University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill said teachers should be allowed to interpret and express political views in the classroom, while conservative author David Horowitz said teachers should not at a hot-tempered debate held on campus Thursday night.
The debate, sponsored by the conservative organization the Young American’s Foundation and the GW College Republicans, was the first of 40 debates on the topic that the foundation will be hosting across college campuses over the next month. It attracted a sold-out audience to the School of Media and Public Affairs building’s Jack Morton Auditorium and drew extensive coverage on Fox News.
Following the debate, Horowitz and Churchill appeared live on Fox News’ “Hannity and Colmes.” National attention first focused on Churchill in 2005 when he compared the victims of the 9/11 attacks to “technocrats” and “little Eichmans,” referring to Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann. In the interview on “Hannity and Colmes,” Churchill reiterated his beliefs that the innocent killed on 9/11 are no different from the innocent victims of the Iraq war, and that U.S. foreign policy provokes attacks.
Horowitz, a former Marxist, said in the debate that he thinks political views should not be reinforced through the American education system.
“The basis of democratic education is how to think, not what to think,” said Horowitz, who recently released the book “The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.” “Teach how to construct an argument but not what conclusion to reach.”
Churchill responded and said a professor’s role is to present the various interpretations of a subject, and that can include political views.
“Teachers must undertake extending a challenge to their students, not that you must agree, but that there are many interpretations,” he said. “The curriculum is inherently political and the interpretation that is presented will be inherently the political interpretation applied by whoever is the instructor.”
Horowitz said that this is a relatively new phenomenon in American education.
“Whole fields have developed, not academic fields . they are ideological fields, political parties within the university, where students are indoctrinated,” Horowitz said. “Peace studies have taught that Americans are bad, the American military is bad, America is an imperialist country and that ‘terrorist’ is another word for ‘freedom fighter.'”
Churchill said Horowitz has no right to restrict him from expressing his opinions, even in the classroom.
“I have no right to indoctrinate my students,” Churchill, an ethnic studies professor, said. “But someone sitting in a corporate board room 1,000 miles away having no knowledge of what it is that I know and believe has no greater prerogative to constrain what I say and what I allow my students to interrogate.”
At one point, Churchill also criticized one of the organizations hosting the event.
“I thought the Students for Academic Freedom was a conservative group? The idea that the almighty federal government, the state, will legislate how courses are taught, who’s to teach them, according to what criteria seems rather anti-conservative to me,” he said. “Or is it only the things that you don’t like which the government should meddle in. Are we going to be consistent or non-consistent?”