Friday, April 29, 2005

Where Does the Time Go

I started this blog with all the good intentions of posting my thoughts on a regular or at least semi-regular basis. Now here it is 2+ months into this thing and I'm logging my second posting.

Perhaps I'm busy or perhaps I'm finding myself less committed to putting my thoughts here than I originally thought I would be. I find I spend a lot of time commenting on other peoples' blogs; and maybe it is just easier to pick fights with people when you see their views as wrong or dangerous. But are mine any less dangerous?

I have been currently doing a lot of research and general reading. On what? In general, I am studying the link between Marx's views on Capitalism and the apparent effect of Capitalism on Social Deviance. I am always interested in the implications of politics in Education though. So while I was making my rounds on the blogosphere I came across the innocuous looking Academic Bill of Rights.

On the surface, this would appear just a sensible idea and not make one hazard a second glance. In fact, you might even want to stand up and applaud at this point. Go ahead, I'll wait. (pause, pause, pause) Ok, now that we have taken a moment to reflect the implications that our first impressions give us, I'll continue with my thoughts on the matter. The following is a link to the Academic Bill of Rights mission statement:

Hats off for the politically correct wording used in this document. Now lets discuss the implications of this ideology. According to this statement, Students for Acedemic Freedom just wish to allow opinions to be kept out of the classroom and rid academia of political bias. This of course, is an impossible feat considering the nature of Humanities studies that this coalition is apparently targeting with this ABR. On the surface, I would not argue that there is a certain amount of bias in the university system; and their use of arguements in the beginning of this document citing Supreme Court decisions in cases sich as Keyishian v. Board of Regents (385US589) seem to add an heir of legitimacy to their side of the argument. But let's look deeper, let's see who is behind SAF's Academic Bill of Rights. Why, it's none other than that famous philanthropist David Horowitz. For anyone who has been living under a rock, I urge you to pay attention to this guy. If you have had the misfortune of reading any of Ann Coulter's drivel then you will have a basic concept of where he is coming from as well.

Now to break the intentions of this group down, what is apparent is that Horowitz and Co. desire legislation that demands equal face time for students in studies following a more conservative agenda. Their basic premise is that students are being indoctrinated into leftist beliefs by communist leaning professors and if they offer a dissenting opinion they will be formally or informally sanctioned by this supposed status quo for deriding the popular concensus among this conspiratorial leftist Academic Cadre. Now, I managed to attend class once or twice in college and I have to say that this thinking is utterly ridiculous. If anything in my personal experience, I noted professors in general to be pompous, stuffy, and at least moderate or further right. This could be because of my tendancy to prefer Marxian philosphy, I will not dispute my bias.

At this point, I would like to bring up my assertion that as far as the University System is concerned, they must answer to the business community who hire students to fill positions after graduation; they must answer to the government who helps subsidize them if they are public (private colleges are excluded from this worry, but then they are usually right leaning anyhow). And they must do this while trying to balance legitimate liberal education and maintain an atmosphere that is attractive to prospective students who consider themselves conservative and those who consider themselves liberal. I would excuse the Halls of Academia for tiptoeing through this bed of tulips as lightly as possible. From my personal experience, I have observed that sometimes by being Left and Atheist that just my existence is offensive to those who would call themselves diametrically opposed to my philosophy. BUT.......this does not indeed stop at the hallowed halls of academe. There is currently legislation being quietly (or sometimes not so quietly) to enact this ABR as law.

What is at first striking to me is the fact that these are both state legislative bills in two different states which are almost written verbatim. They both could have cut and pasted the document written by SAF. I'm no legal expert, but I find it odd that two states with so many miles between them introduce legislature at the same time on the same subject in identical language. Ok, so you say it was a concerted effort. This is my point. What we have is a coorinated effort to enact legislation governing how higher education should conduct its own behavior. Let us examine what the accusations standing before Academia are. According to the movement behind both of these bills, conservative thinking students are formally or informally sanctioned by communist sympathizing professors who, in their eyes make for the overwhelming majority of Univresity cadre. They further assert that this is some sort of left leaning conspiracy which involves giving favorable positions to liberal professors and doctoral candidates. They assert that this is done consciously as well as unconsciously in a manner that is both overt and covert. This group demands that the legislation force the university system to give equal time and attention to the subject matter of Creationism or Intellegent design as it does Evolution.

