Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.



George, I’m beginning to think that someone should compile a “greatest hits” of the AAUP’s “we love academic freedom, but” statements. As K. C. Johnson so ably chronicles, we know that the AAUP is carving out new “poisonous”-views and “due process” (i.e. you can be fired for your views so long as you’ve had your day in academic “court”) exceptions to academic freedom.

My all-time favorite statement, however, comes from the AAUP’s former general secretary, Roger Bowen. At an AEI event some years back, Bowen attempted to argue that the paucity of conservatives in many humanities disciplines had nothing at all to do with political discrimination:

I’ve been a department chair, I’ve been a college president. I’ve conducted more searches than I can begin to describe, and I can tell you I have never asked a candidate what his or her party identification is, and I don’t know of a search committee in the country that would do that.

Well then, why the disparities? Bowen helpfully explained:

Anthropologists, which apparently according to the study, Democrats far outnumber Republicans. What do they do? Anthropologists, the discipline itself is focused on questioning religious and cultural myth, particularly myth that celebrates national, cultural or racial superiorities. That in many classrooms will be a shocker for a lot of students.
  Sociologists tend to inquire on the origins of inequality as a source of alienation. New concepts to many college students that will seem, I imagine, given illustrations using the American example, rather shocking.   Political scientists, they focus on questions of legitimacy. . . . Historians, they look at progress frequently in terms of overcoming inequalities of the past, sometimes inequality is endorsed, even embraced by conservatives.
Ahhhh, yes. The disciplines themselves are focused on areas of inquiry that preclude conservative thought. So a scholar who, say, uses original and newly available sources to radically change our understanding of the pivotal battles on the eastern front in World War II, isn’t really a “historian” in the academic sense because he’s not focused on “progress” in “overcoming inequalities of the past.”
One has to appreciate an organization that will redefine entire disciplines, ban “poisonous” viewpoints, and gladly put unpopular scholarly opinions on trial while still marketing itself as a defender of academic freedom. And they’ve apparently pulled off this trick so well that the mainstream media still talks to them as if they are some kind of serious nonpartisan organization rather than the extreme ideological advocates that they are. That’s a nice position to be in, but it won’t last.


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