The Magazine

No Ideologue Left Behind

The American Association of University Professors defends indoctrination.

Nov 12, 2007, Vol. 13, No. 09 • By DAVID HOROWITZ
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The social construction of gender, however, is merely academic nomenclature for the primacy of nurture over nature, an idea that is essential to an ideological movement--radical feminism--that proposes the use of political means to reshape social relations. But the claim itself is contested. It is contested by the findings of modern neuroscience, and evolutionary psychology, and biology (as readers of Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate know). To force students to accept as true a doctrine that is controversial among biological scientists is precisely what is meant by indoctrination.

At the time its report was finalized, a new edition of the AAUP's official journal, Academe, featured two articles defending the feminist indoctrination of university students. The first was "Impassioned Teaching," by AAUP chapter president Pamela Caughie, head of the Women's Studies department at Loyola University. Caughie wrote: "I feel I am doing my job well when students become practitioners of feminist analysis and committed to feminist politics." This is the attitude of a missionary seeking to ground her students in feminist dogma, not a professor seeking to educate them about women. In the second article, Professor Julie Kilmer of Olivet College describes the need to publicly expose and intimidate students who "resist" such indoctrination and suggests how to do this. The publication of two such articles can hardly be regarded as coincidental. It reveals the slope on which the AAUP now finds itself.

It is a slope slippery in more ways than one. The doctrine of "truth within a relevant discipline" opens the university to political factions. Suppose antagonists of Darwin's theory of evolution were to establish the academic field of Intelligent Design Studies. What academic principle would prevent them from teaching their contested theories as truth? The same would apply to 9/11 conspiracy theorists, or animal rights activists, or racists--in fact, to any ideology that was able to take control of a university department and structure its curriculum as a new academic "discipline."

Some defenders of the AAUP's position say indoctrination is not really indoctrination if the student can object to a professor's classroom advocacy without fear of reprisal. But how would students know that there was no penalty for refusing to embrace a professor's political assumptions? How would they deal with Professor Kilmer's threats to "expose" them and break down their "resistance" or with the pressure implicit in Caughie's "impassioned teaching"?

Even the very term "impassioned teaching" is a significant departure from an older understanding of higher education. The AAUP's 1940 statement on academic freedom, which is part of the template of most modern universities, states that scholars and educators should be "restrained" rather than impassioned, and should show appropriate respect for divergent views: "As scholars and educational officers, . . . [professors] should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint [and] should show respect for the opinions of others."

Under the old guidelines, professors had an obligation to hold back their ardor, to teach students to be skeptical, to assess the evidence, to respect opposing views, and to support the pluralism of ideas on which democratic culture rests. It was their professional duty to provide students with materials that would allow them to weigh more than one side of controversial issues, and so learn to think intelligently and to think for themselves. It is that central purpose of the university that the AAUP would now betray.

David Horowitz is the author of Indoctrination U: The Left's War Against Academic Freedom and the creator of the online magazine FrontPage.