Monday, August 08, 2005

War on Academic Freedom

Well, here we go. The Horowitzian forces have girded their loins (that's possibly the ugliest phrase I've ever written), and academic freedom is on the chopping block (I'm good at mixing metaphors, too). The Boston Globe reports:

A resolution attached to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which has passed the House Education and the Workforce Committee and is expected to be taken up by the full House in September, tells colleges to grade students on the basis of their mastery of subject matter rather than on their political views.

The provision makes no mention of specific political leanings, but represents a victory for conservative student groups who have been arguing for years that American universities are bastions of liberalism seeking to impose their liberal orthodoxy on dissenters.

The measure is not binding, but some higher education analysts caution that it is not to be taken lightly. Colleges and universities, they say, should consider this a warning shot from a Republican-controlled Congress fed up with the liberal academy.

''If the universities don't move, all that's going to happen is this will build," said David Horowitz, a conservative author and a driving force in the free speech movement that inspired the resolution. ''They're sitting on a tinderbox. Now we have resolutions. I guarantee you, if they thumb their noses at this, there will be statutory legislation."

I have four initial responses to this: 1) Jesus Christ, Horowitz is an asshole. 2) I don't know ANY professor who grades students based on their political views. That's not just bad policy, it's bad pedagogy. This measure is a cure with no disease. 3) The only effect this is going to have is to make it harder for professors to uphold academic standards in grading, something conservatives claim to be in favor of. 4) I can't wait to see what Michael Bérubé has to say about this.