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Indoctrination U: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom

Indoctrination U: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom

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by David Horowitz

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In 2003, David Horowitz began a campaign to promote intellectual diversity and a return to academic standards in American universities. To achieve these goals he devised an Academic Bill of Rights and created a national student movement with chapters on 160 college campuses. Take No Prisoners is a riveting account of the reaction to Horowitz's campaign by professor


In 2003, David Horowitz began a campaign to promote intellectual diversity and a return to academic standards in American universities. To achieve these goals he devised an Academic Bill of Rights and created a national student movement with chapters on 160 college campuses. Take No Prisoners is a riveting account of the reaction to Horowitz's campaign by professor unions and academic associations, whose leaderships have been taken over by the political left.

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The Left's War Against Academic Freedom


Copyright © 2007 David Horowitz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59403-190-8

Chapter One

Academic Freedom

In the winter of 2002, I drew up an Academic Bill of Rights whose purpose was to promote intellectual diversity on college campuses and restore academic values to university classrooms. Although this bill has since been the object of fervid attacks, it is actually a quintessentially liberal document reflecting values embraced by all American institutions of higher learning throughout the modern era. Its text is based on a famous document called the "Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure," published in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors. These principles have long since been incorporated into the academic policies of most American research universities.

The 1915 Declaration of Principles proposed two basic rights-one for faculty and the other for students. Professors were guaranteed freedom in their professional research, but they were also warned not to use their classroom authority to indoctrinate their students. In the words of the declaration, a teacher should avoid "taking unfair advantage of the student's immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters in question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness of judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own."

While this doctrine has been the foundation of the educational governance of universities for nearly a hundred years, in the last several decades it has been increasingly disregarded by faculty and rarely enforced by administrators. My awareness of this fact led me to believe that a new statement of these principles was required. It also convinced me that a national campaign would be needed to inspire renewed commitment by university administrators to enforce the rules that were meant to ensure the fairness and objectivity of the college classroom.

In 1940 and 1970, the American Association of University Professors issued two subsequent statements amplifying the original Declaration of Principles. Both featured clauses cautioning professors to "be careful not to introduce into their teaching controversial matter which has no relation to their subject." Like the original declaration, these statements were published at a time when the nation was torn by controversies over war and peace. Their goal was to insulate the university from the turbulent passions inspired by the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War, whose repercussions could damage the academic enterprise. In designing the Academic Bill of Rights, I was conscious of the fact that I was doing so in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and a new war against radical Islam, and that we were entering these ominous times with the academic freedom protections in a tenuous state.

The hundreds of interviews I conducted with students had made me aware that professors routinely used their classrooms to voice their nonprofessional, and often passionately expressed, opinions on the war in Iraq and other matters that were irrelevant to the subjects they taught and outside their areas of expertise. In the course of these interviews, I rarely encountered a student who had not been subjected to such in-class abuse.

Because student claims to this effect have been regularly-and peremptorily-challenged by faculty opponents of the Academic Bill of Rights, I offer the following two statements by university professors as an indication of how prevalent the use of classrooms for political agendas actually is. These statements appeared on a list-serve managed by the National Endowment for the Humanities for academics whose field is American studies. A question posed to the list by one of the academics was itself revealing of the political, rather than scholarly, mindset of those participating: "How are we in American Studies responding to the war in Iraq (and Afghanistan) as a 'teachable moment'?"

Evelyn Azeeza Alsultany, a professor of Arab-American studies at the University of Michigan, was one of those answering the question. In her communication, Professor Alsultany not only declared it her intention to pursue political agendas in the classroom but also made a veiled (and typically inverted) reference to the academic freedom campaign, which she complained was causing the pursuit of nonacademic agendas to be "more difficult":

Date: 8/16/2006 3:47 PM From: Evelyn Alsultany Hi Jay, I personally think it is very important to address current politics and wars in our classes. Unfortunately, given the many attacks on academic freedom over the last few years, this has become more important and more difficult. I will not be teaching this Fall, but in the Winter semester I will be team teaching a course with Nadine Naber, "Why Do They Hate Us?: Perspectives on 9/11 ..." The other course I will be teaching in the Winter is called, "From Harems to Terrorists: Representing the Middle East in Hollywood Cinema." While the focus is on U.S. media and particularly Hollywood films, the course more broadly examines the ideologies that justify anti-Arab racism and U.S.-led wars in the Middle East.

Another answer to the question was provided by Kyla Tompkins, assistant professor of English literature and women's studies at Pomona College, one of the premier liberal arts colleges in America.

