Professors who are politically partisan in the classroom betray their students, conservative commentator David Horowitz told a Lehigh audience on Wednesday.
Although he spoke on topics ranging from inner-city public schools to Social Security, the controversial author and columnist focused his address on what he believes is liberal bias in academia.
“I will say some things that will tick off some people,” he said to the approximately 100 attendees. “But I want to leave you all with one idea: You can’t get a good education if they’re only telling you one side of the story.”
Horowitz came to Lehigh as part of his campaign to end what he says is discrimination against conservative faculty and students. He said political partisanship on college campuses—which he sees as overwhelmingly liberal—is a “detrimental radical element on every faculty.” He maintained it shows up everywhere from movies shown in class to comic clippings in professors’ offices, and that it stifles open discussion.
“A university should be a free and open marketplace of ideas and inquiry,” he said. “I wrote communist papers in college and my professors did not make me a pariah. I want students protected. When your professor tells you how to vote, they’re bullying you.”
Move to the right
The president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture since 1988, Horowitz began a sub-project called Students for Academic Freedom in 2003. The SAF’s booklet was available for free at the lecture and also included Horowitz’s "Academic Bill of Rights," which he and other Republican leaders have been promoting and trying to bring into legislation.
Horowitz said the reaction to Harvard President Larry Summers’ comments in January regarding women in science was an example of liberal bias, and he called the resulting controversy an “intellectual riot.
“There is a totalitarian effort to suppress even a discussion that women and men have different aptitudes,” he said. “To raise the question as to whether women have different aptitudes is forbidden in a university?”
Horowitz, whose appearance at Lehigh was funded by the Visiting Lectures Committee, the College Republicans, and the Young America’s Foundation, has been a prominent political activist since his college days. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Horowitz co-founded the New Left movement of the 1960’s and worked on Ramparts
But his political ideals moved to the right in the 1980s, seemingly sparked by the murder of his close friend Betty Van Patter in 1974. Though the case has never been solved, Horowitz attributes her murder to the Black Panthers, with whom he had been closely involved. He also credits the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the AIDS crisis for his swing to the right.
"A good discussion to have"
In 2001, Horowitz made headlines when he took out a controversial advertisement in college newspapers across the country called “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks—and Racist, Too!”
Horowitz has also written several books, including a series with co-author Peter Collier about famous American families. Since becoming a prominent critic of the left, his books have included Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties
(written with Collier), Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey
, and Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left
Horowitz received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978 and later the Teach Freedom Award from former President Ronald Reagan. He has spoken at more than 300 campuses.
“It is not about learning the politically correct conclusions,” Horowitz said, “They should be teaching you how
to think, not what
to think. No professor should be telling you what your opinion should be and enforcing that with a grade.”
The audience appeared to be divided evenly between supporters and opponents of Horowitz. During a question and answer session after the talk, Alex Grosskurth ’05 said that he counted 26 inaccuracies during Horowitz’s lecture, specifically claims regarding lack of achievement in inner-city public schools.
Horowitz did not defend his earlier statements, merely noting, “You see, you’ve made the point of the evening. The point of the evening is that this is a good discussion to have.”