How Conservatives Came to Despise the Academy

November 14, 2007

The Enemy Within (the Ivory Tower):
How Conservatives Came to Despise the Academy

By Andrew Hartman

In a May 4, 2005 editorial in the Los Angeles Times titled “Neocons Lay Siege to Ivory Towers,” a UCLA Professor of English warned of the “profound threat posed to academic freedom” by a California bill to enact the David Horowitz-authored “Academic Bill of Rights.” Horowitz, a repentant sixties radical, has become arguably the most influential conservative activist in the professed struggle against rampant anti-Americanism on campuses across the nation. His benignly-named “Academic Bill of Rights,” fashioned into legislative bills in dozens of states, purports to protect students against professors who “take unfair advantage of their position of power over a student by indoctrinating him or her with the teacher’s own opinions.” In practice, the Horowitz bill would allow the state to regulate pedagogical practice, thus serving to decimate academic freedom, as the concept has long been understood.

Considering his powerful allies, the Horowitz quest is hardly quixotic. The influence of conservative groups such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, founded by Lynne Cheney and Joe Lieberman, dedicated to monitoring and exposing leftist sentiments among academics, has grown precipitously in the wake of September 11. For these conservative activists, the academy is suspect, a veritable fifth column. For instance, in his latest book The Professors, subtitled “The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America,” Horowitz argues that a swarm of intellectuals are undermining national security in their sympathy for terrorists.

To read the rest of this essay, please go to the United States Intellectual History blog.

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