Skip to comments.Newt Targets Tenure: Proposals to Fire All "Anti-American" Professors (note source)
Posted on 03/13/2005 8:48:53 AM PST by billorites
On February 25, the prominent Republican thinker Newt Gingrich gave a speech at the leading conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Gingrich, who is a former Congressman and Republican majority leader of the House of Representatives, is now preparing for his presidential run in 2008.
His sharp comments on Professor Ward Churchill and the future of academic freedom in the U.S. were reprinted in the conservative magazine National Review :
"Ward Churchill is a viciously anti-American demagogue. He has every right to free speech, and I support his free speech. We should give him free speech by not paying him. You don't need tenure in this country anyway. The idea that he would be oppressed without tenure is nonsense. There are 75 whacked-out foundations that would hire him for life. Dozens of Hollywood stars would hold fundraisers for him. His life will become a film by Michael Moore. The question here, is `What obligation does society have to fund its own sickness?' ...Tenure did not exist before the twentieth century, and we had free speech before then. You could introduce a bill that says, proof that you're anti-American is grounds for dismissal."
Let's break this down: Gingrich is calling for a law that will empower the government to fire professors on political grounds.
And, of course, in keeping with nature of Republican double-speak: he insists that imposing loyalty trials on universities is not any threat to "free speech."
To make this argument, Gingrich is deliberately pointing to the distinction between "free speech" and "tenure."
Free speech refers to the legal right of someone in the U.S. to speak or say their views without being jailed or censored by the government . It is based on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Tenure is part of the protection of free speech that has to do with intellectuals. Tenure protects thinkers and researchers from being fired for what they say or write, once they are attached to universities as "full professors."
It sets up universities to be an especially protected zone of inquiry and debate.
This modern institution of tenure has its roots in the important struggle during the European "Middle Ages"-- where university communities literally fought against having their members tortured or burned at the stake by government and church authorities. (In those days, under the rule of absolute monarchs and papal authorities, whole areas of investigation like human anatomy, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine were often considered heresy, witchcraft, subversive and illegal. (Just one example from that history: Servetus, the man who discovered that blood circulates through the lungs, was burned at the stake in 1553 in Geneva, officially for his heretical views on the Holy Trinity.)
So now, in the twenty-first century, Gingrich is calling for the abolition of tenure. This amounts to a frontal assault on the very notion that universities should be a zone dedicated to open and unrestrained inquiry and debate.
This is a deliberate stab into the very heart of "academic freedom." Of course everyone who is familiar with university life knows that there is intense politicking and pressure at every university (after all, we do live in class society!); and U.S. history is full of examples where the government and the ruling class intervened to suppress controversial radical anti-system views on campus and persecute radical thinkers and professors.
But carrying out Gingrich's proposal would deeply change the fabric of intellectual life. It is a call to return to an intellectual Dark Ages--where thought was legally enslaved to the powerful.
A few days after his AEI speech, Gingrich appeared on Fox's "O'Reilly Factor." It was just a few days before the University of Colorado was formally considering charges against Ward Churchill, and Gingrich again weighed in, to increase the political pressure on the school.
Gingrich again called for firing Churchill from his professor's job, and specifically for the political content of Churchill's writings about 9/11. And Gingrich specifically argued that universities that take government funds (i.e., the so-called "taxpayers' dollars") should have political standards on who can teach and what they can say (or even write) publicly.
GINGRICH (misquoting Churchill's article on 9/11): But to compare the 3,100 people who died in that attack on 9/11 to Adolf Eichmann, I think, is so despicable, so hateful, so anti-American that the taxpayers of Colorado shouldn't be paying his salary. I think it's that straightforward..
O'REILLY: Doesn't that say to the rest of the world we are an oppressive society because, if we tolerate someone like that, does--don't--that just strengthens our freedoms here.
GINGRICH: Bill, I can tolerate his saying it, but, as a taxpayer, I don't want to pay for it. Taxpayers don't have to pay for lunatic professors to have a salary to miseducate their children. If he's having classes where he tells young Coloradans that Americans who died from a terrorist attack were like little Adolf Eichmann's, I want him fired. Why would you want somebody like that paid by the taxpayers?
O'REILLY: I'm not sure that...
GINGRICH: Now, if a private school wants to hire him, fine, let some private school pick him up, you know.
O'REILLY: OK. I'm not sure that he said that in the classroom. If he did, I'd be with you. We give everybody the presumption of innocence. This was an essay that he wrote. We don't have any reports that he brings this kind of extreme outlook into the classroom. If we get it, I'll change my opinion. But right now...
GINGRICH: All right.
O'REILLY: Right now, I don't want to punish the man in the eyes of the world. I want to kind of say, look, we despise him, we shun him, he's a pariah, but we're not going to take retaliatory action.
GINGRICH: Bill, I'm shocked at your thought, though. We're not crushing him. We're simply saying he...
