Friday, April 7, 2006, 11:00am
First National Academic Freedom Conference
Participants: David Horowitz, Rep. Sam Rohrer (PA), Sol Stern, Colorado High School Student Sean Allen
DAVID HOROWITZ: Okay, I want to begin by pointing to this sign, which is the theme of our conference and the theme of our campaign. And since people seem to have a hard time reading the English language these days, I want to point out that it says, “Take politics out of the classroom.” Not “Take liberal politics out of the classroom.” Not “Take malice politics out of the classroom.” And it doesn’t say “Put conservative politics in the classroom.” It doesn’t say take Democratic politics out of the classroom, and it doesn’t say put Republican politics in. It says, “Take politics out of the classroom.” This is not a left, right, or oughtn’t to be a left against right battle. This is not a battle about replacing a Democratic Party indoctrination program with a Republican Party indoctrination program.
This is about what’s appropriate in the classroom. And politics, political advocacy by teachers and by professors, violates fundamental principals of academic freedom, which were first articulated and devised by the American Association of University Professors and have since been abandoned, apparently, by the AAUP. The AAUP should be supporting this campaign, but from day one, before the campaign was actually publicly launched, the AAUP has not only turned its back on the campaign but has also turned against it.
And I have to read the simple English and repeat it because there’s been a malicious campaign of distortion and lies, mainly sponsored by the ACLU and the teacher unions, to present — to misrepresent — this campaign as an attempt to fire left-wing professors. I defended Ward Churchill in the Denver press two weeks after my friend Governor Bill Owens called for his firing. I defended his free-speech rights.
I have filed an amicus brief for the racist and anti-Semitic professor Leonard Jeffries of the CUNY system because having made the predictable but incredible mistake of hiring Professor Jeffries in the first place, the university attempted to escape from its embarrassment by firing him over a speech he gave in Albany, which was a disgusting attack on American Jews and white people.
But we do have a First Amendment in this country, and I am a First Amendment liberal. I am the liberal in this battle, and so I defended his free speech rights. You cannot fire a professor for uttering reprehensible comments in public without violating the fundamental rights of this country.
I want to welcome the teachers union representatives who are here, even though they have maligned me and distorted what I have done and actually have a whole website that they’ve devoted to malicious lies about this campaign.
I do not have legislation. I’ve not sponsored legislation which would create a political oversight of universities and do not intend to have such legislation. In fact, at present, the only legislation that has ever been presented in any state or in the federal government is not law; it’s resolutions.
This is a perfectly liberal doctrine — and I mean that in the classic sense, liberal as the AAUP used to be in the 1940s, when I forecasted the right-wing domination of that university, which Senator Alexander mentioned. It is that there should be two sides to an issue presented in a class, that a student shouldn’t be harassed for their political views — really simple things, that if you get any person in this room, including the representatives from the unions who are here, they will agree with this as well. I think that some of the examples that were brought up this morning — I don’t think that anybody in this room would disagree — were abuses of the classroom.
Yet, the little clause in the Higher Education Act was declared by the unions a casus belli. They would go to war against this clause. They wanted it out. There were four in there. Hundreds of pages of the education bill, and there were four items they wanted out, and this was one of them. And I urged members of the unions who are here to reconsider a position that they’ve taken, which is self-destructive to their own interests.
You heard Senator Alexander. Senator Alexander is not a right-wing extremist in the Senate. Senator Alexander has a long record of supporting higher education and education generally, and he’s the Chair of the Subcommittee on K-12 Education, and his words were really simple — “The greatest threat to school funding is the one-sided dominance of the political left.” And that is not the same as saying that it is the presence of left-wing teachers and professors. To repeat, I have defended left-wing teachers and professors, and I have never called for the firing of any one of them. The issue is what is taught in the classroom, not what the teacher’s political views are. Every teacher has a right as a citizen to their views and has a right, actually, to express them in public. It’s what goes on in the classroom.
If the unions are going to take the position of defending outrageous violations of academic standards, of academic procedure, of academic principles, they will expose the entire educational system to the gale of political dispute and forces in this country. You will make — you are already making — the schools political.
It is disgraceful that high school teachers across this country have encouraged their students to go out and demonstrate during school hours on a political issue that divides the country, and within which they are in a small minority. Probably 70% of the American public would like to see something done about our borders. Every country in the world defends its borders — Mexico, most of all.
But whatever your position is on the borders issue, if you engaged the public schools in political battles the way you are doing now, and the unions are behind these moves, you will destroy the role that protects the school, and it’s the role that is across the funding lines. You cannot expect taxpayers to pay for their children to go to schools in order to be politically recruited by people who don’t share their politics.
So, just in the pure self-interest of the teachers of this country and of the schools of this country, you need to reacquaint yourselves with the Principles of Academic Freedom as defined by the American Association of University Professors in 1915, 1940, and 1970 statements. Re-read them, re-examine them, and change your attitudes towards the Academic Bill of Rights and this Academic Freedom Movement, which is not directed at your politics. But it is directed at the abuses of your members in universities and in our K-12 schools today.
Let me just point out, again, that in the interest of ecumenical tolerance and the goals for liberalism, I welcome the unions who are here today, and I’m going to present the next panel.
We’ll have William Scheuerman on it, who is a union leader, who has defamed and abused me, but I met him at the Temple hearings, and asked him if he would invite me, and I said I would invite him. I have invited him to speak.
And Terry Hartle, who is the Executive Director of the American Council on Education. I’ve been doing this campaign for two years. I have never had an invitation from any teachers’ body, from any union, from any academic department, from any school just to discuss these issues.
