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Conservatives covet the classrooms.

Conservatives control the White House. They dominate the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, talk radio and corporate America--with side action at the nation's most moneyed think tanks. Despite all that, and the joy of spreading what they see as proper conservative orthodoxies, they aren't happy. The right doesn't have the classrooms.

And, damn, it drives them batty.

Among the steamed is David Horowitz, the forever flailing right-winger who brays in a recent book that lefties in the classroom are assaulting the minds of impressionable college students. The "radical left has colonized a significant part of the university system and transformed it to serve its political ends," he writes in The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

In Mr. Horowitz's take on campus reality, done from afar and showing little evidence that it comes from sitting in on the classes of professors he denounces, students are unwittingly being duped by academic ideologues. "The "dangerous' ones," he writes, "appear to believe that an institution of higher learning is an extension of the political arena."

If I were a conservative of Mr. Horowitz's bent, I'd be steaming too: Look at what it's come to, what with all those courses in black studies, women's studies and peace studies filling up lecture halls. Plus profs egging on the kids to wage anti-sweatshop and boycott-Coca-Cola campaigns and stage "Take Back the Night" marches, the drama departments putting on "The Vagina Monologues," and religion profs calling God "she."

Mr. Horowitz's solution is to change stripes and adopt a traditional liberal tactic: Bring in big government. He roams the country lobbying legislatures to pass an "Academic Bill of Rights." How governmental meddling would succeed has yet to be worked out. Perhaps require a college to have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats in the English department? But then the Libertarians and Greens will file lawsuits because they are left out. Perhaps former professor Newt Gingrich, a model of open-mindedness, could be enlisted to tape the dangerous MIT lectures of Noam Chomsky. Or send the now-idle Tom DeLay to Princeton to see if Cornel West assigns black studies students the writings of David Duke before they read Thurgood Marshall.

There's a better solution to bring balance to the campuses. Raise the salaries of professors 20-fold--or 100-fold. Across the quad from the women's studies department would be one for capitalist studies. Enticed by million-dollar salaries, conservatives would be as hot to be in classrooms as they now are to run boardrooms. Academic penury would be a thing of the past. Plus, leftists, dreamy idealists that they are and not obsessed with money, would be driven away for good.

David Horowitz spoke recently at American University in Washington. I was teaching a class there the same night--dispensing some of Gandhi's dangerously subversive and biased ideas--so I missed the talk. The campus newspaper reported that Mr. Horowitz derided a university course, "Oliver Stone's America," as a form of "historical fraud." The history professor who teaches the course told the paper that the class examines Mr. Stone's films critically and compares his views with those of scholars and others of different opinions. "I suggest Horowitz try something new," said the professor, "like getting his facts straight before he speaks."

Or read historian Howard Zinn, listed high among the 101 dangerous ones. In You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, he wrote: "In my teaching I never concealed my political views: my detestation of war and militarism, my anger at racial inequality, my belief in a democratic socialism, in a rational distribution of the world's wealth.... I would always begin a course by making it clear to my students that they would be getting my point of view, but I would try to be fair to other points of view. I encouraged my students to disagree with me."

No doubt many did, just the way it happened one morning a few years back when Howard Zinn came at 7:25 to speak to 35 of my public high school students. For many classes after, students debated the ideas they heard. Some agreed with Howard Zinn, some not. But like him, they were all engaged in the riskiest adventure of all: thinking and rethinking.

[Colman McCarthy teaches peace studies at four universities and three high schools in the Washington area.]
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Title Annotation:OPINION
Author:McCarthy, Colman
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 28, 2006
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