I smell where this crowd is coming from. These are the people who are offended by my lack of Christian faith. They are the people who say I'm not a good American because I won't bow before the great god of Fascism/Capitalism. This is the 'with us or against us' crowd. They hate that people like me are allowed to think the way we do. They say we encourage terrorism, while they work vigilantly to protect our lives from the evil Muslims, IRA, Central American Drug Cartels, the evil Communists on DPRK, blah, blah, blah...........insert your favorite terrorist here.

I say, if there are people out there who want to learn Creationist theory or study Theology then there are plenty of private schools that are willing to lecture them on such subjects until their heads explode or they snap and bomb an abortion clinic, which ever comes first. While I advocate diversity of opinion in education, I do not believe that it is something which can be successfully legislated in an equitable manner for everyone's mutual or even mutually exclusive benefit.

In closing I offer this link. It is a weblog discussion on this very subject among more intellectual types than myself. It also offers a fair representation of both sides of this argument. You be the judge.


Blogger Mannning said...

This post of yours I came across while scanning for further posts of yours on Rousseau. I felt compelled to make a comment.

There seems to be a disconnect here between what David Horowitz is advocating and what you are attacking.

It is my opinion that he is striving for even-handedness in the classroom, rather than the current indoctrination solely into leftist views, and to protect students from being downgraded and even failed if they do not buy into the indoctrinations of the professor.

That seems to me to be a correct target, especially if I were to be paying $30,000 a year to a university, only to find my son or daughter sucked into a firebrand's leftist dogma. A Ward Churchill, for example, who is a fuzzy imitation of Noam Chomsky, and a liar to boot.

I think it is fine to expose our students to all manner of political and social philosophies, but not to sell, coerce or mesmerize them in any particular one. They should be taught the pros and cons of each philosophy in an objective manner, or the proper professor is not teaching the course. I, for one, would jerk my son out of the university if I thought he was being seduced into a particular camp -- and yes, especially leftist dogma. (In my own time in university, I didn't have time to f..t around with political subjects, I was far too busy learning physics and math, and a number of other subjects, as most students should be occupied, and then partying and chasing girls too.)

As to teaching Creationism versus Darwinism, I would rather have them
teach, again in an even-handed manner, the scientific basis for evolution, the confirmation of it as a theory through analysis of finds in the fossil inprints of the past, and other forms of confirmation, and then to teach proper scientific methods and results for either confirming or challenging evolution from the beginning of our universe till now.
That is good science, just as it should be for our students.

If we end up with evolution as the best theory overall, then fine and dandy. If, however, we manage to challenge the dogma of evolution successfully, and force its rejection or modification, then fine too! Science moves on correctly, and our students will have had an enormous learning experience.

Note that I did not say anything about Creationism, per se. I said we should use science as it is meant to be used, and we should not be hung up by established dogma. If this means that there is a sound scientific basis for a challenge to evolution coming from intelligent design efforts, then so be it. That doesn't mean teaching Creation at all to me. It means that a sound scientific argument must be considered on its own merits regardless of where it came from.

Many agnostic and atheist scientists welcomed evolutionary theory because it put a scientific foundation under their non-belief in Christianity or any other God-based religion. A. N. Whitehead was one who welcomed it, and even remarked that there was not much to Darwinism from a scientific point of view, but he needed an underpinning for his atheism!

At one time, Newtonian Physics was the dogma of the day. Today, it is seen for its contribution to our macro understanding of physics, and it does solve useful problems in the real world. But it is not the total answer, as we now know.

I would suggest to you that your one-off experience in a campus environment is not representative of today's university experiences nationwide. The accepted ratio of leftist to rightist professors in our universities is 7 to 1. Many research reports have been done on this matter, and it always comes out with an overwhelming dominance of leftist professors. I can cite some of these studies if you like, but I think you already know this fact. This very ratio tells a story of slanted teaching, almost by definition.