It is the unions that have made this into a war, a war destructive most of all to their interests. Anyway, this is an invitation to the civilized among you to come to the table and discuss issues that should be of common interest to all of us. I’d like to say that I want to exempt from this Illinois Academe John Wilson, who is here, who has done the kind of debate in a fair-minded manner.
This panel and this conference is about K-12 education, where the abuses are even more serious than they are in the university, and this is kind of day one of an academic freedom movement in the K-12 schools.
I want to introduce, first, Sol Stern, who has written a book called Free Schools?
SOL STERN: Breaking Free.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Breaking Free. Breaking Free.
SOL STERN: Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Thank you. Public School Lessons and the Imperative of School Choice. He’s a expert, a fellow of the Manhattan Institute and a very, very old friend, and he will just give you a picture of the tip of the iceberg in the K-12 area.
SOL STERN: This is K-12. I’m going to do a little show-and-tell. Original documents. Can everyone hear me? Yeah?
Well, thanks, David, for inviting me and thanks for being on the ramparts. It’s great that we’re on the ramparts again together. The last time we were was at Ramparts magazine a long time ago up until the late ’60s, 1970.
But, actually, I go back with David even further than that, sort of admitting to our advanced years. We were graduate students together in Berkeley in the early ’60s. We started a new left magazine together called Root and Branch. David then went off to travel around the world. I stayed in Berkeley and got involved in the free speech movement. Remember that? FSM, 1964.
Basically, that was the last time that the left stood for free speech. We did a great thing, you know. We opened up a university system to diversity, free speech. Students weren’t allowed to organize for political activities on the campus. The people in that movement did it for very good motives — namely the basic idea of academic freedom for everyone on the campus — and it was a victorious battle through rationality, through convincing the faculties, through convincing the administration that the university should be a free marketplace for all points of view in the classroom and outside of the classroom, in the community as well.
And the victorious new left, unfortunately — it’s one of the reasons why I’m no longer on the left — then went off on the long march through the institutions, and what did they create? They created an academic gulag in which there is no free speech for certain groups, and that’s kind of a tragedy.
But I’m not here to talk about higher education. My assignment is to talk about K-12 education. And to quote a famous American, “Houston, we have a problem.” And in some ways, it’s a bigger problem than the situation on the campuses. And one of the reasons it’s a bigger problem is that at least you have some traction on the campuses because the culture of the universities pays lip service to the idea of open debate, of diversity, intellectual diversity, of scholarship, objective scholarship determining what the truth is on various questions.
There are some exceptions, like Ward Churchill, and he’s such a perfect foil because he’s someone who shows that, despite the lip service, what goes on is, in fact, indoctrination.
But the problem in K-12 education is that there is no lip service or openness and no academic diversity. In fact, most of the professional institutions involved in professional development, training of teachers, the professional teacher organizations, and the education schools, the organizations like the National Council of Teachers in English, National Council of Social Studies, have a doctrine of favoring indoctrination in the elementary and high schools. I call it indoctrination. They probably wouldn’t.
But there’s no question that there is a curriculum fostered in the education schools and the training of teachers, which trains teachers to advocate in the classroom for “social justice” and “peace” and “multiculturalism.”
As I say, there’s not even a question about New York State standards for certification involving social studies. You read down the list: a reflective paper on social justice, exit requirements, social justice action projects.
Now, some people would say, “Well, what’s wrong with that? Aren’t we all for peace? Aren’t we all for social justice? When we talk about Martin Luther King and all the great people in history who fought for wonderful causes, for peace, Gandhi’s king, what’s wrong with telling kids about that?”
Well, there’s nothing wrong with that except that there’s a specific definition of social justice. And to show it, let’s do a thought experiment. Suppose some of the kids — some of the college students that are here today decided to go to an education school, and they took a class in advocacy for social justice, and they said, “Yeah, we’re for social justice. For example, I think I’m going to write a paper on, and I think I want to go into my classroom and tell the kids or get a discussion going with the kids on the idea that democratic capitalism is the most just system ever developed in human history. It’s produced the greatest equity, the greatest affluence.”
How far do you think that student would go? I doubt that under these standards and at a place like Teachers College, the most prestigious teacher college in the country, or one of them, that they would go very far. Yeah, we’re in favor of peace. Everyone’s in favor of peace. But suppose that student, that same student, stood up in the class on peace studies or on peace in the curriculum and suggested that they will do a paper and then, in their classroom practice, tell the students that the best way to keep the peace is to keep America militarily superior and keep the peace and to deter aggression. And, therefore, why don’t we bring some military heroes into the classroom to tell those kids about how we keep the peace through military strength? Do you think that that student would go very far at Teachers College? I don’t think so. And if you do, you want to go and put a bet on it and carry out this experiment, let’s do it.
So I don’t think this is innocent and neutral, but how did we get there? This has not been around forever in the education schools. It’s something that happened around the same time that the new left made its famous march through the institutions. Some people on the left went into education.
I want to just illustrate a few of the sort of major figures in this. And I would say the founding father of the social justice indoctrination or the social justice movement in K-12 education is Jonathan Kozol, who is very influential. Most people know him because he’s written a number of best-selling books charging that there’s racism in American education because kids in urban schools don’t get as much money as white kids in the suburbs. That could easily be refuted. It’s amazing, though, that his books, which state the same thing over and over again, sell — they all become bestsellers. They’re absolute “must reading” in the education schools.
