American Historical Association and American Association of Colleges & Universities Oppose Acade · 09 January 2006

Filed under: Replies to Critics

David Horowitz Statement on the AHA Resolution:

I'm not surprised the AHA refused to condemn speech codes which are clear violations of the First Amendment. This shows the hypocrisy of the organization's claims to principle. The AHA resolution begins with a premise that is patently false -- the Academic Bill of Rights would not give government the power over curriculum, course content and/or faculty personnel decisions, as the resolution claims. In fact, the Academic Bill of Rights specifically and explicitly forbids the hiring, firing, promotion or denial of promotion of any professor for political/ideological reasons. The AHA resoluton then proceeds to an even more outrageously false claim, viz.,
that the Academic Bill of Rights would "impose political criteria in areas of educational policy." I will give $1,000 to the first member of the AHA who can cite a single sentence in the Academic Bill of Rights that would do this. Are these historians? Can they read English?

The AHA resolution is a pathetic display of ideological prejudice on the part of the small minority of apparently hysterical academics who attended the AHA business meeting to vote on this matter, and fully justifies the concerns that led to the drafting of the Academic Bill of Rights in the first place.

American Historical Association:
RESOLUTION OPPOSING ACADEMIC AND STUDENT BILLS OF RIGHTS AND SIMILAR REGULATIONS OF THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY

Whereas, So-called Academic and Student Bills of Rights legislation, investigations, and similar measures will give power over such matters as curriculum, course content, and faculty personnel decisions to governmental authorities and other agencies outside the faculty and administrations of institutions of higher learning; and

Whereas, Such measures would violate academic freedom and undermine professional standards by imposing political criteria in areas of educational policy that faculty members normally and rightly control; therefore, be it

Resolved, That the American Historical Association opposes the passage of Academic and Student Bills of Rights and all similar attempts to regulate the academic community.

David Horowitz Statement on the AACU Statement:

The AACU's concerns are misplaced. The Academic Bill of Rights explicitly (and in so many words) protects the rights of faculty to
their political views, and supports faculty control over the curriculum. It does not impose political criteria on academic institutions. On the contrary it opposes the imposition of any orthodoxy. It does not say, as the AACU claims, that students have the right to object to controversial matter introduced by their teachers. It merely reaffirms the AAUP's own doctrine that professors should not introduce into their classrooms controversial matter that is "irrelevant to the subject."

The AACU's reference to Intelligent Design is a red-herring. The Academic Bill of Rights says students should be exposed to 'the spectrum of significant scholarly opinion.' As I have stated and written on many occasions, Intelligent Design
is not a scientific theory and has no place in a biology curriculum. The Academic Bill of Rights does not call for "balance" on faculties or in the curriculum. The word does not appear in the Bill. That the academic left has to invent canards like this to oppose the Academic Rights just shows what desperate state they are in.


Press Release from the American Association of Colleges & Universities

Contact: Debra Humphreys
Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-387-3760 ext. 422
Humphreys@aacu.org

Focus Less on Political Views of Faculty and More on Teaching Students to Make Informed Judgments in the Face of Conflicting Views, New Statement on Academic Freedom Argues

Association of American Colleges and Universities Board of Directors Issues Statement on "Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility" and Calls for Shift in Focus of National Debates

Washington, DC-January 6, 2006-The Board of Directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities released today a statement on "Academic Freedom and Educational Responsibility." It will be the topic of discussion sessions at AAC&U's upcoming annual meeting, January 25-28 in Washington, DC. The statement argues that current debates about the personal political views of faculty members distract attention from a far more urgent challenge of providing a quality education that prepares all today's college students to succeed and make a difference in a complex world. The statement suggests that the "academic bill of rights" developed and promulgated by activist David Horowitz and proposed as legislation in several states "inappropriately invites political oversight of scholarly and educational work." Instead, the statement reaffirms the importance of protecting the academic freedom of faculty members to make judgments about curricula and guide students as they "acquire the learning they need to contribute to society."

While those arguing for the "academic bill of rights" suggest that the most important issue to address is whether competing ideas are presented to students, this statement argues that the more important challenge is to develop students' independent critical judgment so that they can evaluate and choose among the wide array of ideas and perspectives to which all college students are exposed. As the statement notes, "Teaching the debates is important, but by no means sufficient. It is also essential that faculty help students learn to engage differences of opinion, evaluate evidence, and form their own grounded judgments about the relative value of competing perspectives."

The statement observes further that "Students do not have a right to remain free from encountering unwelcome or 'inconvenient questions' ...[and] in considering what range of views should be introduced and considered, the academy is guided by the best knowledge available in the community of scholars."

Consistent with the views expressed by U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III in his recent ruling on the legal challenge to the policy of
teaching Intelligent Design in biology classes in Dover, Pennsylvania, the AAC&U statement suggests, "creationism, even in its modern guise as 'intelligent design,' has no standing among experts in the life sciences because its claims cannot be tested by scientific methods. However, creationism and intelligent design might well be studied in a wide range of other disciplinary contexts such as the history of ideas or the sociology of religion."

"Focusing on the balance of political opinions among faculty members draws attention away from the more important educational task of preparing students for the challenges they will face in the 21st century," said AAC&U president Carol Geary Schneider. "To do this, we must ensure that far more college students develop the analytic capacities and sense of social responsibility fostered by a liberal education. Today's students need to develop the skills of analysis and critical inquiry by exploring and evaluating competing claims and different perspectives under the guidance of experienced faculty members."

As the AAC&U statement notes, "Ensuring that college students are liberally educated is essential both to a deliberative democracy and to an economy dependent on innovation."

"The AAC&U board of directors believed that issuing a statement on this topic was important at this time because the current national debate on these issues has distracted the nation from the truly urgent issue of improving academic achievement for all students," said AAC&U board of directors chair, Ronald Crutcher, president of Wheaton College. "We simply do not see the purported crisis around intellectual diversity that some political activists have alleged. Instead, we believe that today's students are being exposed to a wide array of views on many important issues and that more and more campuses are working hard to ensure that their students achieve the sophisticated skills of analysis and problem solving they need for success in today's world."

The AAC&U board of directors statement was released online today. Printed copies will be available in March. The statement and a series of articles responding to it will appear in the spring issue of AAC&U's journal, Liberal Education.

See www.aacu.org/About/statements for the full text of the statement. See www.aacu.org/meetings/annualmeetingfor information about the meeting where the statement will be discussed.

________________________________

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,000 accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and
local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new
economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at www.aacu.org.