My Take on David Horowitz’s Visit to the UA

I already wrote up a non-partisan blog entry about Horowitz’s speech at the University of Arizona this evening, so I thought it would be more appropriate to explain my views in a separate entry.

Horowitz believes that there are college professors across the nation that are trying to indoctrinate liberal views into academics, and he’s definitely correct. I’ve experienced this firsthand in my Women and Literature course, where I spent most of the class period trying not to lose my temper with the subject matter.

It’s very true that gender oppression against women has negatively shaped this society, but the course does not even pretend to show another side to this argument. Instead, we are reminded every day that women in B.C. and 17th century time periods were viewed as subordinate. This would be an interesting topic if the professor explained the other side of the story-That there are powerful women who have made changes in the world.

After spending two months analyzing sexism in the King James version of the bible, the class began reading Sophocles’s Antigone, which is about a brave woman as a tragic heroine. Instead of focusing on the fact that Antigone breaks gender structural codes, we studied the ways in which women like her were killed and a danger to society.

Then we learned about Aristotle’s The Generation of Animals, where he equated women with animals. The females in my class wouldn’t stop laughing as this subject was discussed, and their fake laughter as a release of angry emotion was really rather disruptive and inappropriate in the classroom environment.

I recognize that women have suffered discrimination, and it devastates me as a female myself, but anyone would agree that it’s boring to regurgitate the same idea over and over again.

On my most recent midterm, I was asked to respond to these passages:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband….Woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from mad. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. Women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate.” (Corinthians, King James bible)

“We are only women, we cannot fight with men…I am helpless, I must yield to those in authority.” (Ismenes in Antigone)

“I will carry her far away out there in the wilderness and lock her living in a vault of stone.” (King Creon in Antigone)

The right answer to these questions requires submitting to the professor’s view that women were subordinated in BCE. Yes, it’s true, but no student should be forced to answer a question a certain way, and how else am I supposed to respond to any of those passages in a way that I can express that I am not offended by past beliefs? It’s sad that the bible on my bed stand states that I am subordinate, but I don’t feel like dwelling on it in a midterm, nor do I want to pinpoint that Ismenes is a typical weak female character in Antigone. Then there’s Creon who just wants to lock Antigone away as he does with all women in society.

As much as I love my professor, I’d be lying to say her course didn’t have a liberal agenda behind it, and this is exactly what Horowitz is fighting against. He doesn’t think I should have to write what my teachers want to hear on my tests. Call me a sell-out, but I’ll do it to get a good grade (I got an “A” on both exams because I take my classes very seriously, but I shouldn’t be put in this position in the first place. There’s no way I would have aced either test if I stated my true beliefs.

As Horowitz said, the issue isn’t about what is taught, but about what is being left out. If I’m going to learn about female discrimination, I also want to learn about powerful women in more recent times. Antigone was a strong character, but the text is overshadowed by sexist propaganda. Instead of reading Lucille Clifton’s Good Woman next, I’d like to see more from Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston who don’t agonize over oppression on every page of their books.

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9 thoughts on “My Take on David Horowitz’s Visit to the UA

  1. Laura, it sounds like the lectures of this class were theory-based (as all lectures are) but by calling it part of the ‘liberal agenda’ is too broad, or perhaps trite of a critique. It sounds like your professor uses feminist theory in her choice of lecture topics. To best critique her methodology, instead of simply labeling it as part of the ‘liberal agenda,’ offer an insightful critique of feminist theory instead. That way, you are playing by the rules of academia, but are still asserting your own ideologies.

  2. Hey Meggie,

    There’s nothing wrong with teaching the feminist theory, but as Horowitz said, other theories must be explored as well. What good is a WOMEN AND LITERATURE class if it’s only based off feminist theory? More than anything, I’m just bored in my class because I hear the same thing every day-Women are unequal to men in literature. How about diversifying things up and actually getting a universal education on the subject? Everyone is bored because they constantly regurgitate the same thing in tests, “Once again, this represents male dominance.”

  3. On the issue of liberal bias in the classroom, he is correct. I’m in INDV 103: “What is Politics?”, a course taught by Professor David Gibbs who has appeared numerous times on left-wing soapbox “Democracy Now”. From the syllabus:

    ” This class will focus on persuasion and propaganda, and their role in political history. The course will have four components: First, it will examine the role of propaganda in totalitarian regimes, such as Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Second, we will examine more “modern” forms of propaganda, as it appears in political advertising, speeches, and newspapers in the United States and other western democracies. Third, we will study the use of logical political arguments, and how these differ from propagandistic arguments.”