But most people don’t realize that Kozol is also somewhat of a pedagogue, and it started in, of all places, Castro’s Cuba. In the mid-’70s, the Castro government invited Jonathan Kozol to come and look at their education system, and he wrote a book when he came out called Children of the Revolution, which was a tribute to the indoctrination system of Fidel Castro and how the communist government educated the kids in that system. He just went wild about these wonderful schools, one of them the Lenin School, which trains most of the future leaders of the country, and thought it was wonderful and compared it to the terrible alienating public schools in the United States. Here, everyone was on the same page.
And he came away from that experience with this idea that all education is really indoctrination. In a socialist country, it’s socialist indoctrination. And in a capitalist country, it’s indoctrination for the capitalist system for those who dominate the system.
Then he wrote a pedagogical book called On Being a Teacher in the late ’70s (a new edition came out in ’93), and it’s widely used in education schools. A typical chapter is titled, “Disobedience Instruction.” And he recommends that a teacher might line in opposite columns on a ditto sheet certain statements published in their textbooks praising the virtues of acquiescence, of obedience, and of positive ideas. And on the other side, the courtroom testimony of those ordinary but pathetic figures who went into Watergate to steal and to kill, among other reasons, because they lacked the power to say no. This, according to Kozol, is what teachers should do.
Or they could use Adolf Eichmann and quote Eichmann and then point out that Eichmann’s own preparation for obedient behavior was received in German public schools. Teachers might point out as well that our own schools were modeled on the German system more than a century ago and that both systems have quite similar objectives, the education of “good Germans” or “good citizens,” as we in the United States would say. So it’s all the same, Eichmann and American education.
And just about the time that Kozol was writing this, and as I said, it’s required reading in many graduate schools, someone came up from the underground — literally, the underground. A fellow named Billy Ayers, who was a leader of the Weatherman Underground, spent the entire 1970s doing things like putting bombs, or trying to, in the bathroom of the Pentagon, not very far from here. I don’t remember the exact details. Dave is more of an expert on that.
And in wonderful America, you could have a second life. So he appeared — he came out of the underground. He got some fancy lawyer whose father is a very wealthy industrialist in Chicago, a pillar of the capitalist system, and he didn’t serve a day in jail. The guy was a terrorist, an unrepentant terrorist.
So what do you do in your second act? Well, he enrolled in Teachers College, and he got his doctorate at Teachers College in early childhood education. And what has he done since? He’s become quite a figure, a major figure in American teacher preparation. He is now the distinguished — I don’t remember which capitalist donated money to the education school to endow his chair — but he’s a distinguished professor of early childhood education at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
But he also has tremendous influence. He’s written several books. Dreadfully boring, terrible, tedious books but which extol the idea of teaching for social justice. And he’s had tremendous influence in his alma mater.
He inspired Teachers College. If you read Teachers College bulletins, you’ll see constant encomiums to ex-Weatherman Billy Ayers and his teaching for social justice ideas. And he inspired Teachers College Press to do an entire series on teaching. Now, again, Teachers College Press is the major publishing house in American teacher education. So there’s this whole series of books on teaching for social justice in different fields. One of the volumes in this series is called Teaching Science for Social Justice — How might Science Education Reflect the Values of a Socially Just and Democratic Society? Let me read you a typical paragraph from Teaching Science for Social Justice:
“Science education for social justice is transformative for all participants. Science pedagogy framed around social justice concerns can become a medium to transform individuals, schools, communities, the environment, and science itself in ways that promote equity and social justice. Creating a science education that is transformative” — it’s a wonderful word. It’s always used by K-12 educators — “implies not only how science is a political activity” — let me repeat, “how science is a political activity” — I repeat it because this is in italics in the text — “but also the ways in which students might see and use science and science education in ways transformative of the institutional and interpersonal power structures that play a role in their life.”
Now, you might say, oh, come on. This is so unbelievably stupid that it will fall of its own weight. Nobody can take this seriously, right? It’s crazy. Maybe Ward Churchill would, but I doubt that even Ward Churchill would. Not even he is that stupid. So how could it be significant?
Well, one of the authors — this was authored by two people — one of them is an Associate Professor of Science Education, Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College. And the other author is the Director of Region One Science Education for the New York City Department of Education. There are 10 regions in this biggest district in the country, biggest school district in the country. And she supervises science education for over 100 schools.
Let me tell you a few more things about this wonderful big school system that we have in New York City and how institutionalized this is. If you’re a parent in Harlem — in the middle of Harlem on 133rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, you can send your child to an elementary school, a K-5 elementary school called the Don Pedro Albizu Campos School. Now, on the website, you will read Don Pedro Albizu Campos was the heroic Puerto Rican nationalist who fought for his people, fought for social justice. Let me — for the young ones in the audience, let me remind you that Don Pedro Albizu Campos was a Puerto Rican terrorist who dispatched two assassins to try to kill President Harry Truman in 1950. And they got up the steps of Blair House — what is it, a few blocks from here? — and President Truman heard the commotion and stuck his head out the window. Those were the days before we had a lot of secret service guys around the president. One terrorist was killed. One police officer was killed.
Well, after the child graduates from the Albizu Campos School, he can go a few blocks down the street to a junior high school, the local junior high school. That’s called the Powell School for Law and Social Justice. Now, it’s not Colin Powell the school is named after. I doubt that any New York City school will ever be named after Colin Powell. It’s Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., whose commitment to law was that he was censured by the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly for stealing and appropriating funds, and he evaded the law for a few years.
And there are many schools like this, social justice schools. In Brooklyn, there are two Paul Robeson schools, named for the winner of the Stalin Peace Prize. Not all schools are named after communists or winners of the Stalin Peace Prize. That’s a little bit of hyperbole to use that, I admit.
