[sixties-l] Policing the academy (fwd)

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Date: Sun Dec 02 2001 - 19:37:30 EST

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    Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2001 13:59:29 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Policing the academy

    Policing the academy


    A growing campaign for patriotic correctness on campus

    By Eric Alterman

    Nov. 29 -- America's response to the terrorist attacks has been a mixed
    bag. The war is going at least as well as anyone predicted, but the home
    front has given plenty cause for concern. The FBI has no good leads on the
    anthrax threats and murders. Attorney General John Ashcroft wants to take
    this opportunity to do away with a bunch of pesky Constitutional
    protections, while Congress plans to use it to give billions away to
    wealthy corporations and individuals. With all of these candidates,
    therefore, you might never guess that "the weak link in America's response
    to the attack" is actually the nation's corps of college professors.
    THAT'S THE WORD from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), an
    organization founded by Second Lady Lynne Cheney which also boasts the
    enthusiastic support of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe
    Lieberman. The danger arises from the fact, as Saturday's New York Times
    also noted, that people on campus are saying things that have the potential
    to warp their young minds and weaken the war effort. The offenses include
    such clear and present dangers as the observation that the United States
    "should "build bridges and relationships, not simply bombs and walls,"
    (Jesse Jackson at Harvard Law School); that the United States should bring
    Osama Bin Laden "before an international tribunal on charges of crimes
    against humanity," (Joel Benin, professor of history at Stanford
    University); and "Ignorance breeds hate," (Wasima Alikhan of the Islamic
    Academy of Las Vegas).
                              POLICING THE ACADEMY
    Mrs. Cheney, listed as chair emeritus on the organization's masthead, has
    made a career of just this kind of thing. Before her husband became vice
    president, she earned her stripes as a loyal ideological soldier in the
    army of patriotic correctness by policing the academy for any sign of
    disloyalty among faculty, and then taking to the airwaves, the op-ed pages,
    and eventually, bookstores to decry the threat facing America and its
    youth. Her most significant campaign came in 1994, when a set of National
    History Standards were published with National Endowment of the Humanities
    funding. The new standards were developed after more than two years of
    meetings involving 6,000 teachers, administrators, scholars, and parents,
    along with 35 organizations, ranging from the American Association of
    School Librarians to the National Council for the Social Studies. Cheney
    had headed the NEH under President George H.W. Bush when the original grant
    was made, and went on the warpath against the carefully balanced and
    reasoned document. She told ABC News that the proposed standards were a
    "disaster." She authored a vituperative Wall Street Journal column
    declaiming the standards were a sell-out to feminism, reverse-racism and
    political correctness. These charges were picked up by the likes of Rush
    Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, John Leo, and then trumpeted in Time and
    Almost everything on this subject that Cheney claimed to be true turned out
    to be false. Professor Gary Nash of UCLA, one of the principal authors of
    the history standards, responded to Cheney's charge that they had
    deliberately downplayed the achievements of "dead white European males" in
    order to trumpet those of women and minorities, by counting up their number
    of mentions for each. It turned out that the hated DWEM received over 700
    citations, "many times the grand total of all women, African Americans,
    Latinos, and Indians individually named." The New York Times blasted
    Cheney's deliberate "misrepresentation." Reviewing her book, "Telling the
    Truth," the conservative libertarian magazine Reason called it, "a dizzying
    whirlwind of innuendo and invective." But that obviously did nothing to
    damage the credentials of Cheney among top Republicans, and perhaps most
    importantly, top Republican funders.
                              CONSERVATIVE CRUSADE
    Cheney and ACTA, however are hardly alone in their crusade to enforce a
    conservative line in the academy. The organization Accuracy in Academia is
    doing its own police work, bemoaning on its Web site the fact that a
    Columbia University philosophy major named George Melillo, would mourn
    "indiscriminately the loss of all human lives, terrorist and civilian,"
    while UC-Berkeley student Teddy Miller suggested dropping food and
    electronic goods on Afghanistan instead of bombs." The ideological warrior
    David Horowitz is also devoting his Web site to the political cleansing of
    our university system of views with which he and his funders do not agree.
    Under the headline "The Enemy Within," Horowitz's Web site, FrontPage
    offers up its critique of what it terms "A shameful roster of traitors,
    cowards, defeatists and fifth-columnists flourishing in America's
    heartland." Among the most dangerous are those "campus defeatists." After
    reporting on a North Carolina teach-in where a variety of antiwar views
    were heard, the Web site advised its readers to "Tell the good folks at
    UNC-Chapel Hill what you think of their decision to allow anti-American
    rallies on their state-supported campus."
                              CONSERVATIVE KIDS
    There is a great deal of irony to be found in the midst of all this
    excitement. In the first place, recent polls of college students
    demonstrate that they are pretty conservative and supportive of the war. So
    if their teachers are engaged in a covert plot to indoctrinate them into a
    dangerous leftist cult, it ain't working. Second, by staking out a fringe
    position designed to appeal to Republican ideologues, funders, and
    virtually no one else, these self-appointed scourges of groupthink are
    making themselves irrelevant to a battle that could be joined by moderates
    and liberals across America's campuses: the fight for free expression for
    both left and right. As an occasional temporary faculty member at local
    universities, I am constantly amazed that my students think it is enough to
    tell me that something in my lesson has "offended" them, and they do not
    care to even argue the point. This is anti-intellectualism at its most
    pristine, and it is enabled by cowardly administrators who have placed free
    speech at the bottom of a list of concerns that the university must defend
    below "diversity," "comfort" and "empowerment." Many faculty members would
    be eager to join in such a fight on behalf of genuine freedom of expression
    on campus, for it is sorely needed.
    America is in no danger of disloyalty from its campuses. The real danger is
    an enforced intellectual mediocrity; a dumbing-down that comes from
    mouthing platitudes to please political forces on both the right and the
    left. Mrs. Cheney and her allies who seek to police the political discourse
    on campus by declaring out of bounds any view with which they happen to
    disagree, are actually doing the work of their adversaries; proving that
    free speech is a little more than convenient slogan to be invoked only when
    the "right" side is losing. Talk about a Fifth Column^.
    Eric Alterman is a columnist for The Nation and regular contributor to MSNBC.

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