[Marxism] Academics are fighting right-wing 'bills of rights'.
schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Apr 11 08:27:23 MDT 2005
Published online: 6 April 2005; | doi:10.1038/434686b
Professors bristle as states act to mould lecture content
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
[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
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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