...is being orchestrated by the pathological David Horowitz and right-wing state legislators pushing his Orwellian "Academic Bill of Rights." Here's a nice illustration, from a teacher of philosophy, of what's in store:
In the Florida legislature, House Republicans, on the Choice and Innovation Committee, recently voted to pass a bill that threatens to restrain academic scholars. The law would allow students to sue teachers for beliefs that do not concur with conservative perspectives. If, for example, professors argue that evolution is a scientific fact instead of a theory, and if they don’t devote equal time to creationism, under this bill, initiated by conservative David Horowitz’s campaign, students can sue the professor for being biased....
[T]he phrasing of the bill is comical. It turns the essential meaning of “liberal education” upside down: “leftist totalitarianism” by “dictator professors” in university classrooms. How’s this for an Orwellian twist? The bill is titled “The Academic Freedom Bill of Rights,” sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala.
In this rather oppressive atmosphere, particularly if one lives in a conservative county, as I do, teaching philosophy is a dangerous occupation....
I’ve written a cover piece for our local paper, New Times, entitled “The Politics of Restraint,” on this subject because I felt it was important for the community to know that if college teachers clarify fact from fiction, if they explain the truth on the invasion of Iraq, that Saddam was not responsible for 9/11, there were no weapons of mass destruction, and therefore he could not have been an imminent threat to the U.S, conservatives howl in agony that the teacher is spreading “anti-Bush indoctrination....”
I, personally, was targeted by a group of Bush-supporting fundamentalists. As soon as they listed me on their websites, I received a flood of hate e-mails from nutcases across the nation. The author of “Bush Bashing for a College Degree” not only attacked the philosophy course, she proceeded to condemn the entire humanities department and Western traditional philosophers as being “secular evil influences.” Plato, Augustine, Kant, Nietzsche and J.S. Mill are unsuitable for study because they’re EVIL according to Jen Shroder.
Shroder wrongly claims that I yelled at my students, “If you like Bush or Limbaugh, LEAVE NOW.” I admit, I like the sound of it, but it’s flatly untrue. This woman has never attended my class. I have, however, mentioned to my students that the Bush administration’s favorable take on Iraq is being played 24/7 on all the corporate media networks and talk radio shows.
This explains why conservatives are now going after college teachers. Given the massive media control, it’s the last arena left where students are introduced to a humane and rational approach to serious moral issues, where they’ll be exposed to critical analysis, such as examining how the Iraqis, students their own age, feel about the U.S. invasion, an evaluation which has been deliberately ignored from the American corporate media reports from day one of this invasion. Not surprising, my students had never considered what it would be like to be in Iraqi civilian shoes, to be occupied by foreign invaders. It was the first time anyone asked them to think about Iraqi families from an empathic angle.
After we discussed Plato’s theory of Justice, I asked my students if Plato would agree or disagree with Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Most of them understood the connection between Plato’s assessment of war and the fact that Iraq is the 2nd largest source of oil in the world. Plato argued that “the desire for more things will soon exhaust the resources of the community and before long, we shall have to cut off a slice or our neighbor’s territory…and they will want a slice of ours. At this rate, neighbors will inevitably be at war. Wars have their origin in desires which are the most fruitful source of evils both to individuals and states.”
Conservative students have complained to each other: “How can she call herself a philosophy teacher when she doesn’t’ allow students to express their opinions?”
Students labor under the false presumption that philosophy is about the expression of “their” opinions and that all opinions are equally valid. Never mind that most students haven’t read a single philosophy book in their entire lives. Never mind that they do not hold a single college degree on the subject....
Nevertheless, college students believe that they have equal status with their professors. And that is how this movement began—with the absurd notion that students’ opinions, no matter how stupid or wrong those opinions may be, have as much validity as academic scholarship....
Here’s a follow-up question for Republican legislators: Some students still believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. Now if I were to tell them that even the Bush administration has announced that Saddam was not responsible for 9/11, under this bill, if passed, would students have the right to sue me because I clarified fact from fiction? Do I now become a Big Bad Liberal Dictator for challenging misinformation?
In today’s FOXTV-anything-goes-media, lies are facts. So it makes it exceedingly frustrating for teachers to question media-repeated lies, distortions and misinformation.
Philosophers have a long tradition of questioning conventional norms and popular beliefs. Socrates was accused by the mob for being unpatriotic because he didn’t believe war with Sparta and the poorly planned Sicilian invasion were good ideas. As it turned out, he was right and they were wrong. Athens was demolished. He was promptly executed on trumped up charges, “Corrupting the Youth” and “Atheism” (gee, that sounds familiar!). In other words, Socrates was found guilty for being a critic of society, which made him an “enemy of the state.”
The intended goal of this bill is to allow students the opportunity to express FOXTV lies or misinformation, and their conservative views, in the classroom without teachers getting in the way. If the teachers challenge their Limbaugh or Hannity views, then the teacher will be sued, tarred & feathered and thrown into prison in the name of “Academic Freedom.” Oh, and let’s not forget the Hemlock.