Herbert London is Senior Fellow of the Manhattan Institute, founder of the London Center for Policy Research, and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America).
Ideological Warfare on Campus
Recently the University of Colorado noted that political affiliation and orientation would be a protected category in the university's nondiscrimination policy. What prompted this action were reports from conservative faculty members that their viewpoints have been stifled.
While the proposal was approved, it is remarkable that this policy had to be introduced in the first place. What it suggests is that the faculty political outlook is homogeneous, allowing little room for different points of view. Yet, to state the obvious, the essence of education is the exploration of different opinions. Some faculty members contend that anti-bias policies are a waste of time. After all, the exclusionary position of most faculty members will not change because of university reform.
In fact, if diversity of views is the goal, that is more likely to come from outside the Academe than inside the faculty. Faculty members who share this left wing orthodoxy, in my experience, are accustomed to the present academic environment. Their self-righteousness is mutually reinforcing. They are the virtuous ones and their position must not be challenged. Whenever this argument of political bias arises university presidents invariably say "higher education is facing much bigger issues than this."
But is that true? If the free and open exchange of opinion is not possible, if propagandizing for an ideology is permitted, the purpose of education will inevitably be compromised. This fall the University of Colorado hired its first "visiting scholar in conservative thought and policy." The appointment was created in part to change public perception of the institution. However, while the appointment may offer legitimacy for conservative views, it is odd that an ideology of one kind is being used to counter the ideology of another.
As I see it, the issue is openness - a consideration of a variety of opinions within the same classroom. The university is not designed to promote an ideology of the left or the right. Any exercise in politicizing the Academe contradicts its essential mission. After having experienced an ideological shift, ever since the 1960s, it is understandable that a minority of conservative faculty members would seek some protection from the herd of leftist ideologues.
But history has a strange way of hoisting protagonists by their own petard. The ideologue of the right might one day be charged with intimidation and chastisement that one sees so evident on campuses across the nation today. It is an unlikely scenario, but one serious scholars in the Academe should not overlook. If there is one standard worth defending, it is a belief in academic freedom - the ability of professors to express freely their opinion in areas where there is demonstrated expertise.
This is not unlimited freedom, nor is it freedom of speech. But it is a freedom anchored in openness that allows for the expression of any political view. Should the university adhere to this standard, it is not necessary to amend the university's policy. Nor is it appropriate to hire a conservative professor to balance the political scales. If administrators want to engender an atmosphere of fairness and openness, it makes far more sense to remind faculty members of the meaning behind academic freedom.
What Jewish Museums Won't Show
Holocaust museums around the globe present in remarkably graphic form pre-war Nazi conditions that promoted anti-Semitism and the belief that Jews were sub-human. Children read schoolbooks in which Jews were depicted as exploitive, dangerous, lacking in essential human qualities. Jews were demonized to an extent that led inexorably to concentration camps and extermination. The horror of this period is told and retold in museums as a reminder that this must never happen again. Propaganda of a vicious variety has consequences, a condition the world now knows all too well.
Or does it? For decades Palestinian school texts repeat the same dangerous lies about Jews. A crossword puzzle for children asks "what is a four-letter word for an exploitive people? Answer: Jews." Summer camp bunks in the Arab section of the West Bank are named after "martyrs" who have killed Israeli women and children.
Last year Syria had a four-part television series on "the blood libel" - the claim that Jews kill Christian youth so their blood can be used for the making of matzos. Saudi textbooks have actually reprinted perverse Nazi cartoons from the 1930s. And the Protocols of The Elders of Zion, a classic anti-semitic book based on nothing more than the ill-advised ideas of a fantasist, has been reprinted in many Arab venues and has been circulated by imams as evidence of Jewish turpitude.
None of this material is surprising. It has been revealed in many newspapers and journals. There have been courageous journalists who have campaigned against these contemporary atrocities. Yet progressive Jewish leaders and Holocaust museum curators ignore these conditions.
If one attends a Holocaust museum, the last exhibit is invariably on genocides in our time, from the boat people in Vietnam, to the long march in Cambodia, to Darfur. Poignant photographs are displayed that tug at the heartstrings and display Jewish sensitivity to human depravity. This is as it should be. If any group is aware of the horror people can inflict on one another it is the Jews.
However, what is missing is the existential evidence of anti-semitism. Where are the tracts pointing to the rise of anti-semitism in many European communities, the hatred directed against Jews in Muslim populations, and the vile images about Jews promoted in Arab and Persian nations? I suspect the reason for this obvious omission is political correctness. It is certainly not a lack of awareness.
I reside near the downtown Holocaust Museum and admire the way history is recaptured in the exhibits. It is also telling that the final pathway in the museum offers a splendid view of the Statue of Liberty. Yet remarkably, challenges to Jewish liberty at the moment are ignored. There appears to be a deep sense that what is happening across the globe now could be glossed over.
In a perverse way this is history repeating itself. So many Jews in Germany and elsewhere during the 1930s dismissed the routine caricatures of Jewish life as adolescent rants, something that will evanesce over time. Why make a fuss about this matter? It seemed better to avoid controversy. I suspect that is the same explanation used by curators now. Political correctness is a silencing device used by some Jewish leaders against Jewish interests.
It is time to realize museums are a sacred cultural trust that not only tell a story of the past but offer a narrative of what must be countered in the present. If "Never Again" is a goal - a goal that should not be forgotten - then the anti-semitic facts of our time should be told just as museum attendees are reminded of the historic horror of the Shoah. *