￼To the Editors:I am writing in response to the opinion essay by David Horowitz in Monday’s Daily Texan arguing that there are “two universities” here at Texas, one of which is allegedly engaged in left-wing indoctrination of our students. I am one of the faculty members targeted in the latest of Horowitz’s attacks, a “new” book (full of rehashed information from his discoverthenetwork.org and prior book The Professors) called Indoctrination U.
Let’s get one thing straight: David Horowitz is a cynical opportunist who whips up fears among legislators, parents and students about radical faculty allegedly engaged in some sort of mind control. His purpose is to shut down one of the few spaces we have in our society for critical thinking and the expression of diverse points of view from conservatism to the left. While some departments house one or maybe even two faculty of liberal or progressive bent, the University as a whole is not overrun with leftists. (In the whole country, he could only find 101 left-wing enough for him to consider “dangerous.”) And I don’t see Horowitz calling on the Business School to hire a labor leader or the economics department to hire enough Marxist economists to balance out the curriculum. I don’t see him calling for critics of the petroleum industry to be welcomed in the geology department.
So, you see, his attempts to police freedom of thought are aimed at only one small part of the ideological spectrum. He is an attack dog for the right; he would like nothing more than to see the few critical progressive faculty teaching at universities around the country lose their jobs—not because we advocate orthodoxy, but because we question his orthodoxy.
Curricula in communication, women’s and gender studies, social movements, and in fields across the humanities and social sciences are developed by experts; Horowitz knows little to nothing about the state of modern academic knowledge in these areas. For example, the idea that gender structures our society is not an ideological position (as he claims), but a fact recognized by many different disciplines including anthropology, sociology, government, psychology, and communication. Next he’ll be denying that racism is a problem—wait, he already does that, claiming that Oprah Winfrey, “a fat Black woman” (his words, during a lecture I attended) has made it to the top of society proves that racism is no longer a barrier to success for most Black Americans.
Many people regard Horowitz as a trivial crackpot, but the truth is that his activities and circulation of his grossly misnamed “Academic Bill of Rights” has led to the disciplining and even firing of excellent faculty members at universities across this country. Horowitz represents a new McCarthyism and he is witch-hunting scholars and programs crucial to the enterprise of higher education.
The irony for my own part in this latest round is that my teaching evaluations have never been higher, and I just won one of our College’s teaching awards on the basis, in part, of my openness to controversy in the classroom. Yes, I am an activist (but not in the classroom). And yes, I teach political subjects because that is the subject matter of my discipline—communication, political discourse, social movements, critical theory, and political rhetoric. No one forces students to take my classes, and I encourage students to bring readings and questions from many perspectives to discuss in class.
Horowitz thinks that students can’t think for themselves. I hope students here will tell him where to get off. Critical thinking is not indoctrination; when the entire political landscape is dominated by one point of view, there are few spaces in society where students may be exposed to points of view not available in many mainstream outlets. Teaching critical thinking and alternative points of view is a good thing. I have found that my students can hold their own.
I’ve had a large number of conservative students. Most of them do well, and some of them are fans of mine.
Here is a letter from one such student.
“To the Editor:
“Let’s get two things straight before we begin. I am a fervent capitalist and extremely conservative, so no one can say I’m writing this for any reason except out of my absolute admiration for Dr. Cloud. And before anyone dismisses me as a young, easily impressionable college kid, I’m 43 years old and the mother of children older than many of you reading this. With that said, I would like to go on record in saying that Dana Cloud is one of the finest teachers I have had the joy to encounter during my college experience.
“It is painfully and pathetically obvious that Mr. Horowitz did not have the intellectual honesty nor the journalistic integrity to interview any of Dr. Cloud’s students before writing his hit piece. I rather strongly disagree with some of Dr. Cloud’s positions, but while I was her student, I felt completely comfortable stating my opinions in class, regardless of whether I agreed with her or not.
“Dr. Cloud did what a good educator is supposed to do: she provided a forum for an open and lively debate of ideas. She encouraged everyone to give their opinions. She provided materials that were thought-provoking, which, as far as I understand it, is the very point of going to college. As a person, I find Dr. Cloud delightful. As an educator, I find Dr. Cloud exemplary. One of the 101 most dangerous professors? Only if you think a professor who is unfailingly open and honest is dangerous.
“I may not agree or even like some of Dr. Cloud’s political positions. But she is my fellow American and has the right to express her beliefs. And I point out again, that as an educator, she never forced her beliefs on anyone, never tried to “indoctrinate” in the classroom. She is an intelligent, vibrant, and wonderfully effective educator, and I pray that this situation serves as a springboard for people to discuss the vital issues of civil rights and freedom of speech.
“I will be horrified if Dr. Cloud is damaged by the obviously slanted piece done by Mr. Horowitz. With all honesty, there are only 4 professors I have had who truly stand out in my mind as wonderful teachers after 122 hours of college. Dr. Cloud, without one second’s hesitation, is the top of those four and I consider it an honor to speak for her publicly.
Senior, Corporate Communication”
I hope this clears up what Horowitz is about and what genuine, open education is about: They are opposites.
For more information, readers can go to teachersfordemocracy.org.