Thursday, March 03, 2005

Dude, Where's My Truth? Dispatches from the Academic Bill of Rights III

Point 4 of the ABOR makes this remarkable claim:

Curricula and reading lists in the humanities and social sciences should reflect the uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas by providing students with dissenting sources and viewpoints where appropriate.

What? The uncertainty and unsettled character of all human knowledge in these areas?

Sounds like relativism to me. Isn't the whole conservative vision based on the idea of absolute truth in everything? RenewAmerica seems to think so. And this conservative says that "right and wrong" are not open for debate. If that's so, than the whole academic exercise and the freedom to express oneself in debate on the basis of study, observation or human experience is useless. Come to think of it, if "right and wrong" are not up for discussion, then there's little basis for the Bill of Rights and the freedom of expression it protects either.

Now we might be tempted to give the "right" some leeway on this. Maybe they only mean "moral" issues are absolute. But what is or isn't "moral" in nature? Just about everything under the humanities and social sciences umbrella has some moral implications. Even issues like the events of 9-11 and the war on Iraq have moral implications that would seem to require investigation. But Horowitz and his gang say there's only one truth about the so-called "war on terror"--theirs. So how does Horowitz and the (Orwellian named) Students for Academic Freedom prepose that we handle this apparent conundrum? What is it about the humanities and social sciences that Horowitz thinks is uncertain and unsettled? If truth is already known or absolute (about Iraq or anything else), than why are we bothering with the university, and what does it matter whether or not a curricula's reading list is diverse or not?

So does Hororwitz just want a seat at the table of academic discourse for conservatives, where uncertain and unsettled matters of the humanities and social sciences are freely debated, or do he and his posse just want their views trumpeted, and no search for truth actually conducted?

Interestlingly, Horowitz seems willing to let the "left" have a say in things and even stated his opposition to those calling for the resignation or firing of outspoken University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. Most other conservatives have decided that the absolute truth is on their side in this matter and that Churchill and those like him should be banished from the academy and society. But is Horowitz really as open to opposing views as he suggests?

Return with me tomorrow and we'll examine the "truth" about ABOR's claim to want a "civil exchange of ideas".

1 comment:

sideshow bob said...

Students for Academic doubt another product from the thinktank the current administration established under Operation Name Things The Opposite Of What They Really Are, such as the Clean Skies initiative and compassionate conservative.