I mean most of the schools are named after perfectly reasonable and wonderful leaders, like there are three John F. Kennedy schools, two Robert F. Kennedy schools, two Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis schools, but there’s no Eisenhower School. There’s no Ronald Reagan School. The last Republican president that had a school named after him was Teddy Roosevelt. The last military leader to have a school named after him was William Tecumseh Sherman.
What does that tell us? I think it tells us that institutionally, this whole idea, this bias towards the left, the social justice indoctrination is very much alive. It’s intuitional.
Now, let me finish up. I know I’ve overstayed my limits. But the point is that ideas have consequences. At the present time, there are a lot of bad ideas about classroom teaching percolating around the nation’s education schools. And the distinction between education and indoctrination between teaching students how to think, not what to think, is being lost in our K-12 education system. And it’s those bad ideas that produce someone like Jay Bennish, the Colorado high school teacher whose political rant in the classroom was taped by our friend Sean Allen here.
As David pointed out, this is going to lead to a disaster for public education. And while we discuss and debate with our friends from the teacher unions about whether we ought to have legislation, I want to propose something. I can’t believe that the AFT, for example, would defend any of this, this teaching for social justice by an ex-terrorist who probably wants to relive his youth again vicariously through some of the kids he educates. Al Shanker certainly wouldn’t stand for this.
So I put out a challenge to you. We don’t need legislation. Why don’t the two teacher unions, the National Council of Social Studies, and the National Council of Teachers of English, go to NCATE, the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, and say to them, “No more.” It’s not a question of whether you’re in favor of teaching for social justice; you should not make it a requirement. And you should say that you will not accredit an education school that makes it a requirement for teachers to teach for social justice in the schools.
Don’t forget: We are all part of this public school system. It’s our system. Public schools are owned by the American people, and we don’t have a situation like Ward Churchill said the other night, “Well, okay, maybe I indoctrinate in my classroom, but you students have a choice. No one is compelled to take my class,” which is true, but our children are compelled to go to school. And if we are forced to send our children — if I was forced to send my child to Ward Churchill, Jr., or Jay Bennish, I would consider that to be tyranny. It’s tyranny. And it’s unnecessary.
And I think the tension over that is going to affect the very institution that the defenders of the public schools who say, for example, that we shouldn’t have vouchers because, God forbid, it’s going to undermine this great institution that is bringing us all together, that’s inculcating our youth in the fundamentals of American democracy. Why don’t you stand for that if, in fact, you’re in favor of the public schools as an institution? Make them really an institution that inculcates our common values, not the values of an elite group of pretend revolutionaries. Thank you.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Alan Coors made what’s probably the profoundest remark about this issue that we’re confronting here and this battle. And that is that the schools — he said it of universities, but it’s true of public schools too — “They do in private what they cannot defend in public.” That’s why we’re going to win this campaign because, right now, unless the teacher unions and the radical professors they represent and they change heart and mind on this issue, they have an entirely indefensible position that gets presented to the American public. And that is why the next speaker has had such a huge impact already on the whole conflict over our school systems.
Sean Allen has had more of an influence than he probably realizes.
Just to show you how far-reaching this phenomenon is. I have a niece who goes to St. Lucy’s Junior High School. Maybe it’s a high school — St. Lucy’s High School — in the inland empire in Glendora, California. And one of the students took a tape recorder to class after Sean’s experience, and parents discovered that the teacher in a religious studies class in a catholic high school had gone into a rant on the Iraq War and George Bush, and parents were exercised about it. So what was the school’s response? Not to discipline the teacher but to institute a search of every student going into every class in that school, search their knapsacks, search them.
Now, you might say, where’s the ACLU? If you’ll recall, when people tried to institute metal detectors to protect inner city, mainly poor black and Hispanic children, from violent gang attacks in their schools, the ACLU thought that this was a violation of the Constitution and went right up to the Supreme Court to stop the search of students. I have yet to hear from the ACLU on this issue.
And let me tell you again. The response, of course, of the defenders of the status quo is that this is some kind of snitching. What this is is holding teachers accountable. Teachers want to do in private what they cannot defend in public when they’ve got an audience of 14-year-olds, who if the 14-year-olds go out to the media, the media will jump on the 14-year-olds — or 16-year-olds — and question their reliability. The brilliance of the tape recorder. Of course, the left likes to use a tape recorder when it’s Rodney King or, you know, so forth.
Why is what goes on in the classroom, a lecture by a teacher in the classroom, private? It isn’t. It’s a matter of holding teachers accountable for what they do and school systems accountable for what they do. And, again, you will lose this battle if you insist on presenting this as what it’s not and not respecting students who don’t maybe agree with you politically but who have a right, as students, to their point of view. That’s the American way.
I want to introduce now Sean Allen to tell you his story.
SEAN ALLEN: Good morning. I’d like to start off by giving a couple thank-yous. First, to Mr. David Horowitz and the Academic Freedom Board, for just giving me the honor of coming here and being able to speak. That’s amazing; doctor Walter Williams, who really gave the first light to this dire and pressing issue; and the rest of my friends and family, who have given me the strength to carry on in this situation.
I truly believe it has been a life-changing and amazing experience. It’s hard for me to believe that just two months ago, I was a normal high school student attending classes at a school that I thought I would spend the rest of my high school career in. When I really realized the impact of what I had done, I could pinpoint a certain time when I was meeting on a day during the whole controversy with my youth group leader at a restaurant, and I had walked up to the restaurant, and something had caught my eye that was written on a car. And I look over, and written on a car in paint is “Shawn Allen sucks. Let Jay stay.” And I felt weird about that, and I went in, and I talked to my youth group leader, who is also a conservative, and I said, “This is amazing that people are doing stuff like this.” He said, “Welcome to being a conservative.”
