The Political Attack on Our Universities · 14 March 2006


By David Horowitz - FrontPageMagazine.com 03/15/06

What follows in these pages is testimony I presented to the Appropriations Committee of the Kansas House on March 15, 2006, concerning the assault on academic freedom by tenured radicals in Kansas' public university system.

Although the principal examples of political indoctrination and violations of academic freedom cited in this testimony pertain to institutions of higher learning in Kansas, they could easily be replicated in similar institutions in any state in the union.

The intellectual corruption of our universities by political radicals has been proceeding without interruption since the Vietnam War. This political movement in the academic world didn't get into high gear until the 1980s, when the Sixties generation attained tenure rank and with it institutional power in the universities. But it has now become a pervasive and destructive fact of our national life. Entire academic departments and fields are no longer devoted to scholarly pursuits, but have become ideological training and recruitment centers for radical causes.

Educational institutions are the cornerstones of our democracy. This is particularly so in the present historical juncture when we are engaged in a war with totalitarian enemies that seek to destroy us. Teaching the next generations the principles of our system, and developing in them the ability to reason and think for themselves are agendas crucial to the health and survival of our nation. This knowledge and these abilities are the fundamental prerequisites of a democratic culture. And they are in danger in our country today.

The testimony contained in this pamphlet provides a framework for viewing the problem of our universities within the framework of traditional educational values to which most universities still feel obliged to pay lip service. This framework therefore also provides an agenda for reform - for confronting the intellectual corruption that threatens our institutions of higher learning and for restoring the precepts and standards that created them in the first place and on which the future of our country depends.

* * *

My name is David Horowitz. I am a well-known author and media commentator and am the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a non-profit public interest organization supported by the contributions of 40,000 individuals. I am also the author of a recent book, The Professors, which profiles more than a hundred academics and reveals several disturbing patterns in university governance, including the use of university classrooms and curricula to promote agendas that are political, not academic.

I am the creator of a national organization called Students for Academic Freedom which has chapters on 150 campuses nationwide and the author of an Academic Bill of Rights, which seeks to restore educational and academic values to university curricula, as well as traditions of academic responsibility that have been lost in recent years. The Academic Bill of Rights has effected changes in the academic policies of public university systems in Colorado and Ohio, and has provided a model for legislation that has been introduced or is in the process of being introduced in more than a dozen states.

In the course of the last twenty years I have visited over 300 campuses, among which was the University of Kansas in Lawrence. In the course of these visits, I have interviewed several thousand students and several hundred professors concerning the academic freedom issues I am here to discuss.

The Academic Bill of Rights I have proposed is an attempt to restore the principles of academic freedom that played a central role in shaping the modern research university in America and making it the envy of the world. My bill is first of all a codification of existing academic freedom policies which university administrations have increasingly failed to enforce in recent years. I have explained why this is so in my book The Professors, but it should be apparent to any observer of recent events at Harvard University, where the most powerful president in the history of the modern research university was forced to resign by a radical faculty which did not approve his expression of politically incorrect ideas. The only real innovation of my Academic Bill of Rights, in terms of existing academic freedom provisions, is that it codifies the existing policies and intentions as a bill of student rights.

Academic freedom is basic to a free society like ours. In a historic 1967 decision (Keyishian v. Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York) the Supreme Court of the United States overturned a New York State loyalty provision for teachers with these words: "Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, [a] transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned." In Sweezy v. New Hampshire, (1957) the Court observed that the "essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident."

In authoritarian and totalitarian societies schools exist to indoctrinate students in the orthodoxy of the state. In a democracy we teach students how to think, not what to think. In other words, in a free society the very purpose of education is to open students' minds and teach its citizens to think for themselves. This is the idea that lies at the heart of the academic freedm provisions of every university. It found its clearest expression in the famous clause written by University of California president Robert Gordon Sproul in 1934 for the Academic Personal Manual which governs faculty behavior:

"Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumes the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda…The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts…."[1]

The Crisis In Our Universities

An emblem of the crisis that besets our universities is provided by an episode that occurred on July 30, 2003, when the Faculty Senate of the University of California elected by a vote of 43-3 to remove the famous Sproul Clause from Berkeley's Academic Personnel Manual. The Faculty Senate took the step because this academic freedom principle came into conflict with the teaching of a specific course at the University of California, Berkeley. The course was called, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance" and earned national embarrassment for the university when its radical instructor inserted into the school catalogue a warning that conservative students would be advised not to take it, presumably because of its ideological content. This course, mind you, was not even a course in history or political science or Middle Eastern Studies. It was a course in an English writing program required for all freshmen.

