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The Professors? What about the students?

Published: March 17, 2006
Section: Opinions


Is the American collegiate system really indoctrinating its students? According to student-rights activist David Horowitz, it is. In The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Horowitz assails the leftist hegemony on American campuses, concluding that students are coerced into ascribing to liberal positions at the risk of receiving a poor grade. Moreover, he faults universities for adopting “ideological fields” as academic majors, such as peace studies, women's studies, and African-American studies, and asserts that these programs are “overtly political rather than scholarly” in their purpose.

While Horowitz is correct in that these fields are overtly political, he is fundamentally incorrect about the reason for their existence. Horowitz says that “radical” professors merely wanted to “[re-shape] the university curriculum to support their political interests.” But Horowitz is wrong. These programs exist because of the students. Four pages into his introduction, Horowitz even recognizes this fact, but fails to make the connection: “One of the first Black Studies programs was established at Cornell University as a concession to black radicals who occupied the administration building with loaded shotguns and refused to leave until their demands were met.”

Horowitz never once recognizes in his book that these liberal programs exist because of rational choices made by prospective students. The reason students go to liberal arts colleges is because they are legitimately interested in the intellectual inquiry associated with these fields, and this should be what is most threatening to Horowitz. As any good market-economist should know, a service will not exist if no one demands it. Unlike the professors Horowitz labels as “Marxists,” the collegiate system is anything but. To assume that liberal arts is a Gramscian-conspiracy to indoctrinate the youth of America is nothing short of foolish.

What must be remembered is that everything regarding college is a choice. We choose to go to college. We pick our major, our classes, our advisers, and even our professors. Unlike high school, there are no laws or standardized curricula that govern our education;

we are free to do as we wish. At college, a student has every right to pursue conservative majors such as business or economics, as well as the right to pursue peace-studies.

Horowitz calls for the ideological diversity of the liberal arts, yet he never calls for the liberalization of traditionally conservative majors. While he argues that universities should be more fair to conservatives in the hiring process, he never urges economics departments to hire more leftists. Horowitz is clearly not serious in his call for academic diversity. On the contrary, all Horowitz wants is to stifle the choices afforded to students who want to pursue the study of the liberal arts. This is a dangerous facade Horowitz has erected, and university administrators should not be taken in.