But, you know, throughout all the hardships, I still keep the same mindset that deep in my heart, I still feel that exposing Jay Bennish was the right thing to do. My conscience would not allow me to go on with listening to a high school teacher give politically charged rants to students without question. And after contacting the school about what my family and I believed to be a pressing and timely situation, we received little or no response back.
We then contacted Mr. Mike Rosen, who upon acquiring the tape also contacted the school. After two weeks, we had received close to zero word from the school and felt that the next step had to be taken. And on the following Wednesday, when I went on The Mike Rosen Show for the first time, my life was spun into a new world.
But through all the hardships and the situation, I’ve come out of the situation with a greatly positive outlook on the future, not only the future of myself but the future of the Academic Bill of Rights and things like this.
Since the controversy, I began attending the Cherry Creek High School in Colorado. The students and staff of the school have treated me incredibly well and made me feel more at home than I ever thought possible. My education in my new world geography class has been, as you can imagine, completely different from the teachings of Jay Bennish.
But I mean as so many high school teachers do in modern education, Bennish pushed his idealistic political views on impressionable high school students. As I understand from students currently in the class, Bennish has ceased in indoctrinating students. I believe this is a great stride in ridding a teacher’s political politics from a class. However, a long road lies ahead with many obstacles in the path.
With the help of Mr. Horowitz and others who sit before us today, a national debate has been sparked concerning content taught in high school and college classrooms. After my situation received national light, I was flooded with e-mails, letters, and phone calls from my peers and parents of my peers concerning similar situations with their teachers. With these, it is becoming increasingly evident that there is a growing problem in classrooms all across the country.
I’ve advised those who have contacted me to take action concerning their teachers by contacting the school first concerning the situation, and if appropriate action is not taken, contacting myself or the local news. However, in order to solve this problem, we can’t simply deal with this on a case-by-case basis. Instead, we must get to the root of the problem, which will take time and mean a long and hard struggle. Every year, American citizens pay taxes for the education of their children. They should not be fearful of what teachers tell their children. They should not have to worry about students being exposed to one-sided political rants that are not only inappropriate subject matter that is not fit for class, but also most of the time, it’s actually incorrect. Every second spent talking about subject matter not fit for the class is a second spent not giving students proper education necessary at the collegiate level and levels beyond that and is also an American tax dollar wasted.
Indoctrination of myself and my peers is an infection inside the public schools and is a great disservice to the future leaders of America.
I would like to close with a quote from a personal hero of mine, Winston Churchill, not to be confused with Ward Churchill. W. Churchill, everybody thinks it’s Ward. He said, “Never give in, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to the convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield the force, and never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”
I stand before you today asking for your help and the help of everybody to end this, to end teachers’ one-sided political rants in classrooms, and not only that, to end politics in classrooms in general because it is not appropriate when you’re giving a one-sided political rant, especially when you have to take a mandatory class. It is indoctrination as a whole, and it should be stopped. Thank you.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Sean Allen has begun and launched a national movement by his act to restore educational integrity to our school system and to liberate the schools from political ideologues who want to pervert its democratic mission. Therefore, since we are launching a movement, I am going to present an award every year to a student like Sean Allen who is leading this fight. And the first award is going to Sean. And Sean knows that. What he doesn’t know is that I have named this award the Sean Allen Award.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Do you want to read it, Sean?
SEAN ALLEN: To Sean Allen — it’s hard to read — Sean Allen, the first recipient of the Sean Allen Award for exemplary courage in defending academic values and opposing political indoctrination in our schools presented by Students for Academic Freedom.
DAVID HOROWITZ: They do in private what they can’t defend in public. That is really the gist of whatever legislative moves we’ve made.
Gib Armstrong is a former marine who served on Mogadishu and who was approached at a Republican Party picnic by a constituent who is an Air Force veteran, who told him that she had gone back to a state university to complete her education and had to sit in a physics course and listen to her professor rant against the military and against America and America’s war in Iraq, and she felt that was inappropriate. Not that she wanted some left-wing loon to be fired; she just felt it was inappropriate in a physics class. Surely, all sides of this issue can agree that that is inappropriate.
But, unfortunately, at this point, that is not the case. And so Representative Armstrong wrote and got passed legislation creating an Academic Freedom Committee — Subcommittee of the Pennsylvania House on Academic Freedom to hold hearings on what exactly is going on on our campuses.
And Representative Armstrong introduced me to our next speaker, Representative Sam Rohrer, who is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on K-12 education, and is here today to make an announcement of what he intends to do about the situation in the K-12 schools.
SAM ROHRER: Thank you, David. It is a privilege for me to be a part of this new initiative in the K-12. And, Sol, I want to thank you for your work, and Sean, for playing a big part in bringing things to light in this area.
I’ve been in the legislature for 14 years, on our Education Committee for that length of time, and have been involved in a wide range of educational issues since the early ’90s.
Back when I went into office, in 1992 in Pennsylvania, there was the leading grassroots educational issue afoot. We engaged in much debate within the legislature and caused some changes to be made in an area of change in curriculum in Pennsylvania education, and, in fact, it went beyond into other states, and it was a thing that now is distant in the past, but it was called outcomes-based education, if you remember that.
