David Horowitz Pennsylvania Testimony · 10 January 2006

By David Horowitz--FrontPageMag.com--01/11/06

The organization Students for Academic Freedom has created a website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org with a bulletin board where students can post complaints about their classes and professors can respond. Here is a complaint from a Temple student about a course in the English Department. Remember this is listed in the Temple catalogue as a course in English literature:

This professor always had something negative to say not only about the Bush Administration, but about conservatives in general. She stated on one occasion that it is impossible to be a moral capitalist. She stated that the US does not have the right to say anything about the Taliban's record of oppressing women because the US oppresses women too. She said that Communism and Capitalism are the same thing. On one occasion, I began to feel physically sick from her misrepresentation of facts, and on numerous occasions I stood up to her and tried to advocate my opinion. She'd cut me off in mid-argument.

Here is a teacher using an English class to express her personal political prejudices. This is a form of consumer fraud, since this professor has no professional expertise in the subjects she is addressing and since the course is not billed as a course in capitalism or the oppression of women. It is a violation of the academic freedom of her students.

Here are some random posts from Temple students at the Internet site www.RateMyProfessor.com which reflect similar disregard for Temple's own Academic Freedom Policy.

In regard to a Middle Eastern History course a student wrote:

· We learned NOTHING about the Middle East. All [the professor] did was talk about political economy and liberalism.

In regard to an English professor a student wrote:

· Extreme liberal feminist. During class discussions, she'll shoot down what you say if it disagrees with her views.

This is an English class, not a class in Women's Studies.

In regard to a political science class a student wrote:

· A girl in our class lost her uncle in the 9/11 attack. [The professor] insulted her uncle, student started crying, then she kicked her out of the classroom. This was a week after 9/11. No joke.

In regard to an English professor a student wrote:

· She's always in a bad mood and isn't open to hearing your opinion, so don't bother giving it (unless you're anti-bush b/c then you're her best friend). She is Anti-Bush big time.

This is an English literature class, not a class in politics.

In regard to an anthropology course a student wrote:

· Had to change my conservative standpoint on the final paper to save my grades. Got an A for writing a liberal paper, which I still don't believe in. How's that for college?

Incidents like these don't take place unless there is a university culture supporting them. That is why academic freedom policies protecting students from political indoctrination have to be stated, and codified as student rights, and enforced. Since the university administrations at Temple and elsewhere in the state have failed to do this, it is the responsibility of the legislature, which funds these institutions, to see they honor these already established principles by implementing them.

On the other hand, Temple's Academic Freedom Policy is itself deficient. It does not even mention the principle of intellectual diversity, which the American Council on Education has called "central to a higher education." We hope this Committee will insist that Temple University - and all state universities and colleges in Pennsylvania -- embrace and implement the principle of intellectual diversity, which is essentially what academic freedom is about. HR177 explicitly states that "Academic freedom is likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity…." But Temple University's policy does not include a statement like this, and its academic programs regularly violate the principle.

For instance, Temple provides a "writing-intensive two course sequence" called "Intellectual Heritage" which is required of all Temple students and which includes a focus on Enlightenment, Romantic and Revolutionary Thinkers. The Revolutionary Thinkers include Darwin, Marx and Freud. Professors involved in the course have posted guides for students on a department webpage called "Faculty Perspectives on Marx."[1] Most of the faculty guides provided on this webpage are explications of Marx's writings without critical comment. In all I counted about 30 sample exam and study questions provided by the professors relating to Marx. Every one of them prompts the students to explain what Marx said in the way you would expect students to explain the theories of a scientist like Isaac Newton, whose hypotheses were established by real world experiments that proved them valid, and have been confirmed by scientists ever since.

Here is a sample guideline suggested by one Intellectual Heritage Professor: "Marx presents an astute understanding and critique of Capitalism. Is it convincing?" The question does not say, "Marx analyzed capitalism. Is his analysis convincing?" This so-called question tells the student what to think: Marx wrote a wise critique of capitalism. Are you convinced? What if you're not convinced, and suppose you encountered the question on an exam. Are you going to contradict your professor and risk a possible repercussion to your grade?

