Phi Beta Cons

Does the Public Oppose an Academic Bill of Rights?

As Anne notes below, the agenda of the American Association of University Professors is self-evident from its spin of their polling results. Although 38 percent of Americans believe that political bias in the classroom is a “very serious problem,” the AAUP is more concerned about trumpeting the fact that 80 percent of respondents disagreed strongly or somewhat with the statement, “The government should control what gets taught in the college classroom.” This response and others like it should be taken as evidence that Americans oppose David Horowitz’s proposed Academic Bill of Rights, according to the AAUP’s General Secretary, Roger Bowen.

While those at the AAUP may think that this poll serves as ammunition against the Academic Bill of Rights, asking whether the government should “control” what is taught does not accurately represent the bill. Horowitz has claimed, “There is no enforcement proposed in the Academic Bill of Rights. This would be up to the institutions that adopt it.”
It would be interesting to see polling numbers on support for what the Academic Bill of Rights actually says, but one has to wonder whether such a bill of rights would do much good if there is no real enforcement.
As a matter of principle, conservatives should be the last ones to support the expansion of the government to address the problem of political bias in the classroom. And even if enforcement were feasible, does anyone doubt that the first to be punished would be the few conservatives on university faculties?
A truly conservative solution to the problem would be for students to publish instances of bias online. There is already a popular website, ratemyprofessors.com, that allows students to comment on their professors, but the site is woefully inadequate for describing bias because it limits comments to no more than a few short sentences.
An improved website dedicated to exposing bias would enable conservative students to know exactly what they were getting into before they register and show left-wing professors that free speech is a two-way street.  But there’s no doubt that if conservatives were to speak out in such a manner, they would be derided as intolerant “McCarthyites” conducting a “witch-hunt” and crusading against “academic freedom.”

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