“Lefty Profs Exposed”
By Katherine Ernst
City Journal | February 23, 2006
This appeared in David Horowitz’s, Frontpagemag. com, a conservative online magazine. I am excerpting the portion of her article that mentions me.
Once again, the academics’ own words do the loudest talking. Saint Xavier University’s Peter Kirstein: “Teaching is . . . NOT a dispassionate, neutral pursuit of the ‘truth.’ It is advocacy and interpretation.”
I have three comments in defence of this approach to pedagogy:
1) Teaching is a moral act and passion, commitment and energy are helpful in successful pedagogy.
2) I don’t see the pursuit of truth as a neutral exercise. The truth(s) may be indefinable and certainly intellectually elusive. So we must battle to liberate ourselves from orthodox truths that ring hollow, and with a normative commitment attempt to discover truths with students in the classroom. Truth is malleable and changes as society and values change; I am concerned about claims of absolute truths that if too strident, may suppress dissent and vitiate academic freedom. Yet multiculturalism, affirmative action, the pursuit of peace and justice, a rejection of homophobia and white-male centered ethnocentrism can be construed as appropriate principles and guidelines as we seek truth based upon love, equal justice and non-violence.
3) I think professors can advocate certain truths recognising that indoctrination and proselytizing are not effective and contrary to the need to safeguard the academic-freedom rights of students. Yet neutrality, as a Golden Rule of teaching, I think leads to intellectual stagnation and recitation: an odious timidity to engage, challenge and question orthodox “truths” such as the notion of American virtue and exceptionalism.
Ms. Ernst makes a careless, egregious error. Dr al-Arian is not currently suspended with pay but was fired from a cowardly administration at the University of South Florida for his political beliefs. He was found not guilty on several counts of terrorism by a Tampa jury. He remains in prison, however, until a decision is made to retry him on jury-deadlocked other counts. He remains a political prisoner in an America that claims it wishes to spread democracy throughout the world.