a blank in the culture wars
Feb. 20, 2007
For those deficient in their culture-war studies, a brief
Suspicions of liberal classroom indoctrination in public high
schools and in university classrooms drive conservatives nuts.
Oh, like you didn't know.
A 1999 expose, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty
on America's Campuses, by Alan Charles Kors and Harvey
Silverglate, stands as a modern indictment of politically
correctness gone mad on college campuses. Among those convinced
that liberal professors have strangled conservative points of
view in U.S. college classrooms, it remains a brisk seller.
Web activist David Horowitz, meanwhile, has launched a virtual
cottage industry attacking the antics of classroom lefties. A
Horowitz brainchild - urging conservative students to record
their professors' off-subject political rants as evidence of
their propagandist bent - is proliferating.
There are many others hard at similar work. Lawyers for the
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have sued (or
threatened to sue) dozens of schools for attempting to thwart
conservative political expression.
From time to time, even the American Civil Liberties Union still
comes to the defense of speech-oppressed conservative students.
In sum, there are lots of avenues for parrying political
proselytizing in classrooms, real and imagined. Some are clever;
some are themselves controversial. But, by and large, most
conservative culture-war strategies seem focused on ensuring
debate, not stifling it.
At least until the Arizona Legislature got into the act.
Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, wishes to
ban college and public high school instructors from espousing
political views unrelated to subject matter. The measure passed
through a Senate committee on Thursday, likely clearing the way
for a full Senate debate.
That would be good. Unlike college and high school classrooms
under such a law, the state Senate can blather on about any
subject that pops into a senator's head.
A number of critics of Verschoor's Senate Bill 1542 have judged
it overbroad. It could stifle a whole lot of perfectly
legitimate, on-topic speech.
That's a good argument against the bill, certainly. By our
measure, though, calling it "overbroad" gives Verschoor's
appallingly simpleminded, anti-free speech bill a lot more
credibility than it deserves.
It's simply dumb. And, by our guess, unconstitutional to boot.
But we do hope people will talk about it.
Especially in classrooms.