Phi Beta Cons

In Defense of the University

Here’s an oped in the Wash Post by a senior at Princeton attacking David Horowitz and the Academic Bill of Rights. An interesting aspect of statements such as this one defending the university from ideological incursions (which is how the ABOR is characterized) is the way in which it casts the university itself as an open society of dissent and value neutrality. Here’s the opening paragraph: 

Universities are the bulwark of democratic societies — places where individuals with diverse viewpoints come together to learn and to produce new knowledge for addressing social concerns, free of ideological interference. But these centers of freedom are under attack from people who want to inject partisan politics into our classrooms.

 To cast the university as the “bulwark” of democracy would surprise Americans living in the 19th century, when universities were a tiny preserve of the elite. But to present the university as “free of ideological interference” is too much. An hour in a faculty meeting in a humanities department, or a perusal of a syllabus in ethnic studies, or time in the freshman orientation program, would convince any reasonable person otherwise. That opponents of ABOR resort to illusions says a lot about the strength of their evidence.


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