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

Not one of the faculty-provided guide questions asks students to consider that all economies run by Marxists have failed - and have failed catastrophically. Marxist regimes have caused the economic impoverishment of billions of people. They have produced man-made famines and human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Yet, insofar as I could discern, not one professor contributing to the Temple Intellectual Heritage Department website has bothered to mention this. Not one.

In fact, the chairman of the Political Science Department, who has provided an extensive study guide for students on the Intellectual Heritage Department website, explicitly denies that the acts committed in the name of Marx have anything to do with Marx or his ideas. "The collapse of authoritarian communism," he writes, "means the death of Marxist-Leninism [which] has little to do with classical Marxism." This would be news to Vladimir Lenin. Nonetheless, the professor has a point which is a legitimate one - that Marx thought socialism would occur in developed capitalist societies. But Marx also wrote that backward Russia might be the first country to implement his ideas. The point is that these are controversial issues, and yet what the Temple faculty has done - as reflected on this website -- is to remove the controversy from the curriculum and present a one-sided view of Marx which fails to make students aware that there are very different alternative views.

The faculty treatments of Marx on the Intellectual Heritage Department website lack the basic apparatus of academic inquiry. No critical literature on Marx and Marxism is offered. There is no confrontation with the most serious question that a thinker like Marx poses, since his ideas have had a vast and vastly destructive impact on the history of mankind, namely, did these ideas lead directly to the murder of 100 million human beings and the poverty of billions? Judging from the Intellectual Heritage webpages, Temple students are not even aware that this question needs to be asked.

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

To be fair, Professor Stephen Zelnick who teaches this course has provided a guide which indicates how capitalist societies have responded to Marx's challenge in a way that reflects positively on their flexibility, and negatively on Marx's analysis.[2] Professor Marc Stier has also provided a guide-page called "Failure of Revolutions" which faces the fact that Marx's predictions about revolution have been refuted by history. But this is the way Professor Stier sets up his discussion and defines how it will proceed:[3] "We can understand the failure of a revolution to occur as Marx predicted in Marx's terms. The conditions that Marx expected to bring about a revolution did not arise. And we can give a powerful social class based explanation of the failure of those conditions to arise."

In other words, even though Marx was wrong, he was right, and we can all be Marxists - or neo-Marxists - now.

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

An education would include the question "If Marx failed to foresee the conditions he predicted would end capitalism correctly, might not his entire theory of capitalism be false, including the "powerful social class based explanations" of capitalism he offered? If you are a political ideologue this is not a question you want to ask. But if you are an academic it is a question you must ask.

One explanation for the missing question lies in the guideline provided by the Political Science Department chairman on this website. "One of the main problems in studying Karl Marx," he explains, "is that most contemporary theorists interpret Marx in their way -- the point is to interpret Marx in his way." In other words, students are to approach Marx not as critics of Marx but as students of Marx.

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

Think about the statement the Political Science Department chairman made about the irrelevance of the collapse of Communism for Marxism. His explanation is that Marxist revolutions took place in the wrong countries - countries that were not democratic and not economically developed -- and therefore Marx is not responsible for the application of his ideas. That Marxist socialism -- state control of the economy -- might lead inevitably to totalitarian regimes does not even occur to this professor and is not a question his students will ever be asked to consider.

Indeed, if a student were to raise this question independently, he might very well get an "F" from this professor. Because to raise this question - even in the face of 100 million dead from Moscow to Addis Ababa - is, in the view of the Chairman of the Political Science Department at Temple, "not to understand Marxism," because classical Marxism has no relation to what was done in its name.