Instead of removing this blatantly political course from the university curriculum - a course that clearly violated its own academic freedom guidelines in multiple ways- the Faculty Senate removed the guideline. In its stead, it substituted a clause to the effect that whatever a teacher says in a classroom is appropriate and proper if the Faculty Senate says it is.

This episode is but one of many manifestations of a trend in American institutions of higher learning towards the politicization of the curriculum and thus towards a university model which is more akin to the educational systems of authoritarian societies than to democratic societies like ours. This trend is a product of two major developments that have taken place in the university system over the course of the last twenty-five years.

The first of these developments is the abdication by university administrators of their oversight of what faculty are saying and doing in the classroom. Administrators are increasingly so focused on financial concerns that they have turned a blind eye to radical advocacy in the classroom, and the substitution of political attitudinizing for scholarly research. Segments of the faculty have now become accustomed to the most irresponsible conduct without any consequences.

Two examples - at the most prestigious institutions of higher learning - will demonstrate this problem. The first is what happened to Lawrence Summers when he demanded that Cornel West, the holder of a prestigious Harvard professorship, actually produce real scholarship instead of spending his time recording rap music albums and working on political campaigns. Professor West had not produced a scholarly work in nearly twenty years. But West simply brushed aside the president of Harvard's request, insinuated that he was a racist and secured another prestigious position at Princeton.

The second example involved the Director of Undergraduate Studies at Duke University, a tenured professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology. During a speech I gave at the university only last week, which was sponsored by the Office of the Provost and the Department of Political Science, Anthropology Professor Diane Nelson led a group of undergraduates in disruptions of the event. For a faculty member to disrupt an invited speaker to the Duke campus is a specific violation of published faculty guidelines of behavior. But Professor Nelson went further. In its report on the event, the Duke Chronicle, Duke's student newspaper, published an email that Professor Nelson had sent to students urging them to strip naked at the event to further disrupt my speech. Professor Nelson is the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the fifth ranked university in the nation. So far, there have been no repercussions for this behavior.

In keeping with the increasing power of this imperial faculty, tenured members of the university community have become unaccountable to any authorities but their own. That is the meaning of the forced resignation of President Summers at Harvard and of the Faculty Senate's decision in California that professors should be free to say anything they wish in the classroom, even if that includes the political indoctrination of their students.

Lawrence Summers was the most powerful university president in the history of the modern research university and became the first president ever to be censured by his own faculty. Months after his censure the same faculty radicals threatened a second censure, which had the effect of forcing his resignation. The trigger of Summers' unprecedented termination by a small but politically active faculty minority - amounting to a mere ten percent of all Harvard professors - was Summers' expression of ideas which the faculty found politically unacceptable. While academic freedom was regarded by the faculty as the right to say anything they wished in a classroom, the same freedom did not apply to their university president.

One of the ideas that precipitated Summers' troubles was uttered in a private seminar behind closed doors. This was his observation that scientific studies showed that women and men had different aptitudes for mathematics. It was apparently not an idea that could be uttered by a university president, even one with distinguished academic and career credentials. Once he said, it, the only remedy acceptable to Harvard's faculty radicals was his dismissal.

There is not a single president of a college or university in the entire nation who has not taken note of this episode and considered its implications for university governance and for their own presidential careers. To challenge the political radicals on their faculty risks damage to their universities and exposes them to the possible termination of their administrative futures.

The second development behind the present crisis of academic governance is the creation and then intrusion of entire programs into the academic curriculum that are overtly ideological in nature and whose goals are determined by political rather than scholarly or educational agendas. The driving force behind these programs, which encompass entire departments and fields, are the same radicals who have created the imperial faculty with its censorious attitudes towards intellectual freedom.

