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David Horowitz's $10,000 Challenge to the Historians of the AHA

David Horowitz has called out the Academic Left for its latest smear of his academic freedom proposal.

At its business meeting in Philadelphia on Saturday, January 7, the American Historical Association (AHA) passed a resolution claiming the Academic Bill of Rights (ABOR) he has championed would “impose political criteria in areas of academic policy.” Further, the academic organization chided the ABOR for “giving power over such matters as curriculum, course content and faculty personnel decisions to government authorities.” Some 70 members of the 5,600-member organization voted at this business meeting.

Faced with such desperate and outrageous deception about his Academic Bill of Rights – which condemns basing hiring or grading decisions on political criteria – David Horowitz chose a unique response: he’s offering $10,000 to any member of the AHA who can “point out a sentence in this document” that would have the Orwellian impact their resolution pretends it would. If the AHA cannot, Horowitz says it should rescind its anti-Academic Freedom resolution and admit the measure was based on lies.

He can rest assured his wallet is safe; the AHA resolution flies in the face of the clear wording of the ABOR. The Academic Bill of Rights’ very first resolution states, “No faculty shall be hired or fired or denied promotion or tenure on the basis of his or her political or religious beliefs.” The remainder of the non-binding measure expresses the sense that professors should not use their classrooms as bully pulpits for their pet causes, that textbooks should express a range of opinion rather than echoing a political party line, and that students should not be denigrated or given inferior grades for expressing an alternative point of view. It says, in other words, that professors should teach, not indoctrinate, and students should learn to think, not regurgitate.

His critics seem to think this is precisely the problem. Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University – whose academic career has been dedicated to presenting 1950s Soviet spies as romantic altruists whose “political allegiances transcended national boundaries” – expresses a fear that the days of the Left’s unbridled advocacy are over. “Because of the job crunch,” she writes, “junior faculty are so insecure that they cannot now openly take political positions as they did in the 1960s.” (Forget the fact that most junior faculty did not take overtly political positions in the classroom in the 1960s.)

A further irony: the anti-ABOR measure was officially sponsored and supported in the business meeting by Historians Against the War (HAW), a group of mostly leftist historians united in their opposition to the Iraq War.

Although the AHA expressed concerns about the Academic Bill of Rights, it rejected an opportunity to condemn left-wing restrictions on the First Amendment – even though PC campus “speech codes” have been found unconstitutional in the past. David T. Beito, a libertarian Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama (and HAW member), offered an alternate resolution condemning both the ABOR and campus speech codes. Ralph Luker and Robert K.C. Johnson supported him, to no avail. In a blog announcing his measure’s defeat, Beito noted there is “some justification” that “that the AHA subscribes to a double standard of ‘academic freedom for me but not thee.’”

David Horowitz would have expected nothing else from this historical collection of leftists:

I'm not surprised the AHA refused to condemn speech codes, which are clear violations of the First Amendment. This shows the hypocrisy of the organization's claims to principle. The AHA resolution begins with a premise that is patently false – the Academic Bill of Rights would not give government the power over curriculum, course content and/or faculty personnel decisions, as the resolution claims. In fact, the Academic Bill of Rights specifically and explicitly forbids the hiring, firing, promotion, or denial of promotion of any professor for political/ideological reasons. The AHA resolution then proceeds to an even more outrageously false claim, viz., that the Academic Bill of Rights would “impose political criteria in areas of educational policy.” I will give $10,000 to the first member of the AHA who can cite a single sentence in the Academic Bill of Rights that would do this. Are these historians? Can they read English? The AHA resolution is a pathetic display of ideological prejudice on the part of the small minority of apparently hysterical academics who attended the AHA business meeting to vote on this matter, and fully justifies the concerns that led to the drafting of the Academic Bill of Rights in the first place.

The AHA’s position is even more transparently partisan, since just 366 days ago it drafted a statement nearly identical in approach to the Academic Bill of Rights. Its “Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct” declares a professor’s political or religious views should never result in:

the persistent intrusion of material unrelated to the subject of the course. Furthermore, teachers should be mindful that students and other audience members have the right to disagree with a given interpretation or point of view. Students should be made aware of multiple causes and varying interpretations. Within the bounds of the historical topic being studied, the free expression of legitimate differences of opinion should always be a goal. Teachers should judge students’ work on merit alone.

The AHA statements adds, “Integrity in teaching means presenting competing interpretations with fairness and intellectual honesty.” Just as the ABOR demands. The AHA’s new, anti-freedom resolution defies the academic guidelines and standards it adopted in its recent past in order to protect its members’ perceived right to indoctrinate impressionable young minds, under the guise of education.

This resolution comes as the Academic Left faces unprecedented pressure during the first-ever hearings investigating the state of academic freedom on state campuses, in this case in the state of Pennsylvania. The hearings take place today and tomorrow at Temple University in Philadelphia. David Horowitz will testify at these hearings tomorrow.

…And unlike his opponents, he’s shown he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is.

This article first appeared at frontpagemag.com.