O'REILLY: Oh, come on.
GINGRICH: ...shouldn't earn a living--he shouldn't...
O'REILLY: He lost his chairmanship, and now you want him to lose his job? That's crushing the man. And I'm not feeling sorry for him. I'm just saying that's what it is. You boot him out of there, that's -- you know, you're crushing him. But, look, why do you think that a college like Hamilton and a college like the University of Colorado at Boulder would even entertain the man in the first place?
GINGRICH: Because the American left has an entire litany of despising America, talking viciously about America, saying really destructive things. I mean, just watch Michael Moore's tours across Europe where he slams America again and again and again, and the American left--this is a totally acceptable way to talk about America, and that's why, I think, it's a good time to draw the line in the sand and say we don't have to pay them. I'm not asking for censorship. I'm just saying taxpayers don't have to pay people who say these kind of hateful and vicious things about America.
O'REILLY : Well, he is a tenured professor. You know that. They can't fire him.
GINGRICH: But tenure is a purely artificial construct invented early in the last century. It has no long-term meaning. It is not a constitutional right. And somebody who says the things he said, I think--if he's not prepared to withdraw them and apologize for them, I can't imagine why the taxpayers ought to pay his salary.
O'REILLY: Well, the regents are meeting at the University of Colorado on Thursday, and we, of course, will follow that story.
(Full transcripts of this Feb. 1 interview are on Gingrich's own newt.org)
Extreme methods and demagogy are on full display. We have to learn to recognize them and answer them.
The work and beliefs of Ward Churchill, a scholar and activist with a life's work on the genocide against Native Americans, is distorted down to some sound bite about "Eichmanns." And Churchill is turned into a stand- in for all of academia (which as a whole is under fire here).
The value of tenure--and the whole importance of open inquiry--is dismissed with a cynical wave of the hand. The freedom of debate is reduced, in a know-nothing way, to a bizarre budgetary matter.
Millions of people are being told to think, "Why should my tax dollars go to teaching ideas that I don't agree with!"
(Just think what the intellectual and scientific world would be like if those standards were really applied!! What kind of evolutionary theory would get taught? What kind of quantum physics? What kind of history and politics? What would philosophy look like? What about poetry, art and filmmaking?)
According to Gingrich, firing radical professors for off-campus writings will not chill "free speech" in the larger society--which, if you think about it five seconds, is ridiculous. And it is, in fact, the opposite of the truth: since chilling free speech and research (especially radical and challenging speech!) is exactly his conscious political intent !
And then, as the punchline, out pops a real-world political agenda:
Gingrich, influential Republican leader and tactician of law-making, is actually proposing a specific bill here that would set up loyalty trials for university intellectuals .
Just making this extreme proposal is intended to "make people look over their shoulders"--starting with those whose work defies those now in power, but including those in authority who have to decide whether to hire or fund controversial thinkers.
IMHO, What Newt is really touting, is for colleges and Universities to clean up their act with these anti-Americans and other plagiarists amongst them - Or Else! Tenured or otherwise, teachers who lie and cheat should be given their walking papers and I suspect some of those employees are getting right down nervous as well as the Boards who support same.
Not TRUE! His students are there for an education, not to be filled with outrageous loonie leftist propaganda disguised as the truth. He is an incompetent pure and simple and should be fired for that very gross incompetitance.
Second, I can say that at the few schools I've taught at (two universities, been a grad student or TA at two others), I have never seen a faculty or administration officially try to silence a tenured prof. There are lots of "water cooler" comments, and lots of harassment ("Diversity" meetings etc) but no official attempts to control what is said in the classroom or on a podium outside the classroom. This goes for both faculy of the left and right.
It is true that if you are MARGINAL and CONSERVATIVE, you are fair game. If you don't publish much or have average teaching, you open the door for them to deny you tenure or promotion, probably much faster than liberal profs. However, it usually never gets to that because most of the conservatives are weeded out in the search committee process. Very few conservatives get through these committees.
All that said, if you allow administrations, for whatever reason, to go after profs for what they say in or out of the classroom (as opposed to clear morals violations or lawbreaking behavior) then trust me on this: the VERY FEW conservatives on college campuses will be eradicated in a heartbeat. It is ONLY tenure (and excellent production) that ensures that they keep their jobs. Yeah, there would be some Ward Churchill-type scalps taken, but on a year-to-year basis, conservatives would get culled out.
Exactly right. WC has violated school and state laws by LYING on his job app and resume, and that's enough to can him.
IF these guys are against what Newt said... Its got to be good and beneficial for the United States..
That site is like political porn...
I'd be all for it, 'cept I'm not in charge.
It's just stupid to consider laws like these. For one thing, having the gubmint decide who gets fired from what's really an indirect institution is just ludicrous. There's plenty else that can be done. In the case of Fugly Ward, the public spoke out, was heard, and the U is taking all kinds of hits on it.