The major concern of folks then — I was included in that — was that there was a shift underway that took and put the emphasis on effective aspect of education, not focusing on how a child should think but more clearly indoctrinating. That was the issue. It was a whole part of outcomes-based education — I mean Goals 2000 and then all the way through.
So this has some roots that go way back. I don’t go back nearly as far as David and Saul do, and I have profited significantly from their knowledge of looking into the past, but everything we deal with in education has a history and has roots.
In my tenure in office, I have toured and been in dozens and dozens and dozens of schools across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. I have interviewed dozens of young people, and from time to time, in fact, yes, do hear and am aware of things, not quite as egregious and as notable, perhaps, as what Sean engaged, and which certainly didn’t become as public.
But are these things occurring? There is no question that they’re occurring. I don’t know to what extent, though. That is one thing we now need to find out in Pennsylvania, and I think, somewhat capitalizing on the endeavors of the hearings that Representative Armstrong, to which David referred, has been holding across the Commonwealth, that endeavor has already borne great fruit. There are many within our legislature who really opposed, to some extent, forming a committee to investigate the kind of things that are occurring in our college classroom, feeling, in fact, that things were not occurring, that it was an unnecessary waste of time, and all of that.
However, I can say that due to some of the testimony that has been given and some of the opposition letters that have been written by certain faculty from institutions across the Commonwealth, it has caused a great many members to weigh in in defense and say, “Well, if that is what you say and that is how you think, then whereas I was on the fence, I am no longer on the fence. We have a problem in Pennsylvania.” That’s a good thing.
And from that extent, we believe, and what I intend to do is to shine some light and for us to hold in the K-12 area similar-type hearings across our Commonwealth to see, in fact, to what extent, where, and how.
Now, we know things are occurring in curriculum. Are these things infused within curriculum? Yes, they are. Do we know and have we identified in the past that certain things are infused even within testing standards? Yes, they are. It is now time to look into this.
We believe as a legislature that we have a fiduciary, if none other, responsibility in Pennsylvania to put a frame of reference on it, and we spend about $18 billion a year on K-12 public education. That is no small piece of change. And the cost of education is doubling in our state every 10 years, increasing at twice the rate of inflation, and it is breaking the back of our system. And when David observes that we need the help of some who perhaps have historically withstood, and by that, I mean some of our union friends, of which I have many in Pennsylvania, I have reached out, and I said, “You folks need to help because what you will see is a collapse of the entire system of public education, if nothing else, from the financial perspective.” We cannot afford to put more money into it from the Commonwealth perspective, and the taxpayers are broke in our state.
And there are numerous reasons for that, but involved within all of this is really the standpoint of when you spend so much money and your kids are still graduating very low on the totem pole, there is, in fact, something not right, and we do need to look. So within that fiduciary responsibility and within the aspect of now picking up off of what we’ve learned through the hearings on the college level, and obviously hearing what Sean has brought to light, it helps to bring this thing into perspective and say, you know what? We can no longer hope. We can no longer just wish. We have a responsibility.
And from a legislative perspective, that is how we intend to go about looking at this issue. And over the next period of months, we hope to be dealing with a wide range of folks in schools and teachers and students and parents to get a real handle and say, all right, really, what’s happening here, because I doubt seriously that what we find in Pennsylvania will be any different than what is occurring in most other states.
So with that, we look forward to working with many of you as we go forward and building up on what has been done really for the sake of our students and what they learn and for the sake of the next generation of young people who are going to be called upon to lead this country. Thank you, David.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Before we take questions to the panel, I want to introduce two other legislators who are here. There may be three of them. Is Larry Mumper still here? Senator Mumper from Ohio was here last night.
Representative Mary Pilcher Cook from the state of Kansas is a leader of our academic freedom movement there.
And Senator Dennis Baxley from Florida is a leader of our academic freedom movement there.
I want to say something about these legislators. These are very, very courageous people. I have learned in this campaign, first of all, of the viciousness of the opposition. People who supported Stalin when he was killing millions of people have compared me to Stalin, Mao Zedong, of course, Joe McCarthy, Adolf Hitler. They have misrepresented the movement.
This movement has never called for the restriction of free speech and instead has defended free speech. This is a movement which is based on the AAUP’s own principles, and yet, the AAUP and the ACLU have denounced the very principles that are still enshrined. You can see them on the AAUP website, and they’re in every university’s academic freedom principles. But while it’s never pleasant to be slandered, I don’t have to get elected, and these fine people do. And I can tell you this is a very deep and broad movement. If I had twice the staff, I could be in twice the states. But there is no state in the union where I will not find any — is John Perry here? Well, we also had a representative from Massachusetts last night, although the odds are pretty great in Massachusetts, where there are 127 legislators and 16 — or is it 21 Republicans. I mean they increased five seats since the last time I saw him.
But this is a sleeping giant, this movement. This is a huge grassroots movement in formation, and while I’ve said some harsh things, not nearly as harsh as the unions have said about me in this campaign, I urged them when they leave here to rethink their positions. If you have a maximalist position that’s indefensible on scrutiny, you could say all you like, that David Horowitz and Academic Bill of Rights is going to drive liberals out of the school system and hire conservatives and impose state controls on education. But if people actually read the Bill of Rights, if they read the statements that I and others have made before these legislative committees, and if they look at what the legislative committees are actually doing, which is their simple responsibility as representatives of the taxpaying public to find out what’s happening, if people read those, they will know who the liars are, and the opposition campaign will be discredited.