    All well and good, but for the first five weeks of class just about the only thing we ever talked about was the buildup to the Iraq War. Keep in mind that during this time we were analyzing speeches and practicing searching for logical fallacies. I’d say a good half the source material came from either George W. Bush or his Administration.

    In Gibbs’ defense, he absolutely welcomes dialogue and opposing viewpoints or any viewpoints. The only time I’ve seen him shoot down a student’s objection was when he brought up the recent estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq and some girl was trying to argue that such a number was inestimable and probably “imagined up” by the researchers. Even then I would say he was standing up more for the reliability of the research than for his own political beliefs. Of course it’s impossible to quantify an exact number of deaths and injuries in the chaos of an occupation, but the girl’s assertion that “anything could have caused those deaths, like a plague” was a running inside joke for weeks between my girlfriend and me.

    The issue I have with Horowitz is that the way he speaks about those he disagrees with are absolutely uncalled for. He’s Sean Hannity with better credentials, in my opinion. His views are right, and if you disagree, you clearly aren’t a REAL American. As the Wildcat article said, he doesn’t care about objectivity in the classroom, he cares about conservativism in the classroom.

  4. I don’t think criticism of the Bush administration — and particularly the way the Iraq War was sold — automatically qualifies as “liberal bias.” Plenty of conservatives opposed that war, and plenty of liberals supported it. Plenty of people from both sides weren’t happy about the way it was sold.

    I haven’t taken that particular class, but I’ve taken two of Dr. Gibbs’s other courses and I think it’s inaccurate to say he’s biased. In the Hist 450 class I took from him, he devoted equal time to no fewer than three separate interpretations of the causes of the Cold War (Roughly: It was their fault, it was our fault, and it was all about economics so really it was no one’s fault) and told us we could make up our own minds which one was correct. He made it clear enough that he leans toward the last interpretation, but he didn’t force it on us. Furthermore, as you note, he welcomes dialogue, and there was more debate — and livelier debate, too — in that class than any I’ve ever taken here.

  5. You and I read your anecdote two different ways. I see a professor with low intellectual standards–who in her career has probably been held to low intellectual standards–and a poorly designed measure of student performance in the class. You see an attempt to advance a political or cultural agenda that has perversely come to be called “liberal” in some spheres.

    If I had to choose a “winner” in this exchange between you and your professor, I choose you. Surely you were short-changed. You came for a liberal education and encountered something brutish and trite followed by an exam that can’t be said to quantify the degree to which you developed expert understanding. But you now not only have something to say about Antigone, the King James Bible, and gender roles across cultures and history. You also have something to say about expert opinion. You can have a meaningful disagreement. Your professor on the other hand is likely still stuck in antique ways of thinking, “presentism”, and the intellectual equivalent of stereotyped tics.

    As I said: you win.

  6. Thanks, Ben. You basically stated how I feel on the issue. More than anything, the class is just trite and boring for preaching the same thing everyday. I can’t see how anyone is satisfied to learn the same stuff. Its not very challenging and its an insult to our intelligence. I appreciate your words.

  7. Laura,

    Enjoy reading your blog. However, I don’t know how your being bored with your women’s literature class that teaches the fact that women were subordinate in ancient times, has anything to do with it being a liberal agenda. You admit that it is true, so why is this liberal? The fact that the course doesn’t deal with powerful women in current times, isn’t reason why it would be liberal agenda-like. The course apparently isn’t about current times.

    Regarding Horowitz’s speech, I found his reasoing that liberal is dangerous because of his early Black Panther experience, was ludicrous. Is conservativism dangerous because of fringe elements that advocate killing abortion doctors?

    He argues that we don’t have a racial discrimination problem because we elected a black President? Or that women aren’t discriminated against because we’ve had women Secretary’s of State? That is just plain silly reasoning.

    It’s like saying we don’t have a homeless problem because there are plenty of houses available. Or no hunger problem because there are plenty of supermarkets.

    Horowitz is dangerous because he demonizes liberal professors and others, and makes simplistic arguments about complex issues.

  8. I don’t actually believe that liberalism is dangerous. He shouldn’t rule out a political party based on his encounter with that Black Panthers. That, I disagree with. I was merely reporting what he said as a student journalist should.

    It’s ridiculous to reinforce the “women were subordinate” truth because it doesn’t tell the other side. There are extremely strong women who have changed the world, and we don’t read about these types. The fact that the course does not focus on all ends of the spectrum shows that there is an agenda. Maybe it’s not liberal, but there’s definitely an agenda.

    Racism and sexism still exist, but clearly the country is improving by electing a black president. It was a historical moment for everyone. No one can deny that progress has been made.

    Horowitz is kind of outrageous, but he is trying to defend students who feel frustrated with a political slant in the classroom, and there’s definitely a slant.

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