The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

51° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Horowitz brings pugnacious attitude to debate

    “”I don’t like shouting matches,”” David Horowitz said.

    Horowitz, who is speaking tonight at 7:30 in the Education building, spoke with the Daily Wildcat for more than 40 minutes on April 3. On the phone, the long-time conservative commentator seems a world away from the explosive character that comes across in his writing. He’s soft-spoken and quick to qualify the kind of absolute-sounding statements that pepper his latest book, “”One Party Classroom,”” which lashes college professors for “”indoctrinating”” their students with left-wing views.

    “”I’ve never said professors have to avoid expressing an opinion,”” Horowitz said. “”They have to avoid imposing one.”” He compared it to a courtroom: “”If you only have the prosecuting attorney speaking, you know something’s missing.””

    Horowitz’s book promises to tear the cover from the “”150 worst courses”” in American universities, including several at the UA.

    “”I did not regard these as the twelve worst; that’s my publisher talking,”” Horowitz said. He also said he thinks 90 percent of professors are doing “”a decent job.”” “”I picked extreme courses”” for the book, he said.

    He insists his campaign is on behalf of students. “”You guys are paying hefty tuitions, and you’re being robbed of a decent education,”” he said. “”Liberal students never get their assumptions challenged. If you’re never tested, you really can’t grow.””

    Horowitz said he would like to see universities give their students the chance to have their complaints heard if they feel their professors are giving them one-sided courses. “”Right now, the only kind of grievance machinery is if you got a bad grade,”” Horowitz said. “”But that doesn’t protect students from bad teaching.””

    Horowitz seems to delight in debate, and there’s no reason to doubt that he genuinely wishes to see universities return to the intellectually rigorous atmosphere of the 1950s, which he calls “”the golden age of the research university.”” As a young Marxist, Horowitz said, he never felt pressured by his professors to agree with them. “”No professor ever singled out my views and made me feel uncomfortable,”” he said. “”My professors didn’t persuade me not to be a Marxist. I didn’t know what their politics were because in those days professors didn’t do politics in the classroom.””

    That atmosphere, he insists, has been poisoned by the “”airless totalitarian nature”” of the classes he writes about, which “”indoctrinate”” students with “”infantile leftism.”” Women’s and gender studies and political science courses come in for the bulk of his rancor.

    Horowitz is infuriated by the presumption of courses like V. Spike Peterson’s “”Feminist Political Theory”” and “”Gender and Politics”” classes. “”If you look at Peterson’s courses, all she does is explicate a theory, as if it were Newtonian physics,”” Horowitz said. Rather than relying on evidence, he argues, these classes simply rely on a series of unexamined axioms, like “”capitalism is bad.””

    The major problem with Horowitz’s book is that he hasn’t taken any of these classes. He relies entirely on the course syllabi to make his evaluations. While this makes the book simpler – removing the “”he said, she said”” controversy that would result if he quoted from students -ÿit also makes it harder to tell how fair his assessments are.

    He criticizes Kari McBride’s “”Feminist Theories”” course, for example, for assigning works by Karl Marx. Horowitz also complains about McBride assigning her own “”Introduction to Marxism,”” which he views as an attempt by McBride to indoctrinate students with Marxism.

    I looked up the syllabus, which Horowitz helpfully provides the URL for. While McBride does indeed assign Marx, she also assigns works by John Stuart Mill, Virginia Woolf, and Susan B. Anthony. The “”introduction”” turns out to be a few paragraphs, which accurately describe what Marxists think. There is no indication that McBride personally believes in Marxism.

    Though the way it’s packaged makes it look like a reactionary diatribe, Horowitz’s book is fundamentally a serious one. He doesn’t call for censorship, or even for any of the professors to be fired. Yet his criticisms are undermined by his unbalanced tone, which attributes “”Marxism”” to anyone to the left of Bill Clinton.

    There’s irony, too, in the fact that Horowitz lionizes the university system of the 1940s and 1950s, when communism actually did have some influence on academia. Identity politics and postmodernism are far more pervasive in today’s university system than Marxism. Horowitz would have been more convincing had he argued that the Marxist professors of his youth were more fun and interesting to listen to than the postmodernist professors of today.

    Admire him or detest him, Horowitz’s views are vehement enough – and his defense of them pugnacious enough -ÿto ensure a lively debate tonight. Whatever happens, we can be sure that it will be neither airless nor totalitarian.

    Justyn Dillingham is the editor in chief of the Daily Wildcat. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search