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Sunday, May 08, 2005


Neo-Cons Lay Siege to the Ivory Towers

An editorial written by Saree Makdisi, professor of English at UCLA, and Edward Said's cousin, discusses the chilling effects of a bill to limit academic freedom. The bill, which is currently being considered by the California State Senate's Committee on Education has as its counterpart at the Federal level, HR3077, which made it through the House of Representatives in 2003, didn't get through a Senate Committee, but Makdisi states that there are efforts to revive it. Supporters of the Federal Bill include American Jewish Congress, American Israel Political Action Campaign, Daniel Pipes, and Martin Kramer, pro-Israel forces who have aligned themeselves with religious fundamentalists. Language of the bill at the state level is reminiscent of texts by David Horowitz. Excerpts from Makdisi:

"Peddled under the benign name "An Academic Bill of Rights," SB 5 is in fact part of a wide assault on universities, professors and teaching across the country. Similar bills are pending in more than a dozen state legislatures and at the federal level, all calling for government intrusion into pedagogical matters, such as text assignments and course syllabuses, that neither legislators nor bureaucrats are competent to address.

"The real purpose of the bill, then, is not to provide students with "rights" but to institute state monitoring of universities, to impose specific points of view on instructors — in many cases, points of view that have been intellectually discredited — and ultimately to silence dissenting voices by punishing universities that protect them.

"Why should we, as fairly moderate to conservative legislators, continue to support universities that turn out students who rail against the very policies their parents voted us in for?" asks the Republican sponsor of the Ohio version of the bill.

"Backers of the Florida bill would like to empower students to sue professors with whom they disagree on the theory of evolution."

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