February 12, 2004

Intellectual Diversity Debate

The Fifth. Whence came our thought?

The Sixth. From four great minds that hated Whiggery.

The Fifth. Burke was a Whig.

The Sixth. Whether they knew or not,
Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne
All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery?
A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind
That never looked out of the eye of a saint
Or out of drunkardís eye.

The Seventh. Allís Whiggery now,
But we old men are massed against the world.

The First. American colonies, Ireland, France and India
Harried, and Burkeís great melody against it.

-- from William Butler Yeats, The Seven Sages

If you think you have an easy answer, you probably haven't asked a hard enough question.

Next Wednesday, 18 February the Chronicle is hosting a Colloquy Live with David Horowitz, whose Academic Bill of Rights seeks, in his own words, "to remove partisan politics from the classroom." Background pieces include Horowitz's vindication of "the rights of students to not be indoctrinated or otherwise assaulted by political propagandists in the classroom or any educational setting," along with Stanley Fish's response to the initiative, in which he characterizes "intellectual diversity" as a "Trojan horse of dark design."

Horowitz's campaign, which claims to offer a "simple remedy" to what is purportedly "one of the most pressing issues in the academy," strikes me as mischievous at best, and as very probably worse than mischievous. Fish's response, which rests on an insistence that the mission of the university must be purely and exlusively "academic" in nature, strikes me as hopelessly, if strategically, naive (but his essay is well worth reading).

Not surprisingly, the debate has been taken up by a number of academic bloggers, including Kieran Healy, The Little Professor, and Robert "KC" Johnson.


Timothy Burke cautions against "conducting heedless panty-raids through course catalogs and deciding from titles and course descriptions what the overall content and political perspective of a course might be." Well said.


A "professor of English at a hot American university on the east coast" weighs in on diversity at University Diaries.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at February 12, 2004 02:12 PM

Horowitz is a troublemaker, but he wouldn't be able to cause trouble if his accusations didn't have some basis in fact.

In some departments at some institutions (often the most prestigious ones), it's hard to deny that there is a high degree of political homogeneity--although the grad students tend to be more piously orthodox than the faculty (who don't need to prove their loyalty all the time).

Watching administrators deny that politics plays ANY role in hiring and promotion is as absurd as claiming that race and gender play no role.

A plague on both their houses. At least this is going to be fun to watch.

Posted by: THB at February 12, 2004 07:26 PM

There is no political homogeneity among the students or faculty in any department save perhaps economics or marketing at any sufficiently large university in the country, and NO ONE HAS EVER COME UP WITH ONE IOTA OF MEANINGFUL EVIDENCE IN SUPPORT OF THIS THESIS. (And please don't make me spew by assuming that being a registered Democrat means anything.)

Politics do not play a role in hiring, as a candidate's politics cannot be determined from the hiring process. There may be questions of scholarly affiliation, but these have little--if anything--to do with politics.

Horowitz is a demagouge whose goal is the elimination of tenure (and not for the benefit of adjuncts, either, I'd suggest hurrying up and knowing it). Your comment gives objective aid and comfort to the enemy.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 12, 2004 09:21 PM

Who exactly is "the enemy"?

Posted by: THB at February 12, 2004 10:27 PM


Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 12, 2004 10:43 PM

Chun, Don't you think that you are simply being in denial about the matter? Of course, Horowitz is a demagogue. Of course, Typhon is the enemy. But it is ludicrous to deny evidence of group-think in any community, much less one's own.

Posted by: Ralph E. Luker at February 12, 2004 11:07 PM

I am waiting for the aforementioned evidence, which again, I must point out, doesn't exist.

Groupthink is precisely that which doesn't exist in the academy and that which Horowitz wishes to mandate, legislatively.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 12, 2004 11:38 PM

Chun, A fish may deny that water environs it and may be the last to know that it does so -- may only realize it when it no longer does so. Contemplate the _possibility_ that it is so. You're safe here to think the unthinkable. You're among (well, mostly) friends. No need to repeat rigid dogma.

Posted by: Ralph E. Luker at February 12, 2004 11:52 PM

I'm trying to think when I last heard this execrable goldfish analogy, but no matter. I know what they say about the Thracians' gods. You are admitting, I take it, that you have not the evidence I ask for and, a fortiori, that you're objectively pro-Horowitz. And that's fine.

I do hope you'll apologize to Lal about the Hummer, though.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 13, 2004 12:24 AM

As my dear dean said, like tends to attract like, and we tend to want to surround ourselves with sympathetic types. Sometimes these types are of the same political orientation, sometimes it's something else high standards of ethics, sportiness ...

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at February 13, 2004 12:44 AM

No apologies offered by either KC Johnson or me in comments over at Chun the Unavoidable, which I readily admit has a finer aesthetic than Cliopatria. I've heard that as often from you as you've heard about gold fish.
I seriously doubt, my friend, that evidence offered by me in behalf of a critique you reject out of hand would give pause to your rejection.
If you had any idea how often Richard Jensen at Conservativenet has suppressed nasty exchanges between Horowitz and me, you'd realize that your claim that I'm "objectively pro-Horowitz" is a crock.
It's nice to know, however, that you believe the word "objectively" can be used in some meaningful sense. It is you, after all, who claimed that KC Johnson and I used the words "propagandistic" and "factually" synonymously. Show us the evidence.