One of the most advanced stages of this intellectual corruption of our universities has been achieved at the University of California Santa Cruz, where faculty radicals have changed the very name of the Department of Women's Studies to reflect the overtly ideological nature of its courses. It is now called the Department of Feminist Studies, [2] and is a program of indoctrination in the theory and practice of radical feminism whose agenda is the recruitment of students to radical causes. On the official departmental website under "Career Opportunities" and the heading "What Can I Do With A Major in Feminist Studies" the answer is as follows:

Resources - What Can I Do with a Major in Feminist Studies?

Employment Opportunities for Feminist Studies Majors:

With a background in women's and minorities' histories and an understanding of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other forms of oppression, graduates have a good background for work with policy-making and lobbying organizations, research centers, trade and international associations, and unions. Graduates' nowledge about power relationships and injustice often leads them to choose careers in government and politics, because they are determined to use their skills to change the world….[3]

This is not an academic curriculum. It is an indoctrination and recruitment program, which violates the most fundamental precepts of the academic freedom guidelines of the University of California. Yet not a single administrator in the University of California system is the slightest concerned.

The power of faculty radicals has made political indoctrination courses like those offered in Feminist Studies required of all university undergraduates. These undergraduate programs are the feeder systems for law and journalism faculties which the taxpayers of California and states like Kansas have set up as professional training institutions for future lawyers, judges, editors and reporters. These faculties themselves are not immune to the political forces that have insinuated themselves into our academic institutions with agendas that are not academic and that are not democratic. When educational administrators fail to keep their trust, it is the responsibility of legislators to remind them of their responsibilities and keep their own trust with the citizens of their states.

The termination of an illustrious president of Harvard who refused to observe the party line radical faculty had placed on his institution and the creation of overtly political courses whose purpose is to indoctrinate students in radical politics are part of a growing crisis of academic governance and academic freedom on American university campuses. It is a crisis from which the higher education system in Kansas is not immune and is the subject I am here to discuss.

Obviously in the time allotted I cannot present a complete analysis of the system of public higher education in your state. I will have to settle for a few examples that reflect a widespread problem in these institutions. I urge the legislature to consider undertaking a comprehensive audit of the entire university system in your state with an eye to assessing the condition of academic freedom on its many campuses.

Academic Freedom and Tenure

To begin the present discussion I would like to remind you of the contract established between the faculties of Kansas's public universities and the tax-paying citizenry that supports them.

Tenured faculty in Kansas - as at publicly and privately financed colleges and universities elsewhere - are a highly privileged social and economic elite. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, full professors with tenure at public universities can make in excess of $100,000 a year (while at private universities the figure moves to $150,000). These salaries are supplemented by generous benefit packages. At the University of Kansas the average salary for a full professor is $92,253 and at Kansas State, $79,983.

These are handsome payments for public officials. To earn this income, professors work an average of six to nine hours a week in class and are required to work only eight months out of the working year. Every year they are entitled to four months paid vacation, and every seven years they are awarded a sabbatical leave that provides them with 10 months leave at full or half pay. To crown these privileges they alone among America's public employees - with the exception of Supreme Court Justices - have lifetime jobs.

These great privileges are specifically granted to academics on the assumption that they are professionals and that they are possessors of an expertise that is of great benefit to society at large. The Kansas Board of Regents specifies this contract in the following words: "It is the mastery teachers have of their subjects and their own scholarship that entitles them to their classrooms and to freedom in the presentation of their subjects."[4]

The contractual premise is that professors are scholars who require prodigious amounts of time outside the classroom to conduct research that is scholarly and disinterested, and that encompasses such diligence and long years of effort in its pursuit, as to make the results of the research both beneficial to knowledge in general and to society, and also puts it beyond the ken or judgment of laypersons who lack their training and research.

That is the contract. That is why university academics are paid more generously than most public employees, and that is why the elite among them are afforded lifetime tenure. The tenure provision is to protect their valued expertise. Academic freedom and academic tenure are historically linked in all the policy statements concerning academic freedom by the American Association of University Professors. The principles of academic freedom and tenure are there to hold them harmless for conclusions they may draw from their years of specialized research, and to guard the disinterested knowledge they have accumulated from unwarranted censure by persons who are unqualified - because are not experts - to pass judgment on what they have discovered.

Politicians and radio talk show hosts do not have lifetime jobs; they do not have special freedom protections. That is because they deal in opinion, not in expertise. Opinion is vital to a democracy; it is what we take into the voting booth when we pull the lever. But it is not expertise. And it does not require the protection of a lifetime job.

