04 October 2008

Politics in the Classroom

"An e-mail distributed by a Virginia teachers union encouraged members to bring politics into the classroom by wearing blue in support of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and simultaneously suggested that the union's voter registration efforts include those "you teach."

Complete story here.

So, not only is "higher education" and academia being slanted with political liberalism in the classroom, it’s now openly come to K-12 public schools in Virginia. Will some of my readers stay in a state of denial? Yes.

This story providentially dovetails with several other recent posts at Kevin Levin's Civil War blog. Do I view this so-called "intellectual activity" a threat? Yes. Mr. Levin's post suggested that those who believe this is a problem, do so out of "ignorance and a whole lot of fear" despite the overwhelming evidence supporting my charge. Moreover, suggesting that I, and many, many, others, just "soaked up this critique from the mainstream media" is a fallacy and without merit. The mainstream media largely ignores (covers up) this problem. I only cited the Washington Post piece due to the fact that they can't be charged with being "right-wing boogie-men." Most of the complaints with which I'm familiar come directly from students (including two of my daughters) and those inside academia. Numerous persons on the inside have written about this issue for years. Some folks act as if this is some new "right-wing conspiracy." Hardly.

And I've never said this problem is unique to Civil War history. I don't know where that came from. I've repeatedly said, and have for a very long time, that the problem involves all of our history--and academia as a whole. This whole agenda-driven effort has very broad implications. And I am by no means alone in stating this. See here , here, and here.

Citing anecdotal evidence to support one's argument may convince the writer of his own position, but I doubt it has much influence on the intelligent reader. How much evidence does one need?

However, if it's anecdotal evidence one favors, here's *some that might be of interest:

Example 1 (A conservative student shares his experiences)

Example 2 (A doctoral candidate and Civil War blogger shares his experiences)

Example 3 (A political analyst weighs in with convincing research, not anecdotal)

Example 4 ("Historians for Obama." You will search in vain for "Historians for McCain" at HNN. Go ahead, try it. Gee, I wonder why? Of course, this overwhelming, outspoken, and organized support among academic historians for a hard left candidate has absolutely no consequences in the classroom or their writings.)

Example 5 (You will, however, find articles like this one in abundance at HNN: The McCain-Palin Ticket Appeals to a Powerful Strain of Anti-Intellectualism in American Society. Sound familiar?)

Example 6 (A history professor at the university level cites numerous examples)

Example 7 "Here at Columbia, as at most top universities, we enjoy belittling conservative beliefs. Even the professors are in on it . . . " (A refreshingly honest admission from a student)

Frankly, I find it staggering that anyone can deny this reality, unless one is divorced from reality. I could go on and on, but it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The ease in which the opposing position can be refuted offers little challenge. Suggesting that "these accusations are nothing more than a product of a defensive posture that views intellectual activity as a threat" is ridiculous on its face. Who is it being defensive here? All I've done, along with countless others, is point out the well-established--and widely accepted--truth.

Of course, that is not to say that there aren’t some politically liberal history professors/academics who keep their personal political views out of the classroom and who are also very good at what they do. Certainly there are exceptions, but the argument as to whether or not there is an overall pervasive liberal bias in academia and on most college campuses was settled long before I ever came on the scene.

And, to be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting that these individuals are intentionally “evil”, as this author explains. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that one cannot receive an excellent education at a liberal institution of higher learning. Nor am I suggesting that there is not value in attending academic conferences, workshops, etc. I am saying that one should be aware of the battle that is going on in modern historical studies, know the instructor's perspective, and that one should not assume that just because someone has an advanced degree that their perspective is the right one.

As Mr. Levin writes: “. . . the battle for Civil War memory or how we approach the [all, in my opinion] history will be won or lost in cyberspace. . .”

He is apparently admitting that there is a battle going on in American culture over the interpretation of history, even though he seems to be dismissing my contention that his side is winning in academia.

*As always, a link to an article or site does not necessarily mean I endorse all of the positions/statements taken or made by the author and/or the site.


Gil said...

Here in occupied Northern Virginia, the Fairfax County Public Schools allowed Sen. Obama to hold a political rally at a high school but denied use of a school to Sen. McCain. No bias there.

Kevin said...

I appreciate the reference to my post, but whenever I mention you I at least provide a link. Why is that not included in your post?

Thanks for the references. I am familiar with some of the studies and you may remember that I've spoken out against historians who push their professional credentials when addressing political issues. I also agree with the studies that the academic community is dominated by liberals - some more than others of course. My comments have centered on what that statistical fact implies.

My focus has been on those who generalize about the way academics handle themselves. It's easy to pull together a handful of conservative students/academics who feel alienated. That is unfortunate and ought not to be tolerated in any shape or form. I am curious to know, however, whether such stories are pervasive throughout the system. Do we know? In other words, how many self-identified conservative students/academics have had positive experiences in the world of higher education?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Good morning Kevin. Thanks for the input. I've updated the post so that it does now include a link to your most recent post on the subject.

In response to your questions, I can only refer you back to the post as I believe I addressed them there.

Perhaps others will comment further.

Kevin said...

Thanks Richard. Just a few more comments. I actually believe that gender discrimination is a much more serious problem in certain sectors of academia. Our disagreement on this issue perhaps stems from the fact that I don't believe that there is an ongoing culture war. Don't get me wrong, I do believe that there are disagreements that divide large segments of the population, but I tend to think that the tone of the language used is a product of our media and other partisan groups. My other concern is that I don't believe that the language of conservative v. liberal gets us very far, especially in the context of academia. It leads to implicit assumptions or points to tenuous generalizations. It's the idea that there are necessary and sufficient conditions that define identification with each group. Seems to me it's much more complex. Anyway, that's my take.

Hey Richard, get outside and take advantage of this beautiful day.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes, it is a gorgeous day here in Virginia! I'm headed out soon.

Which sex do you believe is being most discriminated against?

Douglas Hill said...

In a similar vein:

This is from the web site of David Horowitz, a name and face most readers are probably familiar with. He was a "red diaper baby", and followed his parent's communist leanings into the Radical Left, until his work with the Black Panther Party (alongside H. R. Clinton) witnessed the brutal murder of another caucasian, Party associate Betty Van Patter. This filled him with "second thoughts", turned him against the Left and ultimately made him into a champion of freedom.
Freedom in academia has been his cause for the last decade, and his home page is a good resource for updates on the supressive efforts, distortions and hypocrisies of our educational systems.