Posted by: Ralph E. Luker at February 13, 2004 12:55 AM

Is there then a more environmentally unfriendly automobile available for domestic purchase than the Hummer? Was not the Governor so charged? Is there corporate ownership of the media? Let's talk about indefinite detention, KC, let's talk about the suspension of HC.

The "ruthless dominance" is too obvious, I take it.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 13, 2004 01:04 AM

Lordy. I will have to blog myself on this, but I have to say, it scares me. I talk politics with my students during breaks, and encourage them to vote, etc. I expect that this is in some way imposing my beliefs. I also try to discourage people from talking current affairs in my pre-modern classes, but if someone makes what I think is a valid analogy, or wants to dicuss Bush's use of the word Crusade when we are talking about the Crusades, should I not use this opportunity to talk about how history can be coopted by political agendas? Damn.

I also wonder where it stops. One of my students brought in arguments from (I'm pretty sure) Encarta the other day. It was a discussion of Mongols as Barbarians, and made what I thought were ridiculous claims about 1) barbarians always revivify stagnant cultures after they invade; and 2) specifically gave examples using Charles Martel, Pippin, and Charlemagne -- none of whom were invading barbarians! The way it was written and the fact that they author used Eurasia and conflated the barbarians of the Voelkerwanderung with the Mongols informed me that he was arguing from a world history perspective. Am I going to be in trouble because I explained that I thought the arguments were oversimplified and factually insupportable, and then discussed the existence of a very strong World History camp that wanted to eliminate the teaching of evil Eurocentric History? No, I didn't phrase it that way -- I said what I thought -- that World history was one approach, but that I thought a better solution to the problem of people not knowing enough non-western history was to require more history and fund more positions, not to try to create a new field in which context becomes problematic because the knowledge of instructor and student is limited to comparing various themes in a superficial manner. I also told them that my viewpoint seemed to be losing ground, and was seen by many to be old-fashioned. This question is a political one as much taking a Marxist or feminist approach is political. My taking a stand could therefore be read as political (and possible right-wing!). But where does one draw the line between fashion and politics in this case?

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at February 13, 2004 01:13 AM

I hope someone will indulge my stupid question here. What exactly is this debate about intellectual diversity really about? I really, really hope this is much more than just another attempt to force humanities departments to hire more Republicans.

It is certainly reasonable to be worried about how some history courses are taught. Nonetheless I have to agree with Timothy Burke's stance on these kinds of "heedless panty-raids." I also worry about the consequences of instructors becoming worried about expressing honest and legitimate comments during and outside of class hours. Obviously during class hours, get your work done; however, there is nothing wrong when someone, who is allegedly a professional historian, asks for students' thoughts on how history can be coopted by political agendas, especially when students face this frequently these days.

Posted by: DM at February 13, 2004 02:30 AM

My econ department spans - pretty far right wing to fairly left wing faculty. At my former department of environmental studies in Australia I was the most right wing. All the others were union card carrying labor or democrat voters. I voted Liberal with some Democrat and Green votes strewn around (preferential voting lets you do that). There was definitely a Labor Party agenda in the department. This week an invited speaker for my class who used to be a professor here, seemed to focus a lot on Bush-bashing in his lecture, little of which was relevant to the topic. This shocked me so that I actually sent my students a disclaimer stating that I don't neccessarily support the views of the speakers, but am trying to get a diversity of views by inviting different speakers. I certainly would not have voted for Bush if I was an American and could vote. But I try to make my criticism of the government very much to the point when I am discussing government policy. Maybe I am overly sensitive because I am not an American and am afraid of looking like a foreigner who is criticizing America? I don't know.

Posted by: moom at February 13, 2004 10:19 AM

Hi. When I read the chronicle piece, I thought, this is such a small minority of students. While H. would like to be leading a movement, and there are the occasional articles about how students are becoming more conservative, the situation on the ground seems to be that students are just not going to spend their time on this. Not that it takes a lot of students to make a department's life miserable, but overall I think Horowitz himself is fighting strawmen, or at least men who are close to retirement--the days of the faculty leading the sit-ins are long gone on most campuses, it seems to me, there isn't the same activism in most faculties.
And I wonder what H's opionion about evolution is. That's where this kind of agitation is making the most trouble now, I think, and where faculties and institutions are already responding to external pressure on course content and "viewpoints" discussed and so on.

Posted by: sappho at February 13, 2004 12:43 PM

The issue of indoctrination (against which a policy of intellectual diversity might protect) always leads me to this question: What becomes of these indoctrinated students once they graduate? If this were truly a risk, surely we would be able to detect the effects of indoctrination on the general political activities of people who have graduated from public universities.

Posted by: McColl at February 13, 2004 12:59 PM

Check out the linked discussion of this issue:


Posted by: JT at February 13, 2004 02:05 PM

Is it possible that "the academy is overflowing with leftists" is just another conservative talking point that became "common sense"?

Other examples include "Social Security is doomed," "Public schools are failing," etc. -- all debatable positions, all not just false on their face, but all presented as though they were as indisputable as the fact that the sun comes up every morning.

I'm somewhat of a conspiracy theorist when it comes to this kind of thing, so dismiss me if you must, but have you ever noticed that virtually the only kinds of academics who get any press are irrelevant leftist literature professors? Literature faculty perhaps are more likely to be leftist in an obvious way (i.e., self-professed Marxists, etc.), and focussing on them makes "intellectual diversity" seem like a huge problem.

