For those who think that the so-called "academic bill of rights" movement is a flash in the pan phenomenon that is going away as soon as David Horowitz tires of it, think again. It would be more accurate to argue that the belief that government ought to get involved in what happens in a college classroom or in the lecture hall seems to be getting institutionalized as part of the right-wing agenda. Too partisan you say? Well, let's remember which party's college organization includes this effort as a part of its national agenda. And do we really need to list the twenty-some odd state legislators who introduced ABOR legislation around the country and demonstrate their politics to make the point?
And the commitment continues. Last week, two young politicians debated in Maine for a seat in the Maine House of Representatives. According to The Maine Campus, Republican Lance Cowan argued for "loosening taxes and restrictions on local and small businesses in the state to help with economic troubles." Apparently, however, he is looking to increase restrictions on higher education since he "also proposed to re-introduce an 'Academic Bill of Rights,' geared at making sure no students or university professors are discriminated against on the basis of political affiliation or beliefs."
How might such legislation open up a college or university classroom to better ideas? According to Cowan, it "is in the best interests of students in Maine to be taught all sides of any given issue, including intelligent design theories." Ah yes, the old "stop indoctrination by bringing religion into the classroom argument" - he definitely got the playbook.
And on the other side of the country, one student in Arizona keeps an eye on ABoR.
Following this weekend's fine op-ed in the Washington Post, we start this week with another great analysis of the so-called academic bill of rights by Matt Stone, senior at the University of Arizona. Stone is rightly suspicious of a "policy" that purports to do something that is already addressed by campus polilcies and procedures -- the ole "solution in search of a problem" -- and is quick to assess the real intent.
The entire proposal adds a third actor to the academic relations between student and professor: the government. If a student is unhappy with a course's content, he or she can go crying to the state Legislature. It all adds up to the defense of institutionalized ignorance: I don't like it, therefore I don't have to learn it.
Of course, the bill of rights reeks of governmental paternalism, a trend that is increasingly (and regrettably) prevalent amongst the Republican ranks as social conservatives wield more influence. You can almost hear Barry Goldwater writhing in his grave.
Finally, here is Princeton University senior Asheesh Kapur Siddique's (above-mentioned) excellent commentary in Saturday's Washington Post where he outlines just why students should oppose the so-called academic bill of rights. I offer one correction to Siddique's piece "Thought Police in the Lecture Hall." He suggests that Temple University became the first university to adopt ABOR as a policy. This, as we have pointed out before, is just not the case (well, except in the minds of rationale folks like Pennsylvania "soon-to-not-be-a" Representative Gib Armstrong). Overall, this is a really fine commentary. Make sure you share it with your friends!
Update: Siddique has a follow-up post over on the Campus Progress blog that is definitely worth reading as well.