The Nudnik File

Nudnik - n. U.S. colloq. Esp. in Jewish usage: a pestering, nagging, or irritating person

Friday, February 11, 2005

              Academic Freedom
The Ward Churchill controversy seems to be gaining steam. The new line of the academic left, picked up by CNN and its likes, is that its good to have people like Churchill teaching at universities because students need to be exposed to bad ideas also. George Neumayr responds to this absurd notion.
On Wednesday night, CNN's Aaron Brown discussed the Ward Churchill controversy with guest Dahlia Lithwick of He asked a question of her that produced a perfect description of modern universities. Brown: "Just on the face of it academic freedom ought to embrace even dumb things, I suppose. Is that right?" Lithwick: "That's sort of the cornerstone of the notion of what university is about, Aaron."

This cornerstone isn't exactly of an ancient coloring. It wasn't laid at Oxford, Bologna or Cambridge -- the scholars who started these schools would be surprised to learn that the promotion of irrationality is the university's founding purpose. No, this cornerstone was laid more recently at, say, Berkeley, and on its wobbly footing professors have been giving impressionable minds the chance to experience stupidity ever since.

That embracing dumb ideas is the cornerstone on which universities are now built explains why those who exercise reason and demand the observance of rational standards are treated as the only real threats to academic freedom. It explains why tenured professorships are meted out not on the basis of intelligence but its absence -- on a kind of promise not to use one's mind should it conflict with reigning academic dogmas. Playing dumb is now an academic job requirement. Literally dumb: you must not say or see certain things.
At this point it has been shown that besides comparing the victims of 9/11 to "little Eichmanns", Churchill has fabricated a historical event, lied in court documents, and faked his heritage (he is not actually an Indian). The interesting question is how a man with such views, and without a PhD get not only tenure, but a department chairmanship at the University of Colorado.
|| Nudnik 12:10 PM
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