Have a wonderful day.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at February 13, 2004 02:40 PM

Natural scientists get far more press than all social scientists and humanists combined I would think and economists maybe more than other social scientists. I think the majority of economists are actually centrists. Most natural scientists are leftish liberals in my opinion. I have met few academics who are right-wing conservatives. One guy at Princeton told me - unlike most of my colleagues I like Bush. In Australia the only faculty I knew who were opposed to the Union were economists... and not all of them. I think I saw some poll on one of these sites that showed that only 7% of US academics were registered Republicans.

Posted by: moom at February 13, 2004 03:24 PM

What I find funny is how literally everyone takes Horowitz, et. al. Of course, when someone proposes "affirmative action" for conservatives in academia, it's not unwise to take him at his word--but how about spending a nanosecond pondering what *else* he may be doing?

We're all familiar with the recent spate of conservative "bake sales" on college campuses ostensibly intended to prompt discussions about affirmative action but more clearly designed to offend and provoke hilariously predictable responses from dogmatic folks on the opposite side of the issue. These bake sales have been extremely successful--not as bake sales, of course, but as incidents that highlight a whole raft of double-standards from university administrators about exactly which types of speech really are '"free" on campus. In many cases, conservative bake-sales have not received the same support or protections that similarly audacious left-leaning stunts have, as Erin O'Connor has documented. It's rather amazing to behold the speed with which administrators and student groups have taken the bake-salers' bait and made utter fools of themselves in the process.

Horowitz's call for "intellectual diversity" is another bake sale, folks, and it's working. Already in this thread, people have hinted at slippery-slope consequences and noted the obvious ambiguity of the very concept of "intellectual diversity." I don't necessarily disagree with the spirit of those responses--but those same acknowledgements of nuance, of consequence, of ambiguity are completely lacking in the arguments of those who are most vocally in support of affirmative action, who are often inclined to tar those who disagree with them even a little bit as hateful racists.

All of these conservative stunts are just that--stunts, a la Janet and Justin at the Super Bowl--but the anger, defensiveness, and knee-jerk responses they provoke often reveal a sad dislike of critical thinking at our colleges and universities. People who react to these stunts by suppressing speech, by not responding with counter-arguments, and by tarring ideological enemies as inhuman, evil, or racist are no longer defending the truth, or even good ideas; they're defending a religion.

Posted by: J.V.C. at February 13, 2004 03:56 PM

So conservatives pull a stupid stunt, and the left is supposed to respond with reasoned arguments? And the conservatives are the ones pointing out a double standard?

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at February 13, 2004 04:41 PM

And furthermore: Even if every last one of the professors in every university in the world was left of center, that wouldn't constitute homogeneity. "The left" as a monolithic orthodoxy is largely a creation of right-wing radio, as is "the Democratic Party" as monolithic orthodoxy. There is broad disagreement about all manner of political issues in the Democratic party, as evidenced by the ridiculous number of candidates in the primaries (now dwindling).

If very few people in academia are "right-wing conservatives," that might be because that's a relatively small part of the political spectrum. An overrepresentation of such people (such as half lefties and half righties) would effectively decrease intellectual diversity.

Posted by: Adam Kotsko at February 13, 2004 05:06 PM

Indeed. We all know how easily it is for a department full of lefties, Democrats, righties or whatever to disagree strongly over the various subfields within and approaches to their discipline.

Posted by: DM at February 13, 2004 05:21 PM

Whoa, hang on, back up for a sec. One more time: there are leftists in English Depts.? Where are they? Do they have tenure, or are they tenure track?

I've not seen a real leftist in academe since, umm, well, since forever. I do see, however, many, many of what Richard Florida calls "Bobos" (Bobo = Bourgeois Bohemians), which comes from his book "Bobos in Paradise."

Now let's be clear: a "Bobo" is decidedly NOT a leftist. A Bobo leans to the left more out of a desire to keep up appearances, and as long as it is convenient to do so. But should there be an alteration in the law surrounding the capital gains tax, and watch how quickly an academic, err, I mean a Bobo turns to the right.

Posted by: Chris at February 13, 2004 06:09 PM

"All of these conservative stunts are just that--stunts, a la Janet and Justin at the Super Bowl--but the anger, defensiveness, and knee-jerk responses they provoke often reveal a sad dislike of critical thinking at our colleges and universities."

I take your point, JVC. But I still want to insist that there's a difference -- and a pretty significant difference -- between a campus stunt performed by and for the members of a college community and a legislative initiative that has the backing (in Colorado, eg) of Republican lawmakers.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 13, 2004 07:27 PM

IA: I agree. Still, the questions raised by the legislative initiative are worth discussing. Why is it okay to legislate affirmative action for students based on race, but not for faculty based on ideology? Is the former even productive, or do affirmative-action students drop out at higher rates than other students? Are there studies one way or the other? Why is race-based affirmative action a noble social program, and ideological affirmative action considered pernicious meddling?

I'm sure that anyone who's in favor of one but not the other can easily explain why. It's obvious to *me*, as I do my little devil's advocate dance here, that different motives, principles, and intended results govern each. The implicit comparison between student/race AA and faculty/ideology AA collapses under the most basic scrutiny. But instead of a quick logical dissection, the response from many is virtual eye-rolling and finger-wagging.

Opponents of the legislative initiative shouldn't have any problem defeating it if they respond rationally (and vigorously) rather than spew rants that only help Horowitz, et. al, make their case about bias. But then what, for many academics, is the true goal: actually killing a bad political idea, or simply feeling morally and intellectually superior?

