Tuesday, December 02, 2008


At Minding the Campus, Roger Kimball on academic free speech (and, oh yeah, the newly revised edition of his fun but aged book, Tenured Radicals):
When the first edition of Tenured Radicals appeared lo, these many years ago, around the time movable type was coming into vogue, the American university, when it came to the humanities and social sciences, anyway, was essentially a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.

Well, that was then. In the meantime, some very talented people have weighed in on the problem. They have written articles and books about the university; they've organized conferences, symposia, and think-tank initiatives; they even managed to place scores of good people in various colleges and universities as a counterweight to the various intellectual and moral depredations I chronicle in Tenured Radicals. Today, two editions and nearly two decades later, we can look at the American university and what do we discover? That it is, essentially, a left-wing monoculture gravely infected by the stultifying imperatives of political correctness, specious multiculturalism, and an addiction to a potpourri of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms.

One reason is that that left-wing monoculture I mentioned is simply too deeply entrenched for these initiatives, laudable and necessary though they are, to make much difference. For the last few years, I have heard several commentators from sundry ideological points of view predict that the reign of political correctness and programmatic leftism on campus had peaked and was now about to recede. I wish I could be share that optimism. I see no evidence of it. Sure, students are quiescent. But indifference is not instauration, and besides faculties nearly everywhere form a self-perpetuating closed-shop. . . .
Didn't really need to include that graf; just wanted to make you look up "instauration."
Let me mention a couple of distinctions that I think we have lost sight of in recent years. The first is the distinction between academic freedom and free speech. Every time some wacko like Ward Churchill comes along shouting about the evils of American capitalism and the beneficence of Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Native American Indians, or whoever, his defenders rally round and say, "Well, I may not like what he says, but he is simply exercising his right of free speech."

I say, No he is not. He is violating his obligation as a teacher to eschew politics and impart knowledge. There is an important distinction between the right of free speech--our rights as citizens in a free society to peaceful political dissent--and academic freedom, the more limited privilege accorded to suitably enfranchised members of a college or university to pursue knowledge. . . .
Kimball makes the same mistake here the "it's about Ward's free speech" proponents (fewer and fewer as time goes on--where are the Dean Saittas of yesteryear?) do. Churchill isn't just a "purveyor of intellectually dubious pseudo-radicalisms" who's violated rules of academic discourse--he's a liar, a cheat and a fraud. And he's far from the only one--just the nastiest. Anyhow, read whole thing. Kimball is not all that hopeful, which seems appropriate. Oh, one more tiny graf:
A cartoon now making the rounds dramatizes my point: Question: What's more disturbing than William Ayers, terrorist and family friend of Obama. Answer: William Ayers, educator.
Update: I could have done without Kimball's recounting of his friend's joke about reforming universities with tanks. Not funny, dumb.

Update II: In my abscess, er, absence (not funny, dumb), De!mocracy No!w posted the second part of Amy Goodman's interview with this year's "It" couple, Bernie 'n' Billy (part one here). The usual lying, self-aggrandizing nonsense. Just one example as Bernie peroratates:
I want to say one last thing. The best of the new Left and the best of the social struggles of today have at their core the valuing of human life. All human life. You have to say both parts of that because people in the United States have to find our place in the world. And in some ways get off the necks and the backs of people of the world. We have to live differently. We have to live, and I say this with all humility too, you know. We have to all together learn to live differently so that others may live. So that core notion that animates social justice movements is really the valuing of all human life.
Remember, that's Bernie "Dig it" Dohrn talking there. Question: What's more disturbing than William Ayers, educator? Answer: Bernardine Dohrn, educator.

Update III: I said Wart was the nastiest of the bunch. Wrong-o. At most, he's only third.

No comments: