What brought me back was an article from Inside Higher Ed. On the renewal of the Higher Education Act. What got my attention is newest version may included some Horowitz-inspired "academic freedom" measures. Such legislation has been considered in a number of states, most recently Pennsylvania, but this is the first time I know of that it's hit Washington.
First, my thoughts on the "academic freedom" legislation in general:
David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Freedom" (which can be found on studentsforacademicfreedom.org contains some silliness. Among them:
Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas...All human knowledge? Including such statements as "The Holocaust happened"? (History is, after all, a humanity.) Of course, it's possible that the universe popped into existence 5 minutes ago, meaning nothing in our history books happened, but such speculations need not leave the philosophy classroom. The statement is, however, a preface to something legitimate, if obvious: "providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate." Yes, appropriate things are good.
Much of the fuss made by people like Graham Larkin worked up about Horowitz is statements not officially part of the campaign for the bill, such as complaining about professors who display political cartoons, which he says is, "trying to inflict on you their prejudices." As a soon-to-be college school student, I find the thought that I might somehow be damaged by seeing a political cartoon offensive. If he thinks we're that impressionable, he shouldn't stop wasting his time on colleges and just fight to repeal the 26th amendment.
Back to the specific bill: there's not so much to be worried about in what Higher Ed describes as "a watered-down version of David HorowitzÂs Academic Bill of Rights." I can't find exactly what made it into the legislation, but it's been influenced by this statement by the American Association of University Professors and other groups. The statement has none of the difficulties of ABOR, and fear of recognizing Horowitz's agenda shouldn't keep people from sayingcompletelyt sensible things.
There is a frightening aspect to this whole process, however:
No such agreement emerged on NorwoodÂs proposal to cut back on anti-American activity, which would give a new international education advisory board that the legislation would create the power to define and identify such activity. He said that many international studies programs in the United States "teach distrust of America" and "teach young Americans to be against their own country."In some circles, "anti-American" simply means "dissenting," an American activity if there ever was one. Brendan Nyhan recently had some good posts on how this is an ongoing problem, not just post 9/11 hysteria. David Horowitz had insjudgmentgement of what viewpoints college students need to hear will not be made on political grounds, but such a board would create the potential for doing just that.
As a side note, someone needs to get a movement underway to define "anti-American" as including "anti-dissent."