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

The Intellectual Heritage program is not the only Temple sequence that fails to observe basic academic guidelines. The First-Year Writing Program at Temple describes itself as having been designed "to provide Temple students with a comprehensive experience of writing to learn and learning to write." Because it is intended as a course to teach students the basics of English composition it is provided by the English Department. The one year course is covered by "English 40" and "English 50" and is taught mainly by graduate students in English whose professional expertise is the English language and literature.

However, the First-Year Writing Program also has an ideological agenda which has nothing to do with expertise in the English language. This is the "writing to learn" part of the course. Its goal is to indoctrinate students in radical views on gender, and to a lesser extent on race. Nor is this agenda concealed from Temple administrators or the students themselves. The First-Year Writing Program handbook clearly states: "English 40 focuses on writing within a single theme (gender) and disciplinary approach." (English 50 adds a research component to the theory provided in English 40). In fact a few sections, called English 40R, have an explicitly racial theme, which fulfills a university requirement that all Temple students take a course in race.

Professor Steven Zelnick was a director of this program. In his testimony before this committee, Professor Zelnick noted the concern of one opponent of the requirement who thought "that since so many sections would be required to accommodate the entire student body, teaching would end up in the hands of graduate students who were likely to be angry and inexperienced in teaching and especially in teaching difficult material to a captive and possibly resentful audience." Professor Zelnick testified, "That prediction has come to pass, unfortunately, and sections are now taught by inexperienced instructors who have abused their assignment."

The approved required texts for the First-Year Writing program are ideological texts whose agenda is to articulate and defend the views on gender held by radicals in general and by radical feminists and race theorists in particular, even though some allowance is made for other views.[4]

From the perspective of academic freedom, there are two things strikingly wrong with this course, which is required of all Temple students. The first is that it is unprofessional. English teachers are not experts in the sociology of gender or race. The official course handbook for the English composition sequence candidly acknowledges the complexity of its subject: "We will be using gender [and gender roles in American culture]…because it is both relatively simple (everybody has one) and extremely complex in terms of how gender impacts people's lives and identities, feelings, and behaviors." But if this is an extremely complex subject, why is it being taught by amateurs who have no professional training in the subject, and why do the readings overwhelmingly reflect one side of what is a controversial issue?

This is not education; it is indoctrination.

An education would first of all stick to the subject. If the task is to teach students how to write, the texts should be composed of writers who know how to write, not writers picked for their political views on race and gender. Professionalism is at the heart of the academic freedom issue. Professors are granted tenure because they have developed an expertise in a field of knowledge. This is why they have lifetime jobs: Because tenure protects their freedom to pursue inquiries in their area of expertise. But when English instructors pontificate on the war in Iraq or the sociology of gender they are not sharing their expertise. They are sharing their ignorance and their prejudice and that is all. This is a form of consumer fraud, which is being practiced on the students at Temple and the taxpayers of this state. I hope the committee will look into this issue and consult with Temple administrators on how to remedy it.

Another university-wide program administered by Temple, which fails to meet the most basic test of intellectual diversity and academic professionalism, is the Temple University summer reading program, for all incoming freshmen. Freshman are assigned a text to read over the summer which is then discussed in class in the fall semester, often with the author being invited to campus. The program was created in 2002 and three of the four texts which Temple has required its freshmen to read since then have represented radical leftwing viewpoints, while the fourth, fits fairly comfortably a leftwing frame of reference. In other words, the principle of intellectual diversity has again been ignored.

In 2002, Temple's required summer reading book was Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. The author was invited and paid a substantial fee to speak to students on campus. Fast Food Nation is an assault on the fast-food industry by a leftwing ideologue at war with the free market system. Fast Food Nation was selected by the London Guardian -- a well-known left-wing newspaper -- as one of the top ten "anti-capitalist books."[5]

The principles of academic freedom of course do not preclude the inclusion of anti-capitalist books on student reading lists. What they do preclude is force-feeding students one-side of a controversial issue as though it were the only one. When Temple University puts its imprimatur on book like this for incoming freshman, the message of the author of that book has maximum impact. It is - or should be - the responsibility of academics to open students' minds not to close them.

