Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

04 April, 2006

The new McCarthyism

Finally, a major article on the Right's witch hunt in the American academy. Of course, it was published in a UK paper - when is the US media going to pay some attention to this issue?

Doubtless, many of you are well informed as to the assault that conservatives have been waging on university professors, including David Horowitz's recent screed decrying the 101 "most dangerous" professors. The assault, however, is also being carried on in high schools:
These issues are not confined to university campuses: it is also happening in schools. Since February, the normally sleepy, wealthy district of Upper St Clair in Pennsylvania has been riven with arguments over its curriculum after the local school board banned the International Baccalaureate (IB), the global educational programme, for being an "un-American" marxist and anti-Christian. During their election campaign, the Republicans of Upper St Clair referred to the IB, which is offered in 122 countries and whose student intake has risen by 73% worldwide in the past five years, as though it was part of an international communist conspiracy, suspicious of a curriculum that had been "developed in a foreign country" (Switzerland). "Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and we have to be careful about what values our children are taught," said one Republican board member. Similar campaigns have also sprung up recently at school boards in Minnesota and Virginia.
The article cites several examples of the boneheaded accusations right wingers are making in order to chill the outside the classroom activities of intellectuals:
[Peter McLaren from UCLA] believes the list was a McCarthyite attack on academe, with the aim of softening up public hostility for a more propitious moment: "This is a low-intensity campaign that can be ratcheted up at a time of crisis. When there is another crisis in this country and this country is in an ontological hysteria, an administration could use that to up the ante. I think it represents a tendency towards fascism."
What really makes the article worth the read, however, are the numerous smackdowns of Horowitz. Read and enjoy:
[Horowitz's] book is a sloppy series of character assassinations, relying more heavily on insinuation, inference, suggestion and association than it does on fact...


"Horowitz's idea of research is cherry-picking," says [Todd] Gitlin [of Columbia University]. "And he can't even be trusted to find cherries. He comes up with bitter prunes."


"Were it not for all the inaccuracies I would say that I would be flattered to be on the list, but I don't think I earned it," says [Victor] Navasky [also of Columbia]. "I don't think anyone seriously considers me a clear and present danger to the republic."
To which perpetually oppressed Horowitz responds:
"All they do is tar and feather me with slanders," he says. "It's the politics of Stalinism."
As atrios would say: whiny-ass titty baby.

Anyways, the article is well reported and is definitely worth a read if you're interested in issues of academic freedom. As several folks in the article comment, it's all about the money. Anti-intellectualism is a cash cow for the conservative movement. Horowitz continues to cash in on the concerns parents have about the education of their children, and on the general public's ignorance of what occurs in the college classroom. Conservatives find the raging left-wing professor to be the perfect lubricant for their fundraising operations.

And the quest for truth is waylaid by political hacks with an axe to grind.


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