Date: 8/16/2006 2:16 PM From: Kyla Tompkins In my feminist theory class, we spend the last two weeks on Feminism after 9/11 and students have responded really well to that. More pertinent to this list, I teach a Cultures of U.S. Imperialism class, mostly a 19th-century course, and the war is present in everything we talk about. One text that was particularly eerie was the Susannah Rowson text Slaves of Algiers, a text that uncannily echoed Bush's early "Save the Women in the Service of Democracy and Freedom" rhetoric during the beginning of the Afghanistan War. However we also paid a lot of attention to the proto (or is it para-?) Zionist rhetoric of many 19th-century texts and rhetoric.

(Note that Professor Tompkins has no academic credential or background that would qualify her to teach about imperialism, slavery, or Zionism. According to her faculty website, her "expertise areas" are: "Cultural Theory, American Studies, Food Studies, 19th Century U.S. Literature, Critical Feminism.")

The use of classrooms for political agendas violates the specific regulations that most universities adopted following the 1940 statement on academic freedom. These regulations are published in faculty handbooks and posted on official university websites. Yet academic authorities were no longer enforcing them. Moreover, students affected by the infractions were generally unaware of the guidelines. Consequently, they had no way of knowing when teachers were behaving unprofessionally in the classroom and thus violating their academic freedom.

It occurred to me that once informed of the guidelines, students themselves could become an important factor in correcting the abuses. If it was the responsibility of faculty not to indoctrinate students, it should be the right of students not to be indoctrinated. If administrators were not enforcing their own guidelines, students might prod them to do so once they were informed of their rights. These were the ideas that gave rise to the academic freedom campaign. In drafting the Academic Bill of Rights, I articulated and codified the traditional principles as student rights. I then set about creating an organization, Students for Academic Freedom, to promote these rights and to call for an end to the abuses.

The overarching goal of the academic freedom campaign was to end political advocacy by professors in their classrooms, regardless of whether their politics were left or right. It was also an effort to restore traditional academic standards that promoted scholarly neutrality and objectivity. The goals of the campaign expressed the long-held consensus about the purpose of a democratic education that had only recently come under attack-the purpose of publicly supported educational institutions in democracies was to create free citizens who were able to think for themselves and not to instill approved doctrines.

Since the Academic Bill of Rights was a liberal and viewpoint-neutral document, based on existing university standards, it should have won widespread, nonpartisan support among administrators and academics. It was my original plan, therefore, to seek broad-based support and to promote its adoption by universities. This should have been relatively easy, since the bill represented ideas to which they were already committed. Because my goal was to prevent the educational mission from being suborned by political interests, I was particularly concerned to respect the independence of the academic institutions and therefore to avoid legislative measures to implement the reforms.

On the other hand, it was obvious even before I began that political forces had already established themselves inside the university, and to such a degree that they could not be ignored. The presence of these political forces, whose aggressiveness had made it impossible for university administrators to implement the existing academic freedom guidelines, had created the problem to begin with.

University presidents were first and foremost fund-raisers, and open conflict with a significant segment of their faculties was not likely to advance their administrative careers. Nor could trustees step in to help them, since university boards were kept at arm's length by "shared governance" rules, which discouraged them from getting involved in curricular issues. In short, there appeared to be no authority inside the university able to enforce university rules in the face of determined faculty opposition. This meant that correcting the problem would require outside pressure.

If did not fully understand these facts when I began my efforts, they were made apparent soon enough. I had drafted the Academic Bill of Rights specifically for adoption by the State University of New York, a system with 69 campuses and over 400,000 students. I did so after meeting with the chairman of its board of trustees, Tom Egan, in November 2002. Like other SUNY trustees, Egan had been appointed by Governor George Pataki, a Republican. He was well disposed towards my proposal and assured me that the Academic Bill of Rights would be adopted by the SUNY board. But it was a promise he proved unable to keep. As months passed and administrative paralysis set in, I realized that it was never going to happen. It was also evident that the factors preventing it from taking place were political to the core.

The most important of these factors was the political composition of the SUNY faculty, whose senate and professional associations were dominated by the activist left. As soon as the Academic Bill of Rights was published, the head of the SUNY teachers' union, representing thirty thousand professors and staff, denounced it as "crazy" and "Orwellian," and disparaged it with puerile humor as the "Academic Bull of Rights." Although the bill specifically protected the political opinions of all professors, the union head pronounced it a McCarthy "witch-hunt." With political operatives like this leading the way, there was not the slightest chance that an Academic Bill of Rights would pass the SUNY Faculty Senate, or that Egan and the SUNY trustees would attempt to introduce such a policy over the union's opposition.

