Machan's Musings - Teacher Watch!
by Tibor R. Machan
Here is my imaginary scenario: A black student alumni organization hears
that some teachers are making racist remarks—advancing racist theories and
conclusions—in, say, a sociology course. But they have no proof, so they
offer to pay a student to take the risk of wearing a wire in class to make
sure the report is accurate. Turns out it is and the teacher is caught on
tape doing just what he had been suspected of doing, advancing racist
theories in his class.
It is doubtful that anyone but the racist professor would complain too
much about this. Indeed, comparable cases can be found in the history of
higher education over the last several decades.
Here is a recent actual scenario: A conservative student alumni
organization at UCLA, the Bruin Alumni Association, offers to pay some
students to monitor teachers for their left-wing bias in their classes.
(My own children attending college have reported this to me from several
classes both in California and in Alabama. And after 40 years in higher
education I have, of course, run across it myself.) But this kind of
action is protested as a “witch hunt.”
Perhaps this is simply the usual “depends whose ox is being gored”
situation. If racists are the target, it is legitimate to be concerned.
But if people who routinely diss capitalism and America, then it is fine,
a matter of academic freedom.
Well, you cannot have it both ways. If, say, the Southern Poverty Center
can get bent out of shape at the slightest suggestion of racism in a
college history course—for example, the professor defends the ante-bellum
South’s position in the American “war between the states,” as such folks
like to call it—this is going to gain much support. Such a stance is going
to be widely condemned as academic malpractice, plain and simple, and the
dismissal of the teacher will be demanded by many in the academy itself.
But when a professor announces to her class, as one of them did in my
younger daughter’s class, that “I am ashamed to be living in the United
States of America” after the US invaded Iraq, and makes it clear to
everyone that she is a Marxist (and, on top of it, is a guest worker in
the country, not a citizen), well then complaining about this counts as
opposing academic freedom.
The now-pervasive group mentality in America has generated many
instances—one recently in Colorado, where ideologically motivated academics
are invoking principles in support of their academic freedom when they are
accused of malpractice—of using the classroom as a platform for their
ideology, not as a place where teaching is carried out. At the same time
they have no compunction about charging those whose views they have
contempt for with the exact same thing.
We have, in short, what amounts to a turf fight going on—neither side
seems to have a very serious interest in professional ethics, only in
getting to spout their position to what amounts in most cases a captive
audience of young men and women.
But what else do you expect when the bulk of the academy is in the hands
of government? These are, after all, state schools attended by most
students at low or no cost. These students are ripe, anyway, to absorb the
preaching of left-wing professors who proclaim in their classes, without
allowing anyone to object, that a country whose president champions
lowering taxes is as low as a country can get since it, among other
things, threatens “free” or low-cost public education. And right-wing
professors naturally feel out of the running and would like to wrest for
themselves some of the power possessed by the Left.
This is not unlike when religious groups in some countries resort to
violent struggle to gain control of the public square. Where there is no
separation of church and state, that is what is most natural. And the same
is true wherever there is no separation of state and education—different
factions in the educational community, with their various agendas for
propagating their take on various topics to their captive audiences, are
eager to wrest control of the class room.
Nor is all this unlike the skirmishes about whether Darwinian
evolutionary (or natural selection) theory or Intelligent Design (or
creationism) will be taught in the public—for which read
“government”—schools throughout the nation. There, too, we have a virtual
monopoly and the various sides would love to get into the driver’s seat to
call the shots.
The answer that no mainstream commentator considers, and no mainstream
forum lets get discussed, is that education and government should not mix.
Then, at least, a widespread competition among different types of schools,
with their various agendas, will enable parents and students to decide
what they want to learn and no one faction will run the show.
Just think of it as comparable to the magazines we subscribe to—the
government has nothing to do with this and the situation is quite
satisfactory, thank you.