Wednesday, October 05, 2005

george's month so far

Ahh,,,,if only I had time to list them all. And I blame george for everything. (Well, Dick can get 10% of the blame. And Rumsfeld is evil, so he gets another 10%. Rove is half of george, so give him 20%. And Laura gets 5% for marrying him. But george gets everything else). This is what I’ve got though:

I would really like to blame the entire Indiana debacle regarding state control of who does not get to have children, but that would take more mental energy than I have at 5 o'clock in the afternoon.

Bush wants to use the military to quarantine people if there’s a bird flu pandemic because the military is sooooo good at that compassionate nurturing stuff

Nominated someone to the supreme court who was AGAINST repealing the sodomy law in Texas (note: the Supreme Court decided this one, so if she were already on it, it may have ended up differently. No pun intended).

And, of all things, they’re really getting tired of having so many darn liberals in higher education. (we’ll leave aside, for the moment, the fact that the more education a person gets, the more likely they are to be a liberal/progressive): (from today’s Wall Street Journal, which you have to have a subscription to see. Don’t pay for it, just read this):

Some Republicans are pushing a measure through the House of Representatives meant to ensure that students hear "dissenting viewpoints" in class and are protected from retaliation because of their politics or religion. Colleges say the measure isn't needed, but with Congress providing billions of dollars to higher education, they are worried.

The measure's chief promoter, Marxist-turned-conservative activist David Horowitz, says an academic bill of rights will protect students from possible political "hectoring" and discrimination by their professors. "We have enough institutions in America that are political. Let's keep [universities] above that fray," he adds.

But professors say Mr. Horowitz really is trying to silence liberal faculty members. "It's an invitation for the government to get involved in the internal affairs of the university," says William Scheuerman, a political scientist at the State University of New York at Oswego, and president of the state's faculty union. "We don't want Big Brother here."……

But Mr. Horowitz's measure concerns colleges and universities because it reflects lawmakers' growing exasperation with higher education. The federal government provides loans to more than half of all college students and grant aid to about one in three, leaving many colleges vulnerable to congressional displeasure.

The House resolution suggests how seriously conservatives take the issue of academic rights, and implies they might be willing to use the big stick of federal funding down the road…..

The academic-rights bill poses a different risk for colleges and universities, though, because it second-guesses their classroom practices, says Robert Andringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which represents 131 schools. "If Congress feels it needs to start addressing academic freedom in a law, what's next?" he asks.

The current legislation is being fueled by several headline-grabbing incidents last school year involving outspoken college professors, including a University of Colorado teacher who justified the 2001 World Trade Center attacks. The larger backdrop, though, is the culture war simmering on campuses that long have tended to be politically and socially liberal, but now are experiencing the growth of conservative political and evangelical Christian groups.

Those groups complain about a lack of intellectual diversity on their campuses, even as universities undertake high-profile and expensive racial- and ethnic-diversity programs. To prove the point, conservative groups this year tabulated the political-party registrations of their professors, then published statistics that they said show Democrats predominate on most campuses.

Mr. Horowitz says he began promoting his seven-page academic bill of rights as a way to "protect the independence of the universities" from lawmakers or others that might try to interfere should professors be seen as overtly political. Among other things, his measure calls for hiring and promotion decisions to be based solely on a professor's competence, for reading lists to include dissenting viewpoints and for schools to "welcome a diversity of approaches to unsettled questions." Faculty members shouldn't use their courses for "indoctrination," it adds.

Through an organization called Students for Academic Freedom, Mr. Horowitz also has called on students to report professors who they think promote a political viewpoint or discriminate against students for their beliefs. The two-year-old group, which says it has 150 campus chapters, has introduced nonbinding academic-rights measures in a dozen state legislatures, including those in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

In its most significant victory, Colorado's public universities pledged to follow Mr. Horowitz's bill of rights in return for the withdrawal of a binding law then before the legislature.

Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, the faculty union, dismisses Mr. Horowitz's assertion that he is only acting to protect colleges. He sees a bill of rights as an attempt by conservative politicians to "rectify what they believe is an ideological imbalance" on the campuses. Because it "comes at a time when power in Washington is heavily tilted in one direction, that concerns me," he adds.

Members of Congress began pondering their own academic bill of rights two years ago when Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, introduced a bill that largely copied Mr. Horowitz's wording. Mr. Kingston, whose father and sister are professors, says he is "pro- academic." But with taxpayers providing billions of dollars to the universities, they should be assured that professors won't "ridicule my kid when he has a George Bush bumper sticker," he says.

The Kingston measure went nowhere for two years, but in June, Republicans attached a shortened version to the Higher Education Act, which provides grants and loans to millions of college students. In hopes of heading it off, university presidents passed their own academic-rights statement. But the House education committee passed the measure anyway, over the opposition of Democrats who called Mr. Horowitz's student groups "thought police."

Faculty groups say that Congress's measure is costly and unnecessary. Florida has estimated that an academic-rights measure before its legislature would cost $4.3 million a year in staffing and legal costs. The AAUP argues that colleges already have grievance procedures and student-written teacher evaluations where allegations of ideological discrimination can be aired.

For Congress to get involved suggests "a lack of professionalism" among teachers, says David Hollinger, who heads the AAUP's committee on academic freedom and teaches the history of academia at the University of California at Berkeley.

Mr. Horowitz says that isn't the point, and that his measure is only about "decorum," "consumer fraud" and protecting the core values of the universities from activist professors. "It will only be a conservative issue if liberals make it that," he adds.”

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