Worth checking out: KC Johnson‘s excellent piece over at Minding the Campus entitled ”The Big, Bad, ‘Right Wing.’” Johnson critically analyzes an article in Thought & Action, the higher education journal of the National Education Association teachers’ union.
According to Johnson, an article by Yeshiva University professor Ellen Schrecker ”purports to uncover the ‘roots of the rightwing attack on higher education.’” Johnson writes:
Her thesis? The malicious and deceptive activities of the “right wing”—not the activities of the academic majority—have convinced most Americans to view the academic majority as “radical, elitist, and somehow alien to most ordinary citizens.” This argument serves two complementary purposes: it fits into Schrecker’s predisposition to see the “right” as latter-day McCarthyites; and it absolves Schrecker and like-minded colleagues of any responsibility in creating a contemporary academy characterized more by ideological groupthink than by a commitment to free inquiry.
Johnson performs an effective take-down of Schrecker’s misguided criticism of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE):
Schrecker’s comments about FIRE most clearly demonstrate her intellectual bankruptcy. FIRE, she writes, “fought against the speech codes designed to make campuses more welcoming to women and people of color.” Despite this almost fantastic description of the goals of speech code advocates, Schrecker reluctantly admits that FIRE “supported academic freedom.” But, laments this member of the AAUP’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, FIRE’s efforts “undermined public support for higher education.”
Of course, it wasn’t FIRE that undermined public support for higher education—it was the policies adopted by the academic majority at dozens of colleges and universities around the nation. Yet somehow, in Schrecker’s version of history, FIRE deserves condemnation, while the leftists who betrayed academic freedom need a defense. This, in short, is nothing more than argument by denunciation.
In other words, Schrecker blames the messenger. The whole essay is worth a read.