Posted by: J.V.C. at February 13, 2004 09:22 PM

please don't make me spew by assuming that being a registered Democrat means anything

That was an interesting point. The thought that if 60% of a legislature is registered Republican it has no more meaning than if 90% of a press corp or a faculty is registered Democrat.

BLieter and Volokh had some great posts on this topic, ones that make me question the utility of the Horowitz' approach without wanting to spew at the comment that many campuses are left of the population and political base.

But I think that obscures real problems and real issues.

Posted by: Steve at February 13, 2004 10:40 PM

Thought I'd post the latest by Volokh:

[Eugene Volokh, 2/11/2004 10:25:38 PM]
Party affiliation and political knowledge: Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, writes:

Apropos the conservatism and "stupidity" issue, you may find interesting the attached data from my analysis of the 2000 National Election Study (the NES is the most comprehensive US survey of political attitudes and knowledge, which breaks down political knowledge by strength of party affiliation. Note that "Strong Republicans" have much higher political knowledge levels than any other group. The 3.3 gap on a 31 point scale between "Strong Republicans" and "Strong Democrats" may not seem like much, but it is the equivalent of that created by a difference of SEVERAL YEARS of formal education.

Now I note that political knowledge is not the same thing as intelligence (indeed, I have to caution people on this every time I present one of my papers on political ignorance), but I think lack of knowledge is often what people have in mind when they attack conservatives as "stupid."

I also note that I am not suggesting that people become Republicans BECAUSE they are more knowledgeable. The knowledge gap may simply be an artifact of the fact that highly educated, high income people, are disproportionately likely to be Republicans. Still, it is simply false to say that conservative Republicans are more likely to be politically ignorant than liberal Democrats. The opposite is in fact the case, though independents are on average far more ignorant than either group.

Another irony: the British Conservative Party that Mill was attacking in the 1860s had at least as much in common with modern liberals as with modern Conservatives. For instance, the Conservative leader Benjamin Disraeli invented the "two Nations" mantra that John Edwards has transmogrified into "Two Americas." 1860s Conservatives were also supporters of workplace regulation and protectionism, though on some other issues (e.g. - imperialism) they did differ from modern liberals.

Posted by: Steve at February 13, 2004 11:06 PM

ADM: OT for the thread, but I'm partly on the student's side on the barbarian question. Not so much on the "reviving stagnant cultures" side, but in interpreting European culture within Eurasian history and thinking of the Franks as barbarians, even Charlemagne -- who was illiterate, fathered children by eight women, converted the Saxons to Christianity by force, and whose brother Carloman disappeared mysteriously the way Attila's did -- thus uniting the inheritance from their father. (Einhard was surprised that Carloman's widow took it so hard.)

I have a little piece at my URL that doesn't prove my point, but expresses it anyway.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 13, 2004 11:34 PM

I think that one reason for the imbalance is that academics are underpaid for their talent and effort. With the same ability and effort, most academics could make more money in law, medicine, or the business world. It would involve major changes in personal style and direction of interest, but it can happen. If more smart conservatives were willing to live on a piddly $60,000 a year (much less $30,000), there'd be more of them in academia.

I think that this has been a dynamic all through history. The children of the wealthy are educated by whoever is willing to accept the piddling payments the wealthy are willing to fork over. This doesn't necessarily lead to a left slant -- that's how fundamentalist Islam spreads too. But people smart enough to teach but willing to be poor will have different values than the ones who go for the big bucks.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 13, 2004 11:51 PM

The problem is that the "big bucks" earned by the average work-a-day lawyer *average* out to "ok bucks" (government jobs paying 70k a year draw hundreds of applicants).

The real issue is that academics make "tiny bucks" -- though it is nice to see stereotypes working hard for their money. Lawyers all think academics are paid six and seven figures just like the stars ....

Well, they think they make more than the 30k to 40k some of the people write about getting as tenured faculty. Secretaries make 30k.

On the other hand, a leading member of ATLA recommends hiring English PhDs for paralegals. You can work them 60 hours a week, pay them 50k a year and they do great work when trained. They'd find the 35-40k pay range of a defense firm less attractive (though the hours are better) and many can't type fast enough to work as secretaries (but hey, many are using MS Word or WordPerfect and can type 90 wpm), and a good secretary makes 35k (in smaller firms, of course, they make $5/hr to $6/hr and need to be bi-lingual, but with a PhD you could probably get a job with a tall building firm).

I can see the "opt out" column over at The Chronicle (they ought to do a forum thread on this): I should have gone to law school, heck, I should apply for a secretarial job with a large law firm. (The paralegals and secretaries at large law firms make more money than small firm lawyers. I've known at least 3-4 lawyers who became paralegals in order to escape tiny bucks jobs -- people out there are still hiring new lawyers for 20k a year -- that's 2400 billable hours, takes 60+ hours a week in the office, 51 weeks a year, and you haven't seen abuse until you've been in a law firm environment).

Posted by: hey, "big bucs?" at February 14, 2004 09:14 AM

"Horowitz is a troublemaker, but he wouldn't be able to cause trouble if his accusations didn't have some basis in fact."

Posted by: THB at February 12, 2004 07:26 PM

THB, can you support this assertion? IMHO, you are basically saying that the fact that he can get press means that he's telling the truth.

