One characteristic of liberal professors is that they actually get dumber as time goes by. Conservative professors just keep getting smarter because we’re always under fire from the liberals. Nonetheless, most professors are still fighting like mad to ensure that our institutions of higher learning continue to function as ideological echo chambers – just as they have for the last fifty years.
One such professor is Marc. V. Simon ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), associate professor and chairman of the department of political science at Bowling Green State University. In a recent newspaper column called "Myths, realities about academic freedom," Simon says that he has been "struck by the number of articles and opeds on (academic freedom) and how divorced they are from the reality (he sees) on university campuses." Simon also says he’d "like to dispel some myths" about academic freedom.
Whenever a college professor characterizes his opponents as “divorced from reality” and commences to tell them about the “real world” the reader is usually in for a treat. What Simon says about academic freedom doesn’t disappoint.
In an effort to wed his readers to reality, Simon’s says one myth concerning academic freedom is that “Professors can say anything they want in the classroom.” Simon says this isn’t true. In fact, Simon says that “When professors go over the line, whether or not a student complains, university administrators take it seriously, and will sanction a professor appropriately.”
I am relieved to hear that some of the professors who have gone “over the line” at my school will soon be sanctioned “appropriately.”
For example, in 1996, a student complained about an untenured professor who was keeping men out of her Women’s Studies class. The complaint was made to a tenured male professor in her department. He later voted to give her tenure anyway. Because of what Simon says, I will continue to wait for the appropriate sanctions. After all, it’s only been ten years.
In 2000, a student was threatened with expulsion from a class for ridiculing a feminist professor’s ideas outside the hearing of the professor. The feminist even admitted that she didn’t hear the remark in her letter of complaint to the department chair. Nonetheless, she succeeded in running the student out of the class for the crime of not taking a feminist seriously. Because of what Simon says, I will continue to wait for the appropriate sanctions.
In 2003, an untenured professor cancelled all of her classes (for an entire week) just to protest the Iraq War. She was awarded tenure about six months later. Because of what Simon says, I continue to wait for the appropriate sanctions. Maybe she’ll be denied promotion to full professor by the UNC system as an appropriate sanction. Or maybe she’ll move to Israel and strap herself to a bomb in Tel Aviv.
Also in 2003, a biology professor stated in class that Christians are “stupid” because they still think Christ is coming back after 2000 years. Because of what Simon says, I know that sometime in the next 2000 years, we’ll see the appropriate sanctions for this bigoted professor. I’m not stupid. I just have the patience of Job.
Of course, when Simon says that it’s a myth that “Professors can say anything they want in the classroom” you know he’s telling the truth. But what about the stories of feminists at my school who attack their previous husbands in the classroom? And what about the feminist who attacks her father for having an affair after 39 years of marriage to her mother? And the feminist who lectures about losing her virginity, or the feminist who talks about the time she was raped? Are these just myths or legends?
If they are real, are we to believe these professors are well within the subject matter they are teaching? Remember that Simon says they wouldn’t use the classroom to just “say anything” regardless of its relevance to the subject.
Simon also says it is a myth that professors indoctrinate students. He claims this “myth” is based on false assumptions, including the assumption that “professors have inordinate power to shape the political and religious views of (their) students.” But, certainly - as a political science professor, no less - Simon is aware that a) 52% of incoming freshmen students report attending church or other worship services on a regular basis and b) by the end of their junior year, the number drops to 29%. This represents over a million students per year turning away from their traditional faith practices. How, exactly, did they get from point “a” to point “b”?
If you believe what Simon says, such trends have nothing to do with irreligious leftist professors. Like human life itself, the views of these students simply evolve from a lower to a higher (and more complex) form. And forget about the fact that students graduate from college – even from religious colleges – holding more liberal views on every important issue, from same-sex “marriage” to abortion.
I guess it just happens this way, even in the absence of heavy-handed indoctrination. Simon says “The fact is that professors have little impact on the political or religious views that students hold.” Simon teaches political science. But no one really listens to what Simon says.
In this column, Simon also says it’s a myth that balanced teaching is better. In the very next sentence, he makes an imbalanced statement by describing David Horowitz as “the leader of a group that attacks academic freedom.” That group, by the way, is called “Students for Academic Freedom.” The suggestion that David Horowitz is at war with academic freedom is about as plausible as the suggestion that Bill Clinton is at war with fat Jewish interns. Simon has a right to say it, but his credibility suffers.
But Simon says something even more irresponsible later in the same paragraph. In a blatant attack on logical coherence, Simon says that balanced teaching “would mean that a public health professor would have to give all sides of the issue of whether smoking causes cancer.” At this point, it looks like Simon is simply trying to portray liberals as advocates of obvious truths and conservatives as advocates of obvious falsity. But, perhaps, he is simply suffering from severe intellectual hernia.
Just in case it’s the latter, here’s a better analogy that I’ll allow Simon to use free of charge: Balanced teaching would mean that a public health professor teaching that smoking is the only cause of lung cancer would have to teach about the effects of asbestos, too.
Clearly, what Simon says reveals he is incapable of balanced teaching -even on the subject of balanced teaching.
A final myth that Simon enumerates is that higher education needs government oversight. I hear this argument from a lot from professors who alternate between begging the legislature for more money to fund higher education and demanding that the legislature stay out of higher education.
Nonetheless, I think Simon is finally on to something. It is time for the legislatures to get out of the business of higher education and de-fund public universities altogether. Professors can say anything they want in class, indoctrinate students, and engage in imbalanced teaching all they want at some private university. But the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for it.
As I finish this column and look out my window, I see a blind squirrel that occasionally stumbles upon an acorn or a peanut in my back yard. A picture of that squirrel provides a good synopsis of what Simon says.