Thus there is another side to the special privilege that professors enjoy under the provisions of academic freedom. This is their obligation to be professional, to strive for scholarly objectivity, and to remain non-partisan and non-political in their classroom pronouncements. Professors are not granted tenure or the protections of academic freedom to defend their "free speech." Their free speech as citizens is already guaranteed by the First Amendment. Their speech in the classroom, on the other hand, is professional speech which entails certain obligations and requires certain self-restrictions to fulfill these obligations.

The Kansas Board of Regents states the distinction in these words: "College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence, they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution…."[5]

Free speech is the right that professors have as ordinary citizens to express themselves in public spaces outside the classroom. Like other professionals, however, teachers are expected to maintain professional standards to earn the privilege of their employment. A pastor who preaches a sermon to the effect that God does not exist will soon be looking for other work, free speech or no. A nurse who interrupts an operation she is assisting to deliver a stump speech on nurse's salaries or the war in Iraq will probably not be invited into the same operating room again. And a professor who violates the standards of the academic profession and the academic guidelines of his or her university, is subject to discipline for this breach of professional conduct.

In sum, it is professors' specialized academic expertise, drawn from years of disinterested research that entitles them to their professorial privileges and in particular to the freedom to present the results of their expertise in their classroom and in other academic settings. On the one hand, teachers are privileged with the freedom to express the ideas that result from their expertise; on the other, they are required to limit their instruction to that expertise and not inflict their prejudices - political or otherwise - on students who have been entrusted to their care. While teaching their expertise - knowledge that has been gleaned from long and arduous years of research in a specialized field - they are not permitted to fill their classrooms with uninformed opinions they may have arrived at in their roles as ordinary citizens or to vent their biases on controversial issues of the day; or to impose such attitudes on impressionable students through the authority they have been granted as a result of their expertise.

These strictures are made explicit by the Regents in the following statement of principle: "Thus, it is improper for an instructor persistently to intrude material that has no relation to the subject or to fail to present the subject matter of the course as announced to the students and as approved by the faculty in their collective responsibility for the curriculum." And again: "Students should not be forced by the authority inherent in the instructional role to make particular personal choices as to political action or their own social behavior."

In other words, professors should not be making comments about the war in Iraq in classes that are not about the war in Iraq, or where the subject matter has no relation to the war in Iraq. Nor should they be indoctrinating students in feminism or any other ism. Nor should they be attempting to impose controversial positions or sectarian attitudes on students in their classrooms no matter what the subject.

Professor Stanley Fish, who is a well-known academic scholar and political liberal, and who recently retired as Dean of the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois wrote an article on this subject which appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is titled, "Save The World On Your Own Time":

"Teachers should teach their subjects. They should not teach peace or war or freedom or diversity or uniformity or nationalism or anti-nationalism or any other agenda that might properly be taught by a political leader or a talk-show host. Of course they should teach about such subjects, something very different from urging them as commitments - when they are part of the history or philosophy or literature or sociology that is being studied. The only advocacy that should go on in the classroom is the advocacy of what James Murphy has identified as the intellectual virtues, 'thoroughness, perseverance, intellectual honesty,' all components of the cardinal academic virtue of being 'conscientious in the pursuit of truth.'" [6] (Emphasis added.)

In other words, teachers should approach controversial issues that are relevant to the courses in which they have expertise, as disinterested scholars. They should present their students with two or more sides to any controversial issue, and not urge on them any particular side. They should teach them what the evidence is, how to assemble it, and how to construct an argument. After that, they should leave it to students to form their own conclusions. This has been the basic idea of a democratic education throughout our nation's history. But it is now under sustained and systematic attack from forces within our educational institutions themselves.

An academic program in a democracy should be governed by principles of academic freedom and disinterested inquiry; it should not be a program in advocacy for a particular point of view, nor should it attempt to indoctrinate students in the pet ideologies and prejudices of their professors.

Are these policies being violated in Kansas schools? The evidence exists that they are. Entire Departments at Kansas State University and the University of Kansas, for example, are devoted to ideological and political agendas, and are in fact advocacy programs designed to indoctrinate and train students in one-sided views of controversial issues. In other words, they violate the explicit mandates of the Kansas Board of Regents and the American Association of University Professors.

