Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

25 February, 2006

Horowitz counts on your ignorance

I posted this review of David Horowitz's The Professors over at amazon.com. While I don't mention it in my review, I should mention that I find Horowitz to be a douchebag of the highest order. Enjoy.

I'm familiar with a good number of the professors who are, erm... "profiled" in Horowitz's latest screed, and I'll agree with his assessment of many of them. Yep, they're radicals. They challenge sexism, racism, capitalism, U.S. foreign policy, etc., etc.

And this all occurs, shockingly enough, at a univeristy, where one expects a diversity of opinions. And luckily, this diversity is protected by the academy's commitment to academic freedom from neo-McCarthyites like Horowitz and his ilk. And yes, I did have conservative professors in the University, in classes spanning a number of disciplines (and I earned my undergraduate degree from an institution that ranks right up there with the most liberal of them all). So there's radicals teaching on college campuses. Big deal. If universities are doing their job properly, an open-minded student will be able to sift through all of the studied opinions presented by faculty members (and yes, all of these opinions are arrived at after years of dedication to one's discipline) and draw their own conclusions.

Ah, but the sub-text of Horowitz's argument is that these professors are using the classroom as a bully pulpit to brainwash and indoctrinate unsuspecting undergraduates into accepting leftist ideologies. But a funny thing happens over the course of Horowitz's book. Not one instance of unprofessional conduct by these professors in the classroom is presented. Not one. In fact, a number of these professors have been commended for their outstanding teaching. Similarly, all of the student complaints of "liberal bias" that Horowitz drums up in trying to foist his "Academic Bill of Rights" on state legislatures have been shown to be frauds. Interesting, isn't it?

What Horowitz counts on to make his case is the general public's unwillingness to do their own research. Are the professors misquoted? Not at all. But Horowitz depends on the reader not searching out the context in which the statement is made. That makes it that much easier to twist a statement's meaning into some gross caricature of the "evil, anti-American communist professor who is out to brainwash your children and steal your tuition money." All academic writing is full of nuance and hair-splitting that most people don't have the time or the energy with which to deal. Horowitz uses this to his advantage in slandering the academy.

Horowitz's goal isn't to remove the 101 professors profiled here - he knows he can't because these faculty members are respected in their field and conduct themselves in a manner befitting their profession. Rather his goal is twofold. First, he and his ilk aim to intimidate younger and less secure academicians who engage in critical studies into silence. Second, he's out to make a buck flogging his dead one-trick pony - the bogeyman of the out-of-touch professor living in the ivory tower. While he's not succeeding in his first objective, it's unfortunate to see that he's going to continue fleecing hard-working individuals who are rightfully concerned about their children's education by peddling his toxic mix of half-truths and unsubstantiated innuendos.

So here's my challenge. If you absolutely must read Horowitz's volume, take the time to read the writings of the professor that he cites as supporting his arguments. I guarantee you'll find work that is provocative (if not always correct), work that will raise certain questions and lead to some interesting discussions - precisely the type of discussions that Horowitz wants to shut down.

[update 2:40 pm 2/26/06]: So amazon.com has finally posted my review at their website. I've also noticed that another 40 some-odd reviews that were previously posted have been scrubbed. Not unprecendented, on their part, but it's a little shady. Anyways, find my review here.

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