December 27, 2005 [LINK]

Political bias in academia?

This is one of those touchy subjects about which commentary is mostly futile. The New York Times (via Glenn Reynolds) reports on growing discontent among conservative students who resent the leftist slant of many of their professors. It goes without saying that most college campuses have a left-leaning atmosphere, which is why hardly anyone in the know bothers to talk about it. It's a more-or-less permanent condition, like the physical landscape, so there's no point in aggravating people to no good end. (The question mark in the title is meant to be ironic, by the way.) Fortunately, however, the extremely dogmatic or overtly subversive Ward Churchills of the university world are the exception, not the rule. Most politically correct professors are simply risk-avoidant types who would rather pander to youthful rebelliousness than insist on critical thinking and open dialogue.

There is a big, unseen danger in attacking political correctness head on, however, as the new Students for Academic Freedom movement is doing. Like affirmative action programs, demands by conservatives for equal treatment on campus are likely to backfire. Such a campaign would only accentuate the politicization of higher learning, which is the real problem. Two wrongs don't make a right.

"Little Red Book" hoax

I strain mightily to avoid spreading unsubstantiated rumors, but my credulity got the best of me last week (scroll down). The story about the student being questioned by Federal agents for having checked out Mao Zedong's "Little Red Book" was false. University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth professor Brian Glyn Williams confronted a former student, who admitted it was a hoax but gave no explanation. Even though the case was cited by Sen. Ted Kennedy and others, "John Hoey, spokesman for UMass-Dartmouth, said the university did not expect to take any action against the student." See Boston Globe (via Instapundit, who wonders why the student's identity is being protected). In any reputable institution of higher learning -- an admittedly restrictive category -- such a high-profile fraud would be grounds for expulsion, or at least a one-semester suspension.