Women's Studies Programs

At Kansas State University, the Women's Studies Department describes its program in the catalogue this way:

"To qualify for a B.S. or B.A. degree in Women's Studies, students will have demonstrated:

  • Their understanding that Women's Studies is an academic discipline that generates new knowledge about women and gender, reconsiders other disciplines through feminist perspectives, and is committed to social action and social change. [emphasis added]
  • Their familiarity with key Women's Studies concepts such as the social construction of gender, oppression of and violence against women, heterosexism, racism, classism, and global inequality.
  • Their understanding of how and why gender inequality developed and is maintained in the United States and in our global society.
    Their ability to recognize the social, political, economic, and cultural consequences of gender inequality.
  • Their familiarity with the history of feminism in the United States and with the different ways that gender inequality has been challenged in the contemporary world.
  • Their ability to identify and apply a broad range of feminist perspectives and theories to their personal experiences, professional work, and to their understanding of society."

This is not the mission statement of an academic program of scholarly inquiry into the history and sociology of women; this is an ideological program frankly designed to indoctrinate students in a radical feminist view of the world, and to recruit them to feminist causes.

The statement takes a non-academic, partisan view of issues that are controversial - whether women are in fact "oppressed" in the United States, whether there is "gender inequality" in our society, or whether "heterosexism" and "classism" are meaningful let alone valuable categories of analysis. The Women's Studies program is openly designed to recruit students to radical feminist causes and political agendas. Its core courses for establishing a major are not courses about women, but are courses in the history theory and politics of a particular ideology of women, namely radical feminism; the program is designed to be taught exclusively from the point of view of radical feminists and with assigned readings from texts by radical feminists. No intellectual diversity is permitted.

The academic program of the Women's Studies Department at the University of Kansas is designed in exactly the same vein. The introductory course required of all majors states: "Our focus is not only to look at how women are members of an oppressed group, but how women have always been active agents in changing the world in which they live."

An academic course by contrast would ask whether women are members of an oppressed group; it would not focus on the alleged fact that they are, which is a controversial issue that divides our political culture. An academic course would not presume that women "have always been active agents in changing the world." A program of scholarly analysis would not place at its center the idea that its graduates should be "active agents in changing the world." That is a program of political action, in this case funded unwittingly - and possibly illegally - by the taxpayers of the state of Kansas.

The mission statements and curricula of the Women's Studies Departments at Kansas State and the University of Kansas violate the academic freedom policies and standards of the Kansas Board of Regents. They can in no way be justified as taxpayer-supported programs. Radical feminism is not an academic category or enterprise. It is a sectarian political movement. Professors who teach radical feminism are not scholars; they are political activists. Consequently, they do not permit intellectual critics to enter their programs. Scholars would welcome such diversity; but activists disdain contrarian viewpoints as complicating their agendas of indoctrination and action.

On what basis should political activists be granted tenured positions? As already noted, politicians don't have lifetime jobs; nor do radio talk show hosts. That is because they deal in opinions, not scholarly expertise. Radical feminism is a collection of opinions. According to who is judging them, they may be good opinions or groundless opinions, but they are opinions nonetheless. There is no way to decide on their merits except by election. That is the way we adjudicate differences of political opinion in a democracy.

Professors of Women's Studies at the University of Kansas, however, are not elected. They are appointed, and in fact they are self-appointed, since new hires in the Women's Studies Department will be determined by the votes of the tenured members of the Department itself. That means that not only is there no intellectual diversity in these programs now, but as long as they continue to exist there never will be. The tenured members of these departments know the ideology they want in a hire, and will always hire someone who believes politically as they do. An analogy would be if the Republican majority in the Kansas State Legislature had lifetime jobs and were entrusted with electing their successors. This is a prescription for authoritarian rule; it is not the principle by which we operate in a democracy.

To Republican legislators, I would point out that programs such as these are essentially tax-payer funded recruiting programs not only for the left generally but for the Democratic Party in particular, especially its most liberal wing. Is that an appropriate way for the education taxes of Kansas citizens to be spent?