By mentioning David Horowitz in connection with the ABR is meant to sabotage the whole idea? DH is an interesting man, if only because he was formerly a leftist of the first magnitude.

That he abandoned the Left is most leftist's main reason for castigating him and his works. And to realize also that he pinpoints the absurdities of leftist positions all the time, cannot win him any kudos on the leftwing!

This time out, however, he is on the right track, in my opinion. There is a sense of great justice in taking the position that teachers should present both sides of the story, not just one side.

Sat Aug 27, 11:23:00 PM CDT  
Blogger JasonJ said...

Ok look, let's not beat around the bush here. Horowitz is elbow deep in the Academic Bill of Rights movement. He is not guilty by association, he is a driving force behind the movement. All one needs to do is look at his website, or at least circa the period this thread was started.

So what was his motivation? Truth? Justice? The American way? Love of his fellow man? Whether he be a dyed in the wool neoconcervative or a born again bastard, make m=no mistakes that his job and his intention is political spin. His intention was 'to let all the good christians know that the left hate God'. Flat out!

Had the ID folks a leg to stand on and something to offer the intellectual community, I might be a little more sympathetic to their cause; but the truth is that time and again these are the same people saying don't look for the truth, believe what I tell you or be eternally damned in the hell fires we invented to make dissenters like you fear for your eternal soul we invented for you. These are the same people who will never consent to admitting that they have no proof even the circumstantial type that Darwin and Huxley used to prove thier point. From where I am sitting I can think of another word that rhymes with Piety that is gullible. Oh wait, that doesn't rhyme, but they are synonyms.

So I cannot back down here. Students for Academic Freedom and their bastard child the ABF are out for one thing; ultimately that is suppression of higher learning and freedom of thought. But if you would like to argue it further, we can do that as well.

Wed Sep 14, 10:46:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Mannning said...

Discussing this movement seems to run into preset notions of what is "behind" David Horowitz' push. After reading two of his books (The Politics of Bad Faith, and Unholy Alliance), I am impressed that he knows what he is talking about when exposing left wing gyrations.

He was there, in the middle of the socialist/communist movement: I was not there, so I give him credit for coming over to the other side, and I believe he is telling it like it is until someone proves he isn't in each instance.

As to your interpretation of his spin, that is a joke, right? Why are you castigating Horowitz for writing what everyone believes about the far left anyway? Because he is confirming it? Well, now!

In fact, I believe that most leftists have no use whatsoever for the notion of God, and I believed that through reading about the far left long before Horowitz was around for me to read.
How else to read the Communist Manifesto or the Secular Humanist Manifesto? They are quite explicit on this.

There is ample proof of the campus bias today, and it is not questioned seriously by even the most rabid leftists. The campus has been their turf for quite a while now. It is only in recent years that rightist student movements have sprung up on campus to challenge the other side. Which is a very healthy thing.

Having seen the leftist bias myself on one of my University campuses (the local one here -- UR), I was in shock, and my acquaintences there repeated stories similar to those DH writes about. So it is a one-off observation, it is still confirmation enough for me to become energized to do something about it here, where I am nearby.

Interesting that you also challenge Intelligent Design in the way you do. I have just finished reading two seminal books on the subject: Darwin's Black Box, by Michael Behe; and Intelligent Design by William Dembski. They have both raised careful and even brilliant scientific questions on the efficacy of Darwinian Evolution that need to be answered with proper scientific evaluations instead of sneers of doubt and ignoring the arguments on the basis that ID=Creation Theory, which is not the case for them per se. But I am not able to repeat their arguments in a short space, so I will wait until you have read them to go further. Otherwise, it is not worth the candle to discuss ID.

I will merely state that these men have presented scientific cases against Darwinism that the rest of the scientific community have not been able to challenge successfully since 1999, though they have tried every tactic in the book to do so, except effective further scientific exposition! (Note that I said "against Darwinism," and not "for Creationism." All they have done is to shed grave doubts on Darwinism as the correct theory.
Which is a monumental result, in my opinion.)