Posted by: Barry at February 14, 2004 10:43 AM

It's nice to know, however, that you believe the word "objectively" can be used in some meaningful sense

You mustn't take Chun too seriously. He's a master of high-leftist performance art; his Haughty Marxist character is as indelible, if not as lovable, as Chaplin's Little Tramp. He gets off on stirring people up and swatting away their attempts to argue with him (it is, of course, notoriously impossible to argue with someone who has a preprogrammed answer for everything in advance). He would claim, I imagine, that he's forcing us all to think and question our bourgeois assumptions, but he's also having a hell of a good time at our expense. Enjoy his act, but don't let him get under your skin.

(If I did take him seriously, I'd find remarks like "Your comment gives objective aid and comfort to the enemy" despicable, so I'm glad I don't have to waste psychic energy on them.)

Posted by: language hat at February 14, 2004 10:45 AM

"Another irony: the British Conservative Party that Mill was attacking in the 1860s had at least as much in common with modern liberals as with modern Conservatives."

True enough, but I don't quite see the irony. This would be ironic only if we had reason to expect that 19th-century British Conservatism and contemporary American Republicanism were more or less the same animal (ie, that the label "conservative" does or should mean the same thing not only across time but also across two significantly different political cultures).

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 14, 2004 10:56 AM

"THB, can you support this assertion? IMHO, you are basically saying that the fact that he can get press means that he's telling the truth."

Barry, I am grateful for the courtesy of the "IMHO." I'm worried about getting entagled in a debate about the meaning of the word "fact," a word I issued too glibly (with regret now, since I've apparently given comfort to "the enemy" and seem to be drawing down some wrath from presumed colleagues).

What I mean by fact is the accumulated persuasiveness of many anecdotes and my own experience over the last 20 years as a teacher and student at six higher educational institutions in three major regions of the U.S.

Please don't tar me as ally of Horowitz. I think the academy can benefit from provocateurs (even Chun is OK in my book). But my experience is that any deviation from an easily recognizable position on the Left (always supported by nods and affirmative hums) is greeted by stares, claims of incomprehension, and the implied threat of ostacism. Try having a real discussion about abortion or affirmative action in a graduate seminar. Try talking about a literary text without discussion inevitably leading back to the themes of race, class, and gender (all very important, but there are other things to talk about too).

I have the feeling that much of the conformity in grad school is hypocritical. If we started having affirmative action for conservatives (I AM NOT FOR THIS), I expect that a significant percentage of grad students will suddenly undergo a political conversion experience. How many of us accept a bland, conformist Leftism out of fear in a terrible job market? How many of us fear the uncomprehending stare in a job interview or a department meeting?

It's hard to produce data that both sides of the issue will regard as valid. But the absence of hard data doesn't mean that something doesn't exist. Anecdotal evidence is not "fact," but it has value (though apparently not to all the administrators and faculty who deny that politics plays a role in hiring and promotion).

Perhaps we need a good definition of "politics" as well as "fact" to discuss this topic with more precision. My view is that just about everything in the hiring process is "political" in a loose sense. Nobody ever asked my party affiliation, but my rough position on the ideological spectrum could be assumed from lots of other things (institution, advisor, dissertation topic, professional affiliations, and so on).

BTW, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Republican Party.

Posted by: THB at February 14, 2004 12:36 PM

You mustn't take Chun too seriously. He's a master of high-leftist performance art; his Haughty Marxist character is as indelible

The real irony is that the "real" Chun is a character in an anti-left parable, one of a long series ....

Posted by: The avoided. at February 14, 2004 02:09 PM

I'll join the Republican party if it will get me a tenure-track job under an AA slot. I'm a whore and I don't care -- both essential lessons learned in the corridors of academe. I scan the obituaries to see if any academics died, and if they did, I then look to find out what their area of expertise is. Whatever it takes, baby.

Posted by: Chris at February 14, 2004 03:23 PM

THB, I accept your experience. From your comment, I thought you were asserting that the fact that because Horowitz was able to stir up a fuss, what he said was true. After the 1990's, I think that it's clear that subsidized propagandists with no ethics can stir up a lot of fuss, with truth being unnecessary.

Posted by: Barry at February 14, 2004 05:26 PM

Striking a balance between conservative and liberal viewpoints can indeed be benefitial to the academy. But to force a so-called 'balance' implies that both sides will always have good arguements to bring to the table. But is this always the case? Should an economics class devote equal time or give equal credibility to people who are pro (current round) of tax cuts and those who are not? This dispite the fact that most main-stream economists are opposed to them?**

A diversity of views doesnt mean that all views carry equal weight.

**(A petition against the Bush tax cuts was even signed last year by 10 Nobel laurents. As for 'the other side' they have pretty much Mankiw, Feldstein and Boskin as the more credible guys. According to Brad deLong's website, only 4 of the 17 living members of the Council of Economic Advisors who served under republican leadership signed the pro-tax cut letter.)

Posted by: Passing_through at February 14, 2004 05:26 PM

I anticipate with relish this particular interpretation of The Dying Earth, if it is forthcoming.

My use of the phrase--can't believe I'm explaining this--"objectively pro..." was a riff on the hoary "objectively pro-fascist" bit, as I'm sure was plain but to all but the most literal.

I do believe, however, that Horowitz is a smart and well-organized enemy of academic freedom, and academics should not allow local resentments over trivial matters to aid him. I don't think people are taking this as seriously as they need to.