The questions for this committee are: How did such partisan and self-perpetuating political departments get created in our universities, and what can be done about them? These, by the way, are not small or insignificant programs. The Department of Women's Studies (which is in practice the Department of feminist ideology) at the University of Kansas lists more than 30 courses. How did such a political enterprise, totally inappropriate for an academic institution and totally inappropriate for a state institution, get funded in the first place? How is it that no one in the administration of either of these two universities noticed that such advocacy programs violate the core policies of academic freedom that have been established by the Kansas Board of Regents to govern them? Or, if they did notice, how is it that they have allowed this massive misuse of public funds and abuse of Kansas students to take place?

School of Social Activism

Women's Studies is not the only field with these problems in Kansas universities, and indeed in universities across the nation. At Kansas State University the Social Work program describes itself to students this way: "Social work is a profession for those with a spark of idealism, a belief in social justice, and a natural love of working with people." [7]

The term "social justice" is not a neutral term but is a generally recognized code for partisans of socialism and the expansion of the welfare state. It does not mean "justice for all" in the legal sense, but refers to an "economic justice" that the free market system allegedly denies, and that government is required to redress. In other words, it is code for one of the central political debates in our democracy. The School of Social Work at Kansas State is apparently training students to take one side of this debate.

A required course for Social Work majors - Social Work 525 - lists in its syllabus for students "Social Work's Core Values." The second of these core values is "social justice":

Social Justice-Social workers challenge social injustice.

Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers' social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity.

This is the program of a political party or the training school for political party activists. It does not represent an academic approach to social work. It is a program of radical social activism funded - I am sure unknowingly - by the taxpayers of Kansas.

The entire Social Work program at Kansas State is an advocacy program for leftwing and liberal "solutions" to significant social problems. A leftwing point of view is a legitimate part of the great political debate within our culture, but it is only one point of view, and constitutes only one side of the debate in our two-party, two-sided system.

A Kansas State student who does not accept the premises and goals of the program will fail out of the program, because he or she has failed to "understand" its core beliefs. More likely, such a student will never be admitted to the program in the first place, no matter how much he or she wants to help poor people. This is not an academic program. It is ideological and partisan, and it violates the academic freedom policies of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Social Work 510 and Sociology 510 constitute a joint course in "Social Welfare" taught by both the Social Work and Sociology Departments at Kansas State. This is just one indication that the problem is not confined to a single department at the university. The course syllabus for Social Work 510 and Sociology 510 explains its agendas: "An understanding of the development of social injustice is a necessary first step toward working for social justice," - again, a statement of advocacy not inquiry.

And what does the course curriculum consider to be the origins of social injustice? The required text for the Social Welfare course, which answers this question, is not a text that presents several points of view, nor is it even a text with social welfare as its subject. Instead, it is a highly tendentious and well-known political indictment of American history written by Marxist historian Howard Zinn. The entire Social Welfare course of the departments of Social Work and Sociology at Kansas State is, in fact, a chapter by chapter, class by class reading of Zinn's book, A People's History of the United States.

Howard Zinn is a well-known radical who supported the Soviet empire during the Cold War, and whose book describes America as repressive state run by a corporate ruling class for the benefit of the rich. According to Zinn, the root causes of social injustice are private property and private corporations, the very foundations of America's legal, political and business systems. According to Zinn, America is the world's "greatest terrorist state" and the terrorists America faces, are victims of American imperialism and oppression and thus "freedom fighters." Furthermore, in Zinn's view the entire American system of government and its laws should be overthrown, by violent means if necessary, and replaced with a socialist system.

Zinn's book is not a text in Social Welfare policy. To give an example, according to the course syllabus, one entire class session is devoted to Zinn's chapter called "The Impossible Victory: Vietnam," which celebrates the victory of the Communists in Vietnam - while failing to mention the summary executions of a hundred thousand Vietnamese that followed the Communists' imposition of a totalitarian state. What is the relevance of this history - let alone this blatantly false history - to the training of Kansas State students for careers in Social Work? There is none. But is there anybody at the university who has ever asked this question?

And what business is it of a professor of social work to be teaching a tendentious history of the Vietnam War as part of a course on Social Welfare, not to mention a history that celebrates the victory of the Communists? Professors, as noted, are professors by virtue of their trained professional expertise in specific subjects. That is what gives them license to teach those subjects. But this is a course in American imperialism and oppression taught by ideologically committed amateurs intent on imposing their own point of view on impressionable students. And let us not forget that the taxpayers of Kansas are paying for this.