I hold no brief for those who want to take a leap of faith at some point in the ID expositions and to declare that God must have done it, while lacking any proof of their claim. I do hold that scientific arguments must be treated for what they are, and be challenged scientifically, not by hocus pokus or by denigrating the authors because they are of the faith. That is charletanism. The list of scientists who are of the faith is exceedingly long and very difficult to challenge because of their faith.

Tue Oct 04, 03:56:00 PM CDT  
Blogger JasonJ said...

Ok Jim, I can see this is going to be one of those places where the two of us simply cannot find much common ground. You can stand there and point fingers saying Horowitz was a lefty who saw the light and I can say I was right leaning and have seen the light. The simple truth is that one needs not look far into either camp before being able to expose dogmatic ideologies which are harmful to 'general' good of the people, if that is even what is important. You say there is a left leaning, liberal bias in academia, I say fine. You are probably right about it. I don't know if you took any time to visit the discussion I linked to at the end of this posting, if not I urge you to do so. I thought that both sides of this argument did a decent job at representing their cases here. In the end it probably boils down to a matter of personal preference; but let me ask you this. If there is indeed a liberal bias in higher education, why do you suppose it has managed to flourish? Is it a Communist conspiracy to brainwash the minds of our children? Could it just be the nature of scholarly pursuits to be skeptical in our inquiry of the grand truths? Obviously, we are still talking about 'why am I?' here. We are still talking about whether or not ID and Creationism are the same things and whether or not Darwin and Huxley had it right or wrong; or if they were partially both right and wrong. Unless you are also saying that you feel that conservative mannerisms are being unfairly represented in our university systems as well. If so, you will have to let me know.

Now you enter a pair of writers into the discussion that I have to admit I am not familiar with, but I have to admit my curiosity about what these two men have to offer in this area. I will do what I can to try and locate these works so that I understand your position here. I cannot make any guarantees of my success but I will give it an honest try. Conversely, I wonder if you have ever read Veliskovski's Mankind in Amnesia keeping an open mind to the message in the book rather than the fact that in Worlds in Collision he asserts that Mars and Venus were once comets. I also wonder if in support of his notions about Darwin's shortcomings, you have ever read another book by Michael Bailee called Exodus to Arthur. This book begrudgingly acquiesces that Velikovski may have been at least partially correct about cometic interference with global climatology, and as a result may have infuenced evolution to change directions by leaps and bounds instead of gradual mutations as Darwin suggested. In addition, I wonder if you have ever pondered the work or Richard Dawkins about Genes and Memes. These three authors present a view I do not hear you representing in this polemic. I am personally all in favor of presenting all known facts and letting the audience judge what is truth and what is crap for themselves, I simply have yet to hear a convincing argument of planned universal architecture. If the two aforementioned authors can offer a shred of proof, sign me up.

In closing, I would like to comment on a notion that seems to recurr in your rhetoric on this subject and that is about paying some college large sums of money to indoctrinate your progeny into belief systems that you do not approve of. I can appreciate how disconcerting this thought would be, but there are plenty of parochial, private colleges that offer top notch education for the 30,000 and less per year range that are well suited atlernatives to university systems you cannot support if you find them to be dogmatic and unwilling to entertain enlightened thinking in a manner suited to your liking. You may want to argue that this is discriminatory practice by a system that is federally subsidized, but there are First Amendment constraints to the government funding faith-based education outrightly, now if you feel this is unfair that is a different argument but, these are the constaints of our society as currently interpreted. I certainly could not expect the same type of education in philosophy in a Lutheran college system that I would demand in a public university. It would not be my right to do so. I cannot expect a private Lutheran college to allow some left-leaning professor to teach their students that god is not real or that Constantine ultimately decided the dogma that all modern Christian religions base their belief systems off of. These are the trade-offs that we accept in the name of intellectual growth, are they not?

Fri Oct 07, 09:46:00 PM CDT  
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