Also, I just haven't had the same experience in English grad school regarding bland left conformism as THB seems to have had. In particular, his description of the holy trinity's predominance in the seminar room is not what I recall; and this can't be explained simply as the difference between Bovine State and Harvard, either.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 14, 2004 05:40 PM

Any implication that anyone who deviates from Chun's party line is "objectively pro-fascist," to say nothing of "objectively pro-Horowitz," or is, well, amusing. I'd be happy to compare my well-earned stripes in the cause of freedom, including academic freedom, with Chun's any day, any time, any how. It's hard to do so long as Chun remains in deep anonymous cover. We may have a teacup "radical" on our hands.

Posted by: Ralph E. Luker at February 14, 2004 06:58 PM

Before getting into too high of dudegon, you might consider that the phrase was used facetiously, as I attempted to explain earlier.

I don't see how confusing simple factual statements with propaganda and insinuating that a well respected historian shouldn't be teaching courses in American history because it's out of his "area" advances academic freedom, however.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 14, 2004 07:05 PM

The near-unanimity of opposition by economists to Bush's economic policies shouldn't be used as an argument that economists are liberals. Bush's economic policies are not conservative, but dishonest and opportunistic. Mt souce is Brad DeLong, who's been advertising for an economist willing to support Bush for the past month or more. As a group, economists range from center-left to very conservative, and the center of balance is pretty concervative.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 14, 2004 07:33 PM

objectively pro..." was a riff on the hoary "objectively pro-fascist" bit

It's so hard to tell when a riff is facetious when it's still got that good beat...

Posted by: language hat at February 14, 2004 08:31 PM

The common denominator linking Horowitz's conservative warrior epic and much of the "left-consensus" approach is, to my mind, the disturbing assumption that students (most of whom are at least 18) are intellectually and morally unformed creatures whose delicately vibrating innocence could be damaged forever if exposed to a real substantial argument in the classroom

I have to confess my odd positionality here: coming from Europe, I am continually shocked -- even after seven years in the U.S. -- by the blind assumption of juvenile innocence and the increasing infantilization of American citizens in general. This is a spectrum that begins with "if you look under 30 the clerk will request ID" at the liquor store checkout and ends somewhere in a fantasy educational universe of ethereally vulnerable beings who (according to Horowitz) will be damaged by being forced to think for five minutes about race and gender, or who (according to the campus left) will be traumatized by being asked to take a brief look at the world from outside the warm certainties of some ethnic or other (e.g. GLBT) community identity.

My own experience is that students are in fact adults who often appreciate being regarded as such. I try to encourage them to drop the "we're just college kids" identity that some of them have internalized. This creeping infantilization is an eerie reversal of the real campus revolution of the 1960s -- the one in which the students said to the faculty and the administration "we're not 'kids,' by the way, so get off our backs!"


Posted by: flu in san diego at February 15, 2004 12:24 AM

OT response to zizka's OT response:

Can't agree on Charlemagne. Barbarians are by definition outsiders, while he was most definitely an insider!

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at February 15, 2004 02:57 AM

"I just haven't had the same experience in English grad school regarding bland left conformism as THB seems to have had."

Of course, experiences will vary. And, to be fair, there were subcultures of more open-minded moderates (and even conservatives, though they tended to be isolated, deeply closeted, and/or in denial). (Yes, conservatism was to the 90s what homosexuality was to the 50s--NOTE: I AM JUST JOKING.)

I think part of my knee-jerk reaction of support for Horowitz (which falls apart when I consider what might happen if he's able to cause much more than a war of editorials), is the feeling I had in grad school (and in other professional contexts)--and I expect lots of other had--that we had to tow the party line if we wanted to get by--that is, be treated coridally at social events and in the seminar room, be asked to TA for many of the professors, get published in the right journals, and, finally, get a job. In the humanities, there are no objective measures of qualifications or quality, hence, everything is politicized. To voice a conservative opinion, even as a devil's advocate, was to risk ostracism and real professional disadvantage.

Never mind whether I agree with most of the "bland, conformist Leftism" as I called it (or at least see its strategic value at this historical moment in some contexts), I still react viscerally against the feeling that, in institutions that continually brag--in high-handed, sactimonious tones--about how diverse they are, that I have to play some kind of role (e.g., denounce everything I am: "white," ex-working-class, heterosexual, moderately-left-of-center, family-oriented, practicing Catholic) in order to avoid punishment.

(OK--I'm starting to rant and probably oversimplify matters, but this is the emotional reaction I'm describing.)

Maybe I want there to be some kind of colleagiality--of at least the assumption of mutual good will--that allows academics to disagree or resolve questions for themselves in the open with being branded as "one of the enemy." When did it become the case that venturing an opinion became objective evidence that one is not only misinformed or naive (or whatever), but a bad person (seems a lot like Puritans sorting the saved from damned, or, dare I say it, a witch-hunt)?

In any case, the subsequent claim of irony or comical allusion by accusers is often a way for them (after attempting to enforce a party line and chill discussion) to backpedal when they are not successful.

Posted by: THB at February 15, 2004 09:33 AM

Never mind whether I agree with most of the "bland, conformist Leftism" as I called it (or at least see its strategic value at this historical moment in some contexts), I still react viscerally against the feeling that, in institutions that continually brag--in high-handed, sactimonious tones--about how diverse they are, that I have to play some kind of role (e.g., denounce everything I am: "white," ex-working-class, heterosexual, moderately-left-of-center, family-oriented, practicing Catholic) in order to avoid punishment.

