Thursday, July 08, 2004


Viewpoint Diversity

Conservatives have taken up the slogan of ‘viewpoint diversity’ to force colleges to hire more politically-conservative faculty. David Horowitz has gone so far as to draw up an “Academic Bill of Rights” guaranteeing students the right to be free from political indoctrination in higher education, and mandating exposure to diverse points of view.
One member of Congress, whose name escapes me, just drew up a “sense of the Congress” resolution to give this idea the blessing of the government.

I admit that my first response involved an unattractive combination of gagging and giggling. But, upon sober reflection, I realized that the idea has considerable merit. It just needs to be more fully fleshed out. As a public service, I’ve taken the task upon myself…

Start with the religious colleges. Their faculty are disproportionately religious! How can students possibly expect to be exposed to differing points of view? I’m pleased to hear the Republicans in Congress urge Lynchburg College to hire more Jews, liberals, and homosexuals. Catholic colleges and universities tend to have disproportionately-Catholic faculties; this too must stop! How can anyone fully embrace a faith until exploring the alternatives? I join the Republicans in calling upon every Catholic college in the U.S. to start a stepped-up hiring program for secular liberals immediately.

Some of the displaced Catholic faculty could find work at, say, Brandeis…

And what about the military colleges? The faculty at West Point could use some openly gay, vegetarian pacifists. The women’s studies department at the Army War College could use some beefing up…

Too many History departments teach World War II from an anti-Nazi point of view.

Business schools are vastly overrun with Republicans. Obviously, a purge is in order. To make sure all points of view are represented, we could mandate that every other hire come from, say, the leadership of a labor union. One for business, one for labor. That’s fair!

What about the proprietary sector? Since the very nature of proprietary schools is capitalist, they need a counterbalancing faction of socialist faculty. After all, students mustn’t be indoctrinated. Dispatch the University of Phoenix to the MLA, stat!

In fact, why should we limit viewpoint diversity to colleges? Why not other important public institutions?

Over half of Congress is comprised of millionaires. That’s not representative! Let’s get a representative sample of Wal-Mart workers in there. Let them vote on tax policy. For that matter, let’s get the median income of Congress down to the national average. That might have some interesting effects on the laws about parental leave, health care, tax distributions…

And what about the judiciary? Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas – outta there! 7 out of the 9 current members of the Supreme Court were appointed by Republicans – no wonder they threw the election to Bush! Make it an even split – hell, while we’re at it, let’s extend the income-diversity rule there, too. Let’s see what someone making $25k has to say about equal protection of the laws…


Apparently, affirmative action is only okay when it benefits conservatives.

The idiocy of the law is even deeper than it looks. Leave aside the question of higher-ed exceptionalism; what’s even more disturbing is the idea that everybody’s political thinking has to fit cleanly in certain boxes. If I’m hired to be the token liberal, and my thought evolves, I could lose my job! If I stitch positions together in ways that don’t reflect the approved categories (say, a Daniel Bell type – socially conservative, but left on economics), I don’t count, so I can’t get hired. Best to avoid thinking anything new.

For the idea of ‘viewpoint diversity’ to make any sense, we have to assume that all possible viewpoints are already known, as is the proper numerical distribution of viewpoints. We also have to assume that all of the interesting questions have already been asked, all answers to all questions coalesce into only two or three possible constellations, that political preference colors all knowledge (“Democrats argue that the atomic number for hydrogen is 1, but Republicans…”), and that students are perfect sponges for what their professors tell them. In other words, we have to be morons.

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