As grateful as I am for oxygen and avocados, I'm not one who spends a whole lot of time contemplating nature's gifts. I would much rather watch the Home Shopping Network peddle Barry Manilow commemorative plates than endure even five minutes of the Jim Bob Fishin', Huntin', and Spittin' Hour. For that reason, I suppose, I was just about the last American alive to learn that the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy has declared open season on college professors.
I'm afraid I do take this personally, since professing happens to be my day job. Well, professing and attending endless, soul-draining meetings, but we can take that up some other time. As my students might say, I don't know if I'm any good at it, but I try really, really hard, and that ought to count for something. Anyway, it isn't exactly clear what my colleagues and I did to draw the Conspiracy's attention away from the ubiquitous threat that is Islamofascistnazicommunism, but I'm sure we could work it all out with a handshake and a couple of best practices seminars. I mean, we're not especially formidable people.
My first inkling of the trouble to come occurred when David Horowitz, radical-turned-reactionary-turned-camera-hog, published a book naming the 101 most dangerous professors in the United States. Now I spend a lot of time around professors, and I'm here to tell you that the only danger most of us pose is to the few unlucky souls with a chronic allergy to tweed. But it seems that 101 of my fellow academicians are evidently brainwashing the flower of American youth with all manner of subversive nonsense about brotherhood and diversity.
As luck would have it, I even know one of these mortar board traitors, a witty, dedicated pedagogue who wouldn't force an idea down your throat if you were dying of idea scurvy. He loves his students, and not in that icky way they write books about. I have no doubt that he eagerly shares his opinions in the classroom, and he is certainly to the left of, say, Sean Hannity, but he simply enjoys a good argument far too much to silence dissenters.
In any event, a circus needs more than clowns, so it was inevitable that several serious sounding organizations would be formed to take on the left/liberal goliath that is higher ed. One, the National Association of Scholars (NAS), is a dour gathering made up largely of old timers still resentful that they couldn't even get laid during the 60s. They have a real thing about white guys, too few dead ones being discussed in class, too many live ones being passed over for jobs. They also like to bitch about grade inflation, which I think they blame on the Warren Court.
A more virulent strain of anti-professor activism can be found in a group called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), led by Anne Neal, wife of a Republican congressman you've never heard of (which, given how most GOP legislators make the news these days, is probably a good thing). ACTA shares the same white guy fixation as NAS, but it is more militant in attacking the professoriate. In particular, the Council has developed an unhealthy obsession with one Ward Churchill, a doofus from the University of Colorado who once compared the victims of 9/11 to Adolf Eichmann, an analogy that so offended the cultural right that they retaliated by making Churchill a national celebrity.
Ultimately, however, Churchillmania ran its course and Ward himself was asked to find another line of work, preferably one that did not involve having an opinion on the issues of the day. Deprived of their moby dickhead, the Ahabs of ACTA were forced to scour the planet for another pod of whales over which to feign telegenic outrage. So they commissioned an investigator with the attention span of a freshman and the research skills of a dachshund, who (so it appears) trolled Google for about an hour searching for on-line syllabi that included any of the telltale keywords of the counterculture, such as postmodern or dialectical or black. Armed with their quarry, ACTA proceeded to submit for public approval a report entitled, "How Many Ward Churchills?", to which the answer was a giga-buttload, which was about all the mathematical precision that the ACTA-pods could summon, given their laughable sampling techniques.
If this weren't enough, a callow young man named Evan Maloney has now joined the effort with a documentary called "Indoctrinate U", which I have not seen, but which evidently provides devastating evidence that many professors disagree with Evan Maloney's view of the world. It seems that Maloney, having mastered the art of the ambush interview, seeks recognition as the mossback Michael Moore, which is a bit like thinking that you're Jim Carrey because you know how to cross your eyes. Regardless, the usual army of fraudcasters* is working breathlessly on Maloney's behalf, from Limbaugh to the Fox Newsers to Glenn Beck (and while we're on the subject, how long do you think they had to dredge the pond before they found him?).
It is too early to know how all of this will play out. But I suspect we're in it for the long haul. I'll have more to say on the subject in the next day or so, and I'll try to be a little more serious next time.
Except when referring to David Horowitz.
* No, I didn't coin that one, either. The term shows up over 100 times on everyone's favorite search tool. Damn you, Google.