That pretty much captures how it feels to be LDS sometimes (or, to use the "N" word version of the term, "Mormon"). Reminds me of an experience my wife had, discussing an issue, where the comment came up "Well, at least you aren't one of those f--ing Mormons" to which she replied "Actually, I am."

Of course she got a perfect score on her CRNA boards, but those are objective and administered by outsiders.

Now, replace "Mormon" with something else and ask how often someone would feel free to say "Well, at least you aren't an f---ing 'xxxx'" without any expecation of social angst, none the less fear for one's academic position or future.

And don't let me get started on a friend who was introduced as "our new Jewboy" ... there is a lot of what people think of as completely fair and balanced that is pretty offensive to some people.

And a lot of the party line stuff is down right stupid.

Lets take affirmative action.

If any of you have done admissions work, you will know that there are four admission groups. Four, of which affirmative action admits are only one.

Where do they rank between the groups?






I can't tell you how many times I've run into people who assume that they are group 4.

They are group 2 (those who aren't group 1. I've a friend who got his MBA at Harvard, who was a group 2 applicant but a group 1 admit -- at least he was told of the change, as were the people who considered him for the honors he received). If affirmative action admits perform under group 3 or 4 it isn't because of qualifications or native ability, it is because of other factors.

The common belief on campuses is that the aa admits are performing and being placed as group 4 because they tend to perform as if they were group 4. That is the learned party line on most campuses.

Is it fair? Heck, is it even related to the truth? Worse, is it to be defended as the truth, but acceptable?

No. A little reality, please. And, surprise, surprise, when reality comes in (i.e. people are educated as to the reality), the group 2 students start performing like group 2 instead of group 4, and many transition to group 1 where they would have been but for environmental factors pre-admission.

Real world consequences. Real world party line. And a real world place where change seems appropriate.

But how to tell the places where the "truth" is THE TRUTH from those where it is just a professor's hobby horse? (You may not know it, but in the 70s, every military library had a copy of a book that claimed to refute relativity. Now that was meaningless diversity). How to have an environment where people do not have to hid their identity if it is mainstream or religious?

Is it, as Lieter asserts, merely a matter of the truth and liberals vs. conservative trash dogmas? With no respect or time allowed to the conservatives who should be mocked out of the door without being listened too?

Or, perhaps, are we still in exploration of the truth. Except for those "f---ing Mormons" of course. At least none of you are one of those.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 11:12 AM

oops, a typo, hide instead of hid.

For fun. a link I got from Lieter's site (hey, I really enjoy much of what he has to say, and I suspect him of rhetorical excess for humor's sake, but anyway).


Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 11:18 AM

I'm, of course, not backpedaling from anything. Horowitz is dangerous, which is why I referred to him as the enemy--and though I wouldn't say that he's a fascist, I believe that he understands power like the more successful ones--and you turned (in context) trivial personal resentments into reflexive support for having your course content determined by troglodytic state legislators.

And what would Orwell think about "towing the line?"

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 15, 2004 11:25 AM

"Hey, Big bucs" -- One of my assumptions was that if a PhD had gone into law or business instead, he would have been much sharper than the average lawyer. I think that that's a valid assumption. Much the same for M.B.A. The bottom-level law-school or business-school grad is much dumber than the bottom-level PhD.

Posted by: zizka / emerson at February 15, 2004 11:40 AM

Personal resentments [are there any other kind?] have a cumulative impact when they are shared by a significant percentage of a population. Extremism has a way of pushing moderates (who might otherwise agree with you) into the "enemy" camp. It's killing the good for the sake of the pure.

Worrying about whether "course content [will be] determined by troglodytic state legislators" seems just a bit alarmist. (Oh my, we're fighting against the forces of evil. I had no idea. Chun, you are so heroic, so noble. So romantic. May I die on the barricade with you?) Such a claim seems more like a strategy to stifle discussion than something with a basis in reality.

Posted by: THB at February 15, 2004 11:55 AM

Horowitz's aim is legislatively mandate politics into the hiring practice. The practical consequence of which is that the troglodytes who control, or at least major factors, in most state legislatures (think DeLay, but less cosmopolitan) will make hiring and thus course content selections in public universities. Now, I agree this probably beneath Harvard or a private liberal arts college's notice, but the rest of us have reason to be concerned.

We need to recognize Horowitz' platform for what it is and dissoicate it from the much less serious issues about the current state of academic culture in the humanities.

Posted by: Chun the Unavoidable at February 15, 2004 01:12 PM

Ok, standing up for the lawyers ...

"Hey, Big bucs" -- One of my assumptions was that if a PhD had gone into law or business instead, he would have been much sharper than the average lawyer. I think that that's a valid assumption. Much the same for M.B.A. The bottom-level law-school or business-school grad is much dumber than the bottom-level PhD.

I don't think so. After all, the lawyers had the sense to go to law school (ok, no one is laughing, take it as a joke and lets go from there).

One sees PhDs in law school. For the most part, they aren't that much sharper than anyone else. I've met a lot of PhDs, taught some, did not find them particularly sharper than law students.

Of course I'm looking at people who graduated from PhD programs rather than those who started them, might be that the graduates and the tenured profs I meet aren't as smart as the general PhD student. But when I compare college professors with PhDs to practicing lawyers, the lawyers seem a lot sharper, all in all.

All ancedotal evidence, which is as good a reason as any to disbelieve it. (I'm beginning to suspect that all ancedotal evidence is false).

