Mr Horowitz in his blog wrote this about my association with Historians Against the War.
“I do single out organizations like Historians Against The War because in my view they are unprofessional and at odds with academic mission — and would be so if they were Historians For The War. This is the heart of the argument in my book, and I welcome comments on it by any academic whether included in the profiles or not, who will argue his or her position as civilly and intellectually as Professor Kirstein.”
“Unprofessional” is one of the most serious charges than can be made against an academician. That is his right of course. I believe society benefits when its intellectuals–a word that has fallen into disrepute since the 1950s verbal assault against two-time presidential aspirant Governor Adlai Stevenson–are engaged in their world. It is the height of professionalism and I think good citizenshp when academicians attempt to effectuate progressive social and political change.
The Ivory Tower I believe reflected poorly on academia in that it conferred a certain insularity, a racialism in a white-male dominated academy, and represented a withdrawal from the mayhem or currents that confronted the man or woman in the street. Beginning in the 1960s, although hardly absent before, activist professors in their scholarship, their marches, their organizing and their political activities began to descend from the Ivory Tower and into the streets. They were active in the antiwar movement in particular and thousands marched for Civil Rights and to end American apartheid. While one may strongly dissent from an intellectual’s specific activity and challenge her or his values and commitment to a particular cause, I think America derives a dividend from its investment in the education and training of its academic leaders. It benefits society when they contribute their purported wisdom, directly insert themselves as active participants in the political process and evince a commitment to societal progress and reform. After all, it is our country too and we have the same rights and privileges as others to be fully engaged in the issues of the day.
I certainly would not criticise or condemn a professor who is apolitical. However I would praise, defend and honour an academician that cares about her country, the international community and is prepared to engage in robust and purposeful activity.
Such will be the case this weekend at the University of Texas when the H.A.W. conference on the Iraq War takes place.