environmental Studies and director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University.”
ACTA’s report is a start. Those who care about education and the future should be concerned with what colleges require of their students. While its assignment of a “B” to my alma mater UGA is good for noting the requirement of freshman composition that presumably advances written papers (not something to be taken for granted today), it cannot go into what individual instructors and graduate students teach. I have been privy to those conversations where 23-year-old graduate students openly describe their efforts to divest the “little kiddies” of the religious and patriotic beliefs they bring with them from their small towns in Georgia. I’ve also been to professional conferences where panelists distribute sample syllabi that illustrate how to make freshman composition focus on Latino studies and how to use the classroom for social justice “activism.” Textbooks that I have been required to use in the public colleges in Georgia have in so many ways distorted history and promoted leftist ideology.
As important is what is left out, and that includes a factual presentation of the numbers killed under the ideologies these professors promote and the fact that our founders, for all their common human failings, pledged their “lives and sacred honor” to establishing a republic that recognized the truly radical notion that rights emanate from God. Unlike the professors, they did not assign themselves a special “expertise” in “human values.” Instead, they saw their fellow man as created equal and endowed by God with the power of reason.
That, I think, is the real reason these professors would like to wipe out organizations like ACTA that promote the idea that it is necessary to teach such history.