Jewish World Review April 22, 2005/ 13 Nisan, 5765
High-schooler flunks Harvard professors
Asking "how free is our speech anymore," Toop of Davis High School in
Yakima astutely noted: "Most people believe that we can say what we
think and as we feel without fear. But there is a force out there that
is hazardous to all of this freedom. Instead of being some remote
dictatorship or Gestapo-like government organism, as it often has been
in the lands of tyranny and oppression, our freedom is quashed by
Young Mr. Toop illustrated his alarm by citing the famous or rather,
infamous incident involving Harvard University President Lawrence
Summers earlier this year when he challenged the academic audience at
a closed-door conference in Cambridge of the National Bureau of Economic
Research to speculate on possible reasons for the scarcity of female
professors in science faculties at major universities. Does being a
mother sidetrack careers? Is there anything to some research indicating
gender differences in choices of specialties? How relevant is gender in
President Summers offered no conclusions. He wanted these intellectuals
to do what they're supposed to do think. But his challenge resulted
as high-schooler Toop wrote in "the political correctness squad
(rushing) upon him like a pack of bloodthirsty dingos that just smelled
Condemned as a sexist for raising the questions, the president of
Harvard, after being denounced at a March 15 meeting of the university's
Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was humiliated internationally when the
august professors voted 218-to-185 that they "lacked confidence" in his
leadership. While there have been critics of his sometimes brusque
leadership style, it was clear that, if Summers had not raised those
questions about women professors in the sciences, he would not have been
given so reverberating a failing grade.
At that March 15 meeting, Stephan Thernstrom, the Winthrop professor of
history at Harvard, tried unsuccessfully to make his colleagues see how
they were undermining the principles of higher education. In his speech,
printed in the March 17 New York Sun, professor Thernstrom told his
politically correct colleagues:
"It is amazing to me that many of us here no longer seem to understand
that the expression of controversial ideas and the freedom to debate
them is at the heart of any greater institution of higher learning. The
whole point of tenure, as I understand it, is to protect professors from
the thought police.
"But now they are not just outside, on some congressional or state
legislative committee. They are inside too, in our midst."
High-schooler Drew Toop was troubled that Summers, fearful of losing his
job after that vote of no confidence, "apologized left and right." He
"was ripped apart by ... political correctness run amuck."
Thernstrom was of the same mind: "It is somewhat difficult to defend the
academic freedom of a man who seems to have surrendered it again and
again, in his ever more abject apologies for his ... remarks." But, much
worse, the vote to "censure him for his speech will set the university
back by 50 years, back to the days of McCarthyism."
Not only will those Harvard University punishers of speech set Harvard
back for their hypocritical political correctness, but the attack on
President Summers for raising entirely legitimate academic questions has
underlined the plague of political correctness on many faculties around
the country that are overwhelmingly composed of liberals.
A recent survey, "Political and Professional Advancement Among College
Faculty," by professors Stanley Rothman (Smith College), Neil Nevitte
(University of Toronto), and S. Robert Lichter (George Mason
University), revealed that around the country:
"In four different departments English literature, philosophy,
political science, and religious studies at least 80 percent of
faculty are liberal and no more than 5 percent are conservative."
The findings also "suggest strongly that a leftward shift has occurred
on college campuses in recent years, to the extent that political
conservatives have become an endangered species in some departments."
What gives me hope for true diversity of ideas returning to tenured
college faculties are Drew Toop and the rising backlash among
conservatives and independent-thinking college students as vigorously
presented in non-mainstream campus student newspapers that mock
political correctness by faculty members who engage in groupthink rather
than independent inquiry.
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