A few weeks ago I posted something (see here) about the showdown in Wisconsin over academic freedom that was sparked by Kevin Barrett's suggestion on a radio talk show that 9/11 was an inside job (Barrett is an adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). At the time I pointed out that Representative Steve Nass--who was chiefly responsible for trying to get Barrett fired--has subsequently vowed to use the “power of the purse-string” to seek administrative cuts in the state-funded university budget. See here for an update concerning Nash's latest crusade.
On a related note, Stanley Fish attempted to shed light on the issue in yesterday's New York Times (see here). Jennifer Hansen--of Mad Melancholic Feminista fame--has posted an interesting response here. I am no less skeptical than she is about the tenability of Fish's analysis.
UPDATE: Today's Los Angeles Times has yet another article about the Barrett affair (see here). Apparently 61 of Wisconsin's 133 lawmakers have given the university an official ultimatum--either fire Barrett or reap the financial consequences in terms of budget cuts. What is their justification for the ultimatum? The tax-payers of Wisconsin purportedly don't want to pay people like Barrett to teach lies to their children.
The main problem with this line of reasoning is that Barrett's course--which is entitled, "Islam: Religion and Culture"--will focus on "the history of Islam, the Koran and the faith's effect on modern-day U.S. society." Absent seeing the syllabus for the course, why would anyone think he would be teaching the students his views concerning 9/11? After all, Barrett never said he was going to teaching his views about 9/11 in the classroom at all--his comments were made during a radio talk show and they were about his personal beliefs.
It appears the good lawmakers of Wisconsin are operating under the following assumptions: (1) If P says x in public, then clearly P will teach x to her students. (2) If most people believe x is false and P is going to be teaching x to her students, P ought to be fired. The unfolding debate seems to focus on the merits of (2)--which is pretty bad as far as it goes--but we need to be focusing on (1) instead. After all, absent evidence that Barrett will be teaching his students his views concerning 9/11--we have no way of evaluating the merits of the argument the legislators have put forward.