That conservative blowhard, Cal Thomas, wrote a column that appeared on the Op-Ed pages of the Times-Picayune this morning. This column was so gobsmackingly stupid and playgroundish. It actually was offensive in its stupidity. Here's a passage from this piece that was particularly atrocious:
Here is the way I believe it works at liberal universities. Some professors require their students to repeat back to them on test papers and in theses what the professors believe. Unless students hate Republicans, revile George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, renounce God, support abortion and gay rights, they can sometimes expect a lower, even a failing grade. When my wife studied for her master’s degree in counseling, she felt pressured to repeat her professors’ beliefs instead of stating her own. A friend with a Ph.D. told her, “Write what they want and get the degree. Then you can counsel the way you like.” This is academic freedom? It sounds like indoctrination. Why is it OK at liberal universities to tell professors what they want to hear, but not OK at conservative ones to do the same?Where does one start with such trash? I mean, really, as far as arguments go, it is embarrassingly poor. It smacks of whininess and is something you might see in a playground taunting episode among third grade boys. First, Thomas pontificates on how "it works" at "liberal" universities as if he has any clue what goes on at universities these days. I'd bet he hasn't set foot in the academic culture beyond perhaps giving an invited speech now and then since God knows how many years ago. Here's what I know from actually working in the university academic environment: (1) I would say it is true that a majority of college professors in the Liberal Arts lean leftwards in their personal politics. But I can also categorically state that a vast majority of college professors, whether liberal or conservative in their personal politics, does not engage in any form of ideological brainwashing. And no faculty that I know penalizes any student simply because of a particular ideological inclination. Cal Thomas has bought hook-line-and-sinker into the conservative canard that university education at a "liberal" university (whatever the hell that means) is nothing but an experiment in ideological indoctrination. (2) What dimwits like Cal Thomas absolutely fail to recognize is that this belief is simply not borne out by the evidence. A significant number of conservatives in this country went through "liberal" universities. If the academy were such an indoctrination mill, how in the hell can there be so many college educated conservatives? (3) Another fact that these myopic ideologues like Cal Thomas fail to note is that the "liberal" liberal arts faculty does not a "liberal" university make. The professional schools, the natural sciences, and some of the "pure" social science disciplines even in the Liberal Arts tradition, tend to be populated much more heavily by conservative leaning professors. Does this mean that students are being indoctrinated into ideological conservatism by these professors? No. At least no more nor less than by any liberal-leaning academics indoctrinating students into ideological liberalism. Cal Thomas is just full of crap.
If you still don't believe Cal Thomas is an idiot, take a look at the only evidence he claims supports his "belief": His wife's friend's advice to parrot the professor's beliefs. That's not pressure coming from the Professor! That's pressure coming from a friend "with a Ph.D." who has probably been brainwashed herself from having read too many of Cal Thomas's columns! And is this "Ph.D. friend" a liberal or a conservative? Because if the friend is a conservative, wouldn't that seem to indicate that it's the conservative academic who is perpetuating what Cal Thomas seems to think is more "indoctrination"? When Cal Thomas actually shows me a reasoned, well-argued, well-written, critically-crafted paper or exam that gets a poor grade simply because the professor didn't like the "politics" of the paper, THEN I might think he has a point. And it's not enough for some ideologue who says "Damn the evidence and the science to the contrary, I'm going to argue that the world is 2000 years old, because the Bible says so!" and gets points deducted because there's no critical engagement with the science and evidence that says otherwise. That person earns a lower grade. Not because of any failure to adopt the "politics" of the professor, but simply for shoddy scholarship. In the end, Cal Thomas hasn't produced a shred of concrete evidence, NOT ONE BIT, beyond his paranoid delusions, that expressing a conservative point of view ends in a failed grade.
Finally (and here's where the playground silliness comes into play), Cal Thomas spends his whole time ranting about how horrible liberal indoctrination is and then posits a moral equivalence in which he gives a pass to conservative schools indoctrinating their students in conservative orthodoxies because he thinks liberal universities do it. Let's repeat the question Cal Thomas asks to end his little playground pout. He writes: "Why is it OK at liberal universities to tell professors what they want to hear, but not OK at conservative ones to do the same?" To which I say: "Well, Cal, you tell me? You're the one who seems to have a problem with what you perceive to be 'indoctrination' at universities? And isn't your whole complaint precisely about why it's not o.k., period?" Goodness gracious! What Cal Thomas seems to be saying in this question is that if liberals can get away with doing something "bad," then conservatives ought to be able to get away with doing something "bad," too. Whatever happened to "bad" being "bad" no matter who does it? This little bit of relativism strikes at the paranoid, delusional core of Cal Thomas's stupidity when it comes to the "liberal" university brainwashing meme of an unthinking, idiotic, ideologically partisan, knee-jerk conservatism. It's pitiful and it's actually embarrassing for the man. I hope he would be able to recognize this; but, then, he'd probably point to me as a liberal academic and dismiss it as nothing more than that liberal indoctrination he is talking about. Sheesh!
Oh, and one final point: If students were to write a paper for me in which they "hate Republicans, revile George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, renounce God, support abortion and gay rights" just because, I promise you they wouldn't win accolades for such a thing. No sirree. They'd fail like a Cal Thomas column because there would be nothing at all scholarly or critically thoughtful about such a screed. Maybe they can cry to Cal Thomas about my unfair discrimination, my grade-penalizing tendencies, or my indoctrinating agenda and get some sympathy from him on the principle of it; but they'd still get a failing grade from me.