And our problem at this point has just been a media blockage. Last night on his program Alan Colmes asked me, “Aren’t you imposing legislative controls on universities in Ohio?” The reality is that the legislation that we propose had the verbatim language of the AAUP about not having controversial speech in the classroom that’s irrelevant to the subject, verbatim from the AAUP. That was the legislation. It was actually just a resolution. It was never passed because the universities — the presidents of universities who are fundraisers, first and last and always — understand their position as indefensible, so they approached Senator Mumper and asked him if he would withdraw the legislation if they put in place the American Council on Education’s statement, which was a response to what we have done, and we fully support what it asks for.
And so the universities are now putting in place the policies. They’re enforcing policies they should have been enforcing before, that students shall not be discriminated against on the basis of their politics and that diversity, intellectual diversity, is essential to a higher education.
And Senator Mumper and the legislators are just watching to see that they do what they say they will do. There is nobody who understands that who will object to it.
But Alan Colmes and members of the press don’t understand it. There was a vicious AP story in the state of Pennsylvania, and all these little local papers, comparing the committee to the McCarthy hearings, which is idiotic and, in its way, a bigger lie than McCarthy himself ever told.
Right now, we haven’t gotten through this press screen, but we will sooner or later. And this press conference is one attempt to do that.
All right. Questions?
11:00 PRESS CONFERENCE Q&A
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Inaudible] Sean to bring tape recorders to class?
DAVID HOROWITZ: Absolutely. Look, the issue here is accountability. It’s like saying, “Do you encourage Senators to hold public hearings? Do you want the accountants at Enron to be looked at? Do you want them to uphold their principles? Do you want the light of day to be shown on public institutions? Schools are public institutions, so the answer is since members of the media insist on attacking 16-year-olds and questioning their veracity and won’t take their words at face value, tape recorders seem to be the only way to establish a record that the press, if it pays attention to it, can’t avoid quoting accurately, the only thing they ever quote accurately.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Inaudible]. Has stuff like this brought to your attention — feel the need to bring this inquiry along that [inaudible]?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Well, honestly, from my perspective, I cannot recount, or I do not know, of specific instances that would rise to the type of occasion that — sitting here with Sean.
Have there been many accounts of things in the past relative to techniques in curriculum, things of that nature that have been used and are used that specifically go a particular political and/or persuasion? Those things have been well established for a long period of time, and that’s why when I referenced earlier that a lot of those things are infused within curriculum. And to some extent, you could have a teacher just in teaching many curricula, could, by so doing, be presenting a very directional biased approach and not necessarily stand up and take a verbal rant, as such happened here in Colorado.
So that’s what I’m saying. This is a little bit broader than that, and so it has some history, and so, basically, from the standpoint of accountability, we think a fiduciary one will be looking at the whole thing.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I’d like to respond as well. I don’t know if you’re a reporter, but if you are, you ought to go out and start interviewing parents. And you could also start by reading my book — it’s a great plug for my book — because I recount at least a half a dozen incidents, exactly the kinds that you asked for, involving my two children in the New York City public schools. And if you want to take the time, I can regale you with them. A lot of them are quite funny. If you want to talk to me afterwards, I’d be glad to tell you. You don’t even have to buy the book.
DAVID HOROWITZ: I mean just to emphasize, also, why aren’t the school administrations trying to find out what’s going on in the classrooms? You know, no matter what we get at the hearings, the opposition always says there’s no evidence.
Well, first of all, as you heard the students say — I think it was Ruth on the student panel — students don’t know what they can or cannot expect in a classroom. I mean, they’re students. When students come to a college — I don’t know what the situation is in elementary schools or in high schools — they get orientation. And they say, “This is what racial discrimination is. This is what sexual harassment is. This is where you can go to complain. And, please, complain.” That’s what they get. And they get it in lectures, and they get it in brochures.
Not a word about the academic freedom policies of the school, not a word. Not a word as to where they could go. Most schools don’t have grievance — that’s one of our issues is to create grievance machineries. The universities pay no attention to this problem, and the high schools obviously don’t either.
You know, they could do it. Then we wouldn’t need tape recorders. If we had decency in the school system, just decent respect for difference — and they all preach it. Diversity is the big mantra in the universities. Respect for the other. Respect for difference. Then there’s an asterisk, and it says, except white people, males, Jews, Armenians, and other non-designated groups. Them, you can have contempt for.
In my book The Professors, I highlight a professor at the University of California-Berkeley who told Armenian students who were memorializing the Turkish genocide of Armenians that they “deserved to be massacred.” Direct quote. And the students complained to the administration and got nothing. That’s because they’re only Armenians. This is what’s going on in our schools. If the schools will do the right thing, this is over; I go on to other things, and this movement is over. All we want is for the school administrators to do what they say they do, which they don’t. It’s that simple.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Inaudible].
DAVID HOROWITZ: I’m sorry, this is Senator — John Andrews was the Senate Majority Leader in the Colorado legislature, who introduced the first Academic Freedom Legislation.
JOHN ANDREWS: And we’ll talk about that later this afternoon, but I think relative to Sean’s history at high school. I live in the same school district as cherry Creek School. After Sean found no satisfaction from school authorities, he went to Walter Williams, for the print or electronic media and Mike Rosen for talk radio and to Scarborough.
The Cherry Creek School Board did nothing. They claimed to have privately reprimanded Jay Bennish. I don’t believe it. The State Board of Education was blocked by Democrats from even issuing a resolution of disapproval of Bennish as an example of the political hijacking of the classroom. The state legislature was blocked by Democrats from even doing a resolution.