As many studies have recently revealed, the left-wing politics of the SUNY faculty were far from unique. Thirty years of exclusionary hiring practices had led to a situation where university faculties across the country were stacked heavily to the left of the political spectrum. Self-described "liberals" outnumbered self-described "conservatives" by more than seven to one. In fields like anthropology-and among junior faculty across the board-the figures already approached thirty to one. It was probably the case that most professors, liberal or otherwise, were professional in their work and adhered to the principle of classroom neutrality. But a significant minority-representing tens of thousands of professors-regarded themselves as political activists first, and this overrode their professional concerns. Equally important, they were far more vocal and aggressive than their liberal peers, and as a result they dominated the organs of faculty power. This activist minority was ready to resist any attempt to enforce professional standards of conduct that might obstruct their political agendas, and to intimidate anyone who got in their way.

The organizational dominance of political activists was an academic development whose seeds had been planted in the 1960s and whose growth had accelerated in subsequent decades. By the time the Academic Bill of Rights was proposed, these radicals had become so institutionally powerful that any effort to challenge their prerogatives risked precipitating a faculty revolt. The censure and subsequent resignation of Harvard president Larry Summers in the spring of 2006 was a classic example of how this faculty power could be mobilized to determine the outcome of political confrontations with administrators. The threat of such protests was enough to ensure that a university administration would take no action on a matter like the Academic Bill of Rights absent an external intervention.

The same fear affected trustees like SUNY's Toni Egan. The trustees of public universities were normally (though not always) appointed by governors whose political ambitions would be damaged if they collided with an academic senate or faculty union on such curricular issues. This was particularly true if the issue could be framed as "political." As their campaign against the Academic Bill of Rights showed, leftists were adept at doing just that when their own agendas-which, of course, were intensely political-were blocked. Thus an administrative attempt to remove politics from the curriculum would be opposed by faculty radicals as itself a political intervention into the curriculum. It was a Wonderland logic, but effective. The result was a paralysis of administrative will in matters concerning academic freedom. This was the explanation for the months that passed without action by the SUNY chairman on my proposal.

The impasse convinced me that I had no recourse but to take the issue to state legislatures, if only to rouse public opinion on the matter. Public concern could have an impact on university enrollments and the attitudes of funders, and represented forces that university administrators could not afford to ignore. My purpose was not to urge legislators to micromanage state universities, but to gain leverage that might help the university administrators enforce academic guidelines that were already in place. The legislation I eventually sought was exclusively in the form of resolutions, which lacked statutory "teeth" to enforce their provisions. My calculation was that even if legislatures only expressed a desire that existing standards be enforced, it would provide administrators with a persuasive argument for enforcing their own rules. The alternative was to let the ideal of academic freedom wither on the vine.

The practicality of this new plan-and the possibility of accomplishing its objectives without interfering with university governance-was soon demonstrated in the state of Colorado. In June 2003, 1 traveled to Denver to meet with Governor Bill Owens and a group of legislators to outline the problem. They were receptive to my ideas, and John Andrews, the majority leader of the Colorado Senate, agreed to sponsor the bill. Andrews subsequently turned the sponsorship over to Representative Shawn Mitchell after he realized he could not get it through the senate with a one-vote majority.

Like many legislatures, Colorado's sat only six months of the year, so it was not until March 2004 that a version of the Academic Bill of Rights was put before the Education Committee of the state house of representatives. It soon passed on a 6-5 party-line vote. Almost immediately, the heads of Colorado's state universities approached Mitchell with a request that he withdraw the bill if they would put the policy into effect. It was exactly the result I had desired. A "memorandum of understanding" was quickly signed by the parties concerned, and then a joint resolution endorsing the compromise was passed unanimously by both houses of Colorado's legislature.


Excerpted from INDOCTRINATION U. by DAVID HOROWITZ Copyright © 2007 by David Horowitz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

David Horowitz is a nationally known author and lifelong civil rights activist. Previously a long time founder of the New Left movement in the 1960s, he has gone on to pen numerous books, including The Politics of Bad Faith, The Art of Political War and Radical Son, his autobiography. Since 1988 he had served as president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a vehicle group for his campaigns and his online newsmagazine FrontPageMag.com.

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Indoctrination U.: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very pleased to read david horowitzs latest bestseller indocrination u. I had become very concerned about certain teachers in the university system like ward churchhill and sami alarian who were getting away with indoctrinating their students with radical ideas and leaving no room for debait. this well researched and documented book shows that these ideas of radicalism are being presented as facts to the students and some of these teachers are using tax payers expenses to pay for radical courses to indoctrinate students in the classrooms instead of educating them.whean I went to college my teachers presented all sides of the argument. this book shows that free speech is being threatened.
stormsTC More than 1 year ago
"indoctrination u," is a very indepth book that the writer has done alot of research that shows how some teachers in the classroom are not using the students the way they are suppose to be taught instead they are being given partison politics in the classroom trying to indoctrinate the students with leftest ideas and they dont even take any kind of sides so as to the students are given their own radial ideas. these professors are shown to be documenting and wasting the states school funds. this is a fantastic book for parents who wish to show were their family wants to go to school. this would make a great gift idea for someone special.