The Temple required book for 2003 was Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen, who was also invited to Temple to speak and was part of a panel sponsored by the history and social studies and education departments. [6] This book is a radical diatribe against the United States. According to Loewen, the lies teachers told him result from facts being "manipulated by elite white male capitalists who orchestrate how history is written." A typical Loewen chapter is called "1493: The True Importance of Christopher Columbus." Loewen summarizes the achievement of Columbus in these words: "Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass."

Again the problem is not assigning a book, even one as historically wrong-headed (Columbus did not originate the practice of conquering lands and the destruction of indigenous peoples for example - ask the Greeks who were victims of the ancient Persians) or as malicious as this one. The problem is that it is the only book that Temple freshmen were given that year with the imprimatur of the institution itself - in other words, that no texts with alternative viewpoints are required.

The Temple required book for the following year, 2004 was Caucasia, a novel by Danzy Senna and was part of an official theme for the 2004 freshman year titled "Color and Character." Senna was invited to campus and forty professors took part in leading small discussion groups with freshmen during the first three weeks of the semester.[7]

Caucasia is a narrative told from the viewpoint of a girl name Birdie in the 1970's who is dealing with the racial issues of the time, but again from a narrowly leftwing perspective. The book's political agendas are carried by the main characters. Birdie's mother is an anti-capitalist radical on the run from the F.B.I., and her father is a "Black Power" intellectual. A main character says, "We got to raise our children to know how to fight. There's a war going on…we got pigs in the White House, and pigs patrolling the streets." (page 15). Birdie's Mother describes immigration authorities as "Fascist murderers, monsters," (page 21) and laments television news for "Spreading lies about Castro." (page 50). She justifies terror, praising the actions of a radical who blew up a police car, saying, "We live in disgrace. We slaughter our own and we slaughter people overseas who don't think or look like us…and the only way to get people's attention is to do something drastic." (page 86) Birdie herself says, "My mother swore that I'd be the first child raised and educated free of racism, patriarchy, and capitalism." (page 138)

The extremist views in this book parallel the leftwing ideas of the Loewen text of the previous year and the Schlosser text of the year before that. Caucasia is presented to all incoming freshmen with the imprimatur of Temple University and no text with an alternative viewpoint is provided.

The fourth in the chronological sequence of four Temple required freshman texts, which was assigned this year, is West of Kabul, East of New York by Tamim Ansary, who was also invited to speak on campus.[8] Like Caucasia, this book is an autobiographical account of the writer's experiences in a bi-racial family; his mother is Caucasian and his father is Afghani. This book is not an ideological text like the others, but neither is it a conservative text that would provide some intellectual diversity to this program.

The question this Committee must answer, is why a state institution which is formally dedicated to educational values has established a reading program for incoming freshmen which consists of books that are mainly expressions of radical thought. Surely a commitment to educational purposes would entail at that the university assign two books - rather than one -- in controversial areas like race and the meaning of American history rather one. My high school son was assigned seven summer reading books, so this not an unreasonable request.

It may be objected by some that the radical texts are merely the occasion for stimulating discussion. But certain facts mitigate against such a generous interpretation. If these books were meant to stimulate critical discussion, why aren't critical questions about them formally included in the syllabus? Why aren't critics of these books also invited to campus to stimulate such a discussion? At the same time, a number of scientific studies have shown that at schools like Temple, professors with a conservative or libertarian viewpoint are a vanishing breed. In some areas like sociology, anthropology and the humanities, fields whose representatives are likely to be included in these programs, the ratio of liberals to conservatives ranges from 10-1 to 30-1. Ratios like this are not conducive to stimulating discussions exploring diverse points of view.