And then when Bennish was reinstated to teach at Overland High School, which was in the process of driving Sean Allen from its corridors, as you heard, with the type of abuse that he took with the graffiti on that car, multiplied by 1,000 times, Bennish was received back by the principal of Overland High School in a public celebration in the person of being a persecuted and vindicated hero. She said, “Our whole school has been under attack. We welcome back Jay Bennish to the Overland High School family,” a family which, although she didn’t say it, no longer had room in it for student Sean Allen.
That is the breakdown of the system in Colorado. And that is why what Representative Rohrer is seeking to do is so needed.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Let me introduce Candace de Russy, a trustee of the State University System of New York, and a great supporter of academic freedom.
CANDACE DE RUSSY: Thank you. To add to the discussion of grievances on campuses, first of all, I have been approached for years and years by students who have grievances but who feel too intimidated for specific reasons to come forward. For example, they were afraid that their grades would be lowered or that they won’t get letters of recommendation when they ask for them later in the interest of their careers.
Secondly, when the grievances are filed, the actual process often gets strung out and strung out and buried. The response is always, “We’ll get to it next year,” and, “We’ll get to it next year,” and so forth. And what happens then? The student graduates. So that’s what’s happening with these magnificent processes that presumably are in place.
And, third, concerning the records of actual grievance processes, and the filing of grievances, these records are not readily accessible. Maybe they exist somewhere in space out there on the campuses, but they’re not readily collectible, accessible. The system administrations of large systems do not collect them systematically and report on them to boards of trustees.
And if you go to the campuses, you would find that these grievances that have been filed are sprinkled hither and yon, maybe in a department somewhere, maybe at the central level. In other words, it’s really, really hard to get information. It’s deliberately been made hard to get information about this very important question.
DAVID HOROWITZ: Yes. I spoke myself at Duke University on March 15, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Anthropology Department organized an obstruction of my speech, a continual collective heckling, and attempted in an e-mail that was sent throughout the university system to get her male and female students to strip naked in my speech to obstruct it. This is direct violation of explicit university policy. I was invited by the provost and by the political science department. A complaint was filed on March 15. We have yet to hear from President Brodhead on this issue, and this was done on C-SPAN. The e-mails are out there, but, in the end, no action will be taken. This is the problem. If the system were working, we wouldn’t be here.
SEAN ALLEN: [Inaudible]. I was planning on going in-state before this happened, but, you know, with CU, I don’t think Ward’s going to be welcoming me there any time soon. So I don’t know. The future’s pretty open for me. What I want to do with my life, I want to be a writer. I write a lot of fiction, short stories, and things like that. In light of the situation, what I write about has definitely changed. So I’ll continue probably being a writer and probably writing about things like this and being a political writer.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Inaudible].
DAVID HOROWITZ: Are colleges and universities exempt from truth in advertising laws? Interesting.
I actually attempted to get the Attorney General of the State of Indiana to investigate Indiana University for consumer fraud because we were contacted by a student that was in a course — it was called something like the physical education, recreation, and health department — and the course was described in the catalog as being about the OSHA rules, you know, work safety. And the lecturer devoted the entire curriculum, according to the student, to the Middle East conflict, taught from a one-sided political point of view, of course.
And first, we called the Dean, you know, the head of the department, the authority there, whose name was Mohammad something, and he didn’t see anything wrong with this course. And getting no satisfaction there, I did attempt to get the Attorney General, who is a Republican, but Republicans are kind of slow, and didn’t respond. So then we went to the press. And the minute there was a story, this course was terminated and restored to its academic integrity.
I don’t want to be doing this. This is not what I want to do with my life. But this is what needs to be done right now until we get a change. And Sean Allen, by tape recording his teacher and not getting response out of his school and going to the media, has begun — has done more — than I can do with 50 people or 100 people placed across the country making these little calls. This is what it’s about, as everybody knows.
Why is this different from the Rodney King incident? Sean Allen wasn’t a felon resisting arrest, but if you’re a liberal and you have a different attitude towards that incident than I do, you know that when the system breaks down, if you have a hard evidence and a videotape or an audiotape of it, that will cause the changes that will then reinstitute a system where people will be protected.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I’d like to suggest to the reporter who asked if we’re — support Sean Allen or any student carrying a tape recorder into a class to — another inquisitive question that should be directed at the National Education Association. And maybe you ought to go to a convention this summer. I had the pleasure of doing that one.
You’ll find that they have probably hundreds of resolutions that they vote on on every subject under the sky. I mean the year I was there, they had a resolution on discrimination — I’m not kidding — on discrimination against left-handed students and the difficulties they have because of the way they sit at their desks, and all that. They have resolutions on social security, on saving water, on saving the trees.
Ask them if they might possibly pass a resolution this summer commenting on the fact that a teacher that violated every principle of professional ethics and integrity is back in that high school, and Sean Allen, the 16-year-old student who exposed this fraud, is not. And why don’t they pass the resolution on it?
DAVID HOROWITZ: One more question. [Indiscernible]?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: [Inaudible] at the grade-school level. Is love of country or patriotism considered a political item, or is it neutral? Can you be a patriot and not be identified as a political ideologue of some kind? And if so, is there any place for patriotism in the school system of America?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: There used to be.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Well, there used to be, and frankly, in Pennsylvania law, one of the few things required is that the students are taught the Constitution, free enterprise, and a range of things that we would view to be very patriotic and inherently American. So we — history — history of founding fathers and the basis of the capitalistic system is a part of what is law today is a part of what’s required in teaching.
Is it taught? I wonder. And we have wondered for a long time exactly whether or not the law is even being followed. But that would be the best way to answer that — yeah, it’s in law.
DAVID HOROWITZ: All right. Thank you very much.