In addition to presenting an extremely controversial view of matters that have no relevance to the subject of Social Welfare, Social Work 510 fails to present any other perspectives so that students in the course could read critics of the extreme views Zinn presents - and there are many. Where are the debates that surround these issues, let alone the debates that surround Social Welfare policy itself in a course on Social Welfare?

This course violates every tenet of Kansas State University's existing academic freedom policies and has been violating them for at least four years, according to the school catalogue. Social Work 510 is a course designed to indoctrinate students into an extreme Marxist view of American society which proposes the destruction of the very system in which the students in the course are intending to seek employment. No society can survive if its schools become one-sided indoctrination centers in propaganda against it. And this is but one such course in the Kansas State Social Work program.

If Social Work 510 were a course whose sole text were written by a conservative like Charles Murray, and was clearly designed to indoctrinate students in a conservative view of Social Welfare theory, it would also violate the academic freedom policies and standards of the Kansas Board of Regents and the American Association of University Professors and would be just as illegitimate from an educational and policy point of view. But does anyone think it would proceed without opposition? Or that some outraged faculty members would not have informed the administration that it violates the academic guidelines of the university? Or that it wouldn't have been terminated long before now?

Obviously this is not a small problem that radical faculties and negligent administrations have created in our university system. What can the Kansas legislature do to advance a remedy for this problem without causing injury to the institutions themselves?

The long-term remedy is the restoration of academic values and standards in our institutions of higher learning, including the academic freedom policies of the Kansas Board of Regents and the American Association of University Professors. This program might be summed up as the restoration of academic professionalism.

It is also time that educational authorities focus attention on the lack of intellectual diversity on university faculties and in the university curriculum. Without a true marketplace of ideas, it is much easier for intellectual standards to be ignored and for indoctrination to replace education.

The immediate step I would recommend is the passage of The Academic Bill of Rights resolution that is now before the Kansas House, HCR 5035.[8]

The second would be to pass a resolution recommending the following:

1) That the Kansas Board of Regents draw up and institute in the colleges and universities under their jurisdiction a Student Bill of Rights incorporating the provisions of their academic freedom policies (I would include in these provisions the right of students to be assigned a class text that is not sectarian in nature or to be assigned multiple texts with reasonably different points of view);

2) That the Kansas Board of Regents adopt the June 23 statement on academic freedom of the American Council on Education [9] for all public institutions of higher learning in the state;

3) That the Kansas Board of Regents instruct its institutions of higher learning to put in place a grievance machinery for students who feel they have been discriminated against for their political views, as recommended in the American Council on Education statement;

4) That the Kansas Board of Regents instruct its institutions of higher learning to place the Student Bill of Rights and all academic freedom policies in a brochure that is handed out to every incoming freshman, and to make the contents of the brochure part of every freshman orientation program;

5) That the Kansas Board of Regents create an Office of Intellectual Diversity and Academic Standards on each of its campuses in the Office of the president or chancellor. The new office would be tasked with maintaining professional standards in all university departments and fostering the growth of intellectual diversity on the faculty and in the curriculum;

6) That the Kansas legislature create a standing committee to look into the state of academic freedom at public colleges and universities in the state, and to make annual reports to the legislature on the progress of university reforms.

I consider this last step to of utmost importance in furthering these agendas.

I thank you for your patience and your time, and I hope you will attend these matters with all the gravity that they deserve.

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ENDNOTES:

1. Rule APM 0-10 of UC Berkeley's Academic Personnel Manual.

2. http://feministstudies.ucsc.edu/resCareers.html

3. http://feministstudies.ucsc.edu/resMajor.html

4. KANSAS BOARD OF REGENTS POLICY STATEMENT ON THE USE OF CONTROVERSIAL MATERIALIN INSTRUCTION, INCLUDING THE USE OF SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIALS IN INSTRUCTION (adopted April 23, 2004).

http://www.provost.ku.edu/policy/controversial_material/controversial_%20material_policy_042304.doc

5. This clause is identical to the 1940 Statement on the Principles of Academic Freedom and Tenure of the American Association of University Professors.

6. http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/essays/political_party.html

7. http://www.k-state.edu/socialwork/main.html

8. http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2006/2006_5035.pdf

9. http://www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org/archive/2005/June/ACEstatement062305.htm?id=4e7wgf9fn5ohqsfetzz8hrpmiz4jjevo