The public has to keep it up. Just like we have to keep on top of our mis-representatives in DC to stop making stupid decisions about everything from birth to death.
MSNBC is the Amtrak of news.
A short term approach or analysis... (your job)...
More important is the press would get all pissy faced over this.. and alert people to the issue.. especially parents, so-called conservative parents. Long term.. this liberal Nazism would get exposed somewhat.. There is ONLY David Horowitz up in arms about this, as far as I know.. Americas colleges are leftist re-education camps pure and simple.. The illusion that the campus is a marketplace of ideas is propaganda.. Whats being done, almost nothing.. Any exposure would be good..
There are very few "conservative"" profs. anyway.. What is a conservative ?.. The terms liberal and conservative are loose cannons anyway.. they can mean about anything.. If the proper light was put on the/this subject your job might be threatened short term, maybe even long term but at least the boil would be "pricked".. Been festering a long time..
Academia is as bad or worse than the MSM not as democrat dupes but as willing members of the third way or the fifth column.. I disagree with you.. Lancing this "boil" probably won't happen YET.. but "pricking it" could happen.. Newt is a prof. himself.. and knows the problems intimately.
Might cost you your job though.. What say ye.?.
> Millions of people are being told to think,
> "Why should my tax dollars go to teaching
> ideas that I don't agree with!"
And phasing out government schools, as well as ending all
federal funding for private schools (except for specific
results-oriented R&D), makes this entire debate just go
... along with zillions of other "ought wallowing" issues.
By the way, is there any evidence that events like the
Churchie scandal are opening parents eyes to the agendas
of these so-called institutes of higher education?
What these (braying) jackasses all forget is that when you cross the line from dissent into blatant anti-americanism you are violating your oath of citizenship and can not only be censured, I'm pretty sure you can be jailed as well.
Hah, hah, hah, the left thinks we've gone so right wing... we have not yet BEGUN to go right wing. Especially if we get attacked again.
Second, you are missing the central fact the faculty controls the terms of hiring and promotion (and trust me, now matter how legislatures or trustees word any "enforcement" legislation, the faculty STILL would be the ones to interpret it). Take, for example, "Western Civ." courses. We (and many, many other schools) had a WC requirement---but it is impossible to regulate WHAT individual faculty say about western civ. So many of them taught it, and taught it cricially (i.e., WC destroyed the world). Now, unless or until you have parents and administrators in every class taking notes, you aren't going to control that except through the hiring process. (See #1 above).
3) It is the nature of most conservatives NOT to go into academics. Newt wasn't tenured (I don't think) and was not, to my knowledge, a full time faculty member. The last such person to serve in Congress was, I think, Phil Crane of Illinois or Dick Armey, both of whom were college profs. In short, merely doing away with tenure in the short run would hurt what few conservatives are in universities (and there are some) while at the same time do absolutely nothing about the fundamental problem, which is that the universities are NOT subject to market forces. That is where any "reform" of higher education must start---by making students pay for their education without "aid" or scholarships. This is the conclusion of Richard Vedder's study, "Going Broke by Degree."
Tenure flys in the face of capitalism, thats why there IS tenure.. Its like a Super Union.. Enabling the same dialectic just like unions do.. Commies love unions for just that reason.. Its feeds their Utopian concepts.. Did I say SUPER UNION.. AH! yes I did..
The same mangement or management sorry, will probably perform the same way, true. But light THIS situation is muted by many other world affairs.. Tenure is at the base of America problems.. especially collegiate problems.. If your pro-union then you will be pro-tenure.. for the same reasons.. If you are anti-union, like me, you MUST be anti-tenure.. Lets call a spade a spade..
Like you almost CAN'T fire a federal worker.. because of the Federal Workers
Party Union.. for damned near anything.. same thing.. The American Teachers Union(s) are a POX on the American education system.. Tenure.. same thing..
The basic idea of tenure rewards incompetence not excellence.. as fleeting as excellence is.. A job for life rewards laziness, like socialism does.. Socialism is slavery by givernment... and Tenure is slavery too incompetence..
There was a time for Unions, now is not that time.. especially of Super Unions.. Reforming the University's will happen gradually AFTER tenure is trashed. BUT not until then.. Since America slowly eroding to socialism the chances of that happening is not great..
I agree with you. Conservatives need to study educational governance and find ways to make public schools serve public interests. As a historian, Newt Guerinrich is well qualified to evaluate the Ward Churchill record, but that does not mean O'Reilly will allow time for it. I am a former academic and historian, and I watched the man for an hour on c-span. A professor should be able to plan a very good one hour presentation, but he did not. What I saw was appalling. He was incoherent, disjointed, and abusive, and hostile. He doesn't repect any one's rights. I am amazed that he is still in the classroom. He should have been suspended and he should be fired. He's embarassed himself and his college, and when he had a chance to redeem himself on national tv he blew it imho.
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