In this connection, I would recall to you the testimony of Stephen Zelnick a former Vice Provost of Temple University and former chairman of the English Department to this committee: "As director of two undergraduate programs, I have had many opportunities to sit in and watch instructors. I have sat in on more than a hundred different teachers' classes and seen excellent, indifferent, and miserable teaching... In these visits, I have rarely heard a kind word for the United States, for the riches of our marketplace, for the vast economic and creative opportunities made available for energetic and creative people (that is, for our students); for family life, for marriage, for love, or for religion."

It is my hope that the Select Committee will recommend a policy that all state university required reading programs include the requirement of diverse texts on subjects of controversy.

To sum up these observations: Temple University has an Academic Freedom Policy. It is regularly disregarded. There are no readily available or effective means for members of the Temple community to address the violations of academic freedom that occur regularly in Temple classrooms and are integral to entire Temple courses like the Required Summer Reading Program, the Freshman Year Writing Program and the Intellectual Heritage Department.

Temple University has no policy stating that "intellectual diversity is central to a higher education," to use the words of the American Council on Education statement of June 23, 2005.

Students at Temple have no explicitly granted academic freedom rights.

Temple University has not taken steps to make students aware (in orientation sessions, in student handbooks) of the Temple academic freedom guidelines that instruct professors not to introduce controversial matter that is irrelevant to the subject into their classrooms.

Courses at Temple are permitted to violate the canons of professional conduct by allowing instructors to teach subjects that are not part of their academic expertise.

All these problems need to be addressed.

Tenured professors at Temple have lifetime job security and the taxpayers of Pennsylvania give them good salaries -- $105,714 a year for the average full professor at Temple. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania grants professors these privileges in order to get the best and most professional research and teaching expertise possible. Every academic institution in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has clearly defined and explicit expectations of its professors which qualify them to receive these privileges. Professors are expected to be trained experts in well-defined scholarly fields of inquiry; they are expected to adhere to professional standards in the classroom and to principles of academic freedom.

The state of Pennsylvania needs to hold public academic institutions which are funded by taxpayers to account in fulfilling these expectations, specifically:

1) That professors will teach their subjects of expertise.

2) That in teaching their subjects in the classroom professors have responsibilities as professionals who are in positions of authority dealing with students; that these responsibilities are different from their rights as citizens; and that the difference must be strictly observed.

3) That professors will not use their classrooms to advocate their personal and partisan views on controversial matters that are irrelevant to their subjects and fields of expertise.

4) That professors will observe the distinction between education and indoctrination, between professional judgment and personal opinion and will not use their classroom authority to pressure students into adopting their personal opinions on controversial matters of the day.

5) That professors in the humanities and social sciences will not grade students on the basis of their political, social or religious opinions, or on their conclusions regarding matters of controversy and opinion, but strictly on their abilities to master the factual evidence, and marshal logical arguments in support of their conclusions based on that evidence.

6) That students will be informed of their rights under the university's academic freedom guidelines; and that those students who feel they have been discriminated against politically or that their professors have used the classroom as a platform for non-academic agendas will have access to a grievance machinery that will review these matters and redress any injustices that may have been done.

This would be an Academic Bill of Rights. Otherwise what we are talking about is indoctrination, not education.

I thank the committee members for their patience and hope they will consider these issues.

Notes:


[1] http://courses.temple.edu/ih/ihtest/ih52/revolution/marx/marx_facpersp.htm

[2] http://courses.temple.edu/ih/ihtest/ih52/revolution/marx/marx_facpersp7.htm

[3] http://ih52.stier.net/notes/marx/failure.htm

[4] Gendered Voices: Selected Readings from the American Experience, Keith Gumery, ed.; Exploring Language, Gary Goshgarian, ed.; Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, Thomas M. Shapiro, ed.; and Writing Lives: Exploring Literacy and Community; Garnes, et al., eds.

[5] http://books.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4233337-99819,00.html

[6] http://www.temple.edu/temple_times/9-18-03/loewen.html

[7] http://www.temple.edu/temple_times/8-26-04/caucasia.html

[8] http://www.temple.edu/temple_times/5-5-05/kabul.html