[Marxism] Academics are fighting right-wing 'bills of rights'.

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Apr 11 08:27:23 MDT 2005


Nature
Published online: 6 April 2005; | doi:10.1038/434686b

Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content
Emma Marris

Academics are fighting right-wing 'bills of rights'.

Washington - University faculty members in the United States are gearing 
up to oppose state bills that are being put forward by conservatives in 
the name of academic freedom.

Critics say that these 'Academic Bills of Rights', which are written to 
make sure that each side of an issue is presented in lectures at public 
universities, could in fact stifle academic freedom — and disrupt the 
teaching of science in contentious fields such as evolution and global 
warming.

[snip picture of David Horowitz touring campuses to promote his academic 
bills of rights, with a HUGE US flag behind him]

"This would be a right-wing political takeover of the universities," 
says Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida, the state's 
main academics' union.

Along with introducing protection from discrimination based on political 
or religious convictions, a bill being proposed in Florida calls on 
faculty members to refrain from introducing "controversial matter" 
unrelated to the course subject. It also requires them to present 
"serious scholarly viewpoints" other than their own.

Although the bill was written primarily with the humanities in mind, it 
would apply to all academic disciplines. On 22 March, Dennis Baxley 
(Republican, Ocala), who is backing the bill, said that it would make 
sure that alternatives to evolution are not shut out of universities.

"I do believe it has implications for the hard sciences," says Auxter. 
"It will waste a lot of time in the classroom because you will have to 
spend time covering a bunch of extraneous stuff — every crazy idea out 
there."

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is opposing 
similar bills nationally, saying that faculty members should decide 
course content. "This effort is part of a larger pressure on higher 
education to politicize the agenda," says Ruth Flower, the AAUP's 
director of public policy.

David Horowitz, a marxist radical turned conservative activist, has 
written a template for the bills introduced in Florida and elsewhere. 
The Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a Los Angeles-based 
think-tank co-founded by Horowitz, has helped to establish campus-based 
groups to back the measure.

The campaign has gathered steam in recent weeks, with bills introduced 
in several states. Georgia passed a non-binding motion supporting the 
idea in March 2004, and Colorado dropped the bill only when major 
universities agreed to adopt its language at the administrative level. 
Other states, among them Maryland and Washington, have already rejected 
bills or put them on hold.

The AAUP also objects to a clause in Horowitz's draft of the bill that 
requires universities and professional societies to "maintain a posture 
of organizational neutrality with respect to the substantive 
disagreements that divide researchers on questions within, or outside, 
their fields of inquiry". Most states have dropped this clause, as they 
do not have jurisdiction over national societies.

According to the AAUP, Florida could be the first state to pass the 
bill. Baxley, a close ally of Governor Jeb Bush, says the outraged 
reception is evidence that academics are too inflexible. "I've been 
called an ass in the school newspaper at the University of Florida," he 
says, "and that demonstrates exactly what I am talking about."





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