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 05:41 PM

That's interesting. If I were to make an analogy of the relation of the perceived intelligence between a practicing lawyer and a college professor, I'd say that it's as a virus in a digestive bacterium of a dog is to the dog's owner. But, as you say, anecdotal evidence can be deceiving.

Posted by: chun the unavoidable at February 15, 2004 05:44 PM

That's interesting. If I were to make an analogy of the relation of the perceived intelligence between a practicing lawyer and a college professor, I'd say that it's as a virus in a digestive bacterium of a dog is to the dog's owner. But, as you say, anecdotal evidence can be deceiving.

Well, I've known a lot of PhDs and a lot of lawyers.

Generally the lawyers write a lot more (well, they tend to dictate and then edit the dictation, but ...) and not a single one every said to me "At least you aren't a f---ing Mormon" -- so I might have some coloring from the kind of comments I got from some PhDs.

Interesting that you would put Lawyers at the brightness of E Coli vs college professors as human beings on the same scale. No wonder the tenure track is so competitive.

But the kids going into law school are brighter on the average than those going into PhD programs. My GRE was 750/760 with an 800 on the advanced Econ portion. I'd have done better if I could have afforded a prep class or some practice or wasn't so sick when I took it. At least I was able to finish one upper division class in Econ before I took the test.

I'm sure that the average PhD is much smarter than that. Guess your GRE was 7500/7600 or some such (and who knows, what with the analytic section added in now). Of course that puts you at only 10x smarter than me, rather than 10,000 times (which is implied by your scale) of PhD vs. practicing lawyer.

And I'm sure you've put in more time and effort in to pro bono programs and such. I understand that the studies that showed a correlation between charitable activity and intelligence are still considered valid, so PhDs must spend a lot of time on those compared to lawyers.

Anyway, there are a number of valid measurements of intelligence that can be applied in lieu of ancedotal evidence. I invite you to try a couple.

If the PhDs I met in law school had done better, I'd take your perspective more strongly, or if the average tenured professor seemed smarter, I'd be a lot more convinced.

Though the example you picked does say a lot.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 11:11 PM

Actually, the comparison was with a virus. We're not even sure if they're alive.

It doesn't take much to get people to start reporting their GRE scores, does it? You know that everytime I've seen people quote their scores on the internet, they almost always seem to be close to the 99th percentile. I don't know much about statistics, but it does seem somewhat odd.

Posted by: chun the unavoidable at February 15, 2004 11:16 PM

BTW, back to the topic, I think that some sort of quota for conservatives is as about as bad of an idea as one could have. Regardless of the reason it is put forth.

Anyway, it has been a fun visit. Every year before Christmas I find myself with a new interest or endeavor and by February 16 I'm cured of it. One of the silly vague leftovers of grief.

This year it seems to be revisting my hopes and desire to teach which died with my girls. Triggered by being approached by friends trying to start up a new program and being asked to work on a book, but really focused by running across this site.

It was an interesting visit. For what it is worth, I think IA would probably make a good lawyer (though pick up Planet Law School if you want to go. Atticus is much too bitter, his experiences were not in line with mine, but much of what he writes is sound).

Wish everyone well. Even the Jack Vance fans (I'm a fan of Jack Vance as well, though his politics sometimes lost me). I think the debate on bias in academia is healthy, for those who enjoy it, and given that society as a whole will probably embrace the debate again and again over the next four years, I think the debate is important.

Really seems like it should be someone's sociology paper though, rather than a political debate.

As for adjuncts, there may be a migration point.

Not too long ago a group of colleges agreed not to compete with each other regarding forming a "super elite" tier. Now, there are a couple universities whose endowments are large enough that they don't need tuition. We could well have two superelite institutions in the country and one of the hallmarks would be advertising that the institution doesn't have adjuncts.

Lots of other approaches and thoughts possible. Lots of other issues. I still think the ADR approach has some valid notes.

Hope you all get tenure.


Remembering Jessica (February 12, 1986 to January 26, 1993), Courtney (February 16, 1992 to December 26, 1993), and Robin (July 6, 1997 to August 31, 1997). Just need to get through February 16th one more year.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 11:25 PM

Tell you what Chun, I still have the report from when I took the GRE, I can scan it in and send you the .tiff file. I'm not too experienced with people talking GRE scores, the people I deal with usually talk LSATS, and often not 99th percentile ones.

I should note that I post under my real name, with a link to a site with my real identity. Everything I've said about myself can be verified from outside sources.

Though you were right, you scaled to viruses in the E Coli, not the E Coli. I missed the implication that the lawyers weren't necessarily alive.

But, insults aside, there are comparative studies available that don't quite measure up to the so dumb you aren't sure the person is alive vs. the dog owner scale.

See you around sometime. Look forward to the e-mail from you with the scan of your GRE scores.

Posted by: Steve at February 15, 2004 11:41 PM

You'll notice that I never said that I disbelieved you; I was just commenting on a phenomenon I've often noted. And I was just kidding about lawyers. Lots of my friends are lawyers, and we have all sorts of intellectual discussions before I ask them for money.

My own GRE scores were 450 Verbal, 420 Q, 470 Analytic, and 410 on the Literature Subject Test. I believe I could probably crack 500 if I used one of test-prep books.

Posted by: chun the unavoidable at February 16, 2004 12:04 AM

I can't even imagine what you have gone through with the loss of your children. Don't know what to say, except that I'm